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Matchup of the Week: FAU Edition

The Canes are coming off a dominating 70-3 victory over FCS opponent FAMU this past Saturday. They will look to emulate their success against FAU, who they beat 44-20 in Boca Raton last season.

Miami v Florida Atlantic Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The Mark Richt era of Miami Hurricanes football couldn’t have gotten off to a better start in the 2016 campaign. In a game Miami was surely going to win, they absolutely DOMINATED FAMU by the score of 70-3 - a game in which the Canes earned an AP No. 25 ranking. Miami was prone to sleepwalking through games they knew they were going to win, but the Canes did not take their foot off the gas on Saturday.

This Saturday, the Canes face a much more formidable opponent in FAU. While Miami will be the clear favorite to win, FAU is a team Miami struggled with last season, especially in the first half. Of course, that was a Miami team with a porous run defense and questionable play-calling. Here’s what last season’s game looked like:

Obviously not the best performance, but not the worst. Offense did its job by putting up 44 points, but it probably would’ve been a lot more if the defense showed up in the first half.

Miami’s Front Seven vs. FAU Tempo

It’s no secret that the Canes defense will be the most looked-at unit this season, and they will get their first pseudo-test against FAU’s uptempo offense and rushing attack. Last season, FAU’s offense carved Miami for 241 rushing yards, most of it coming in the first half. Tailback Jay Warren rushed for 132 yards and a touchdown on just 11 carries (sheesh) before safety Jamal Carter knocked him out of the game after a monstrous hit. FAU’s backup running back also ran for 78 yards on 13 see the theme here.

With a new and improved defense, Miami’s front seven will be tasked with slowing the FAU backs, along with controlling their uptempo-style offense. A depleted defensive line and linebacker group will need to play good, sound and physical defense to make this game as easy as possible for them. With injuries to end Trent Harris, tackles Courtel Jenkins and Anthony Moten, and the season-ending knee surgery for LB Jamie Gordinier, Miami’s depth will certainly be tested.

Look out for DT Gerald Willis, this will be his first game as a Hurricane after transferring from Florida and sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules. His added depth and impact will be huge for this ailing Canes defense.

On paper, even with the Canes’ lack of depth, Miami still holds a clear advantage going up against the FAU defense. With playing an aggressive defense, it should help slow down FAU’s attempt at tempo and getting the Canes defense on their heels.

Think Oregon and their offense. While FAU isn’t Oregon, nor will they run that particular style of tempo, the offense flows when they can go fast and gain positive yards with nearly every play. Once they were hit with negative plays or gained zero yards, the offense stalls (naturally) and it completely throws off the tempo at which they want to play at. What comes to mind are Oregon/Stanford games, where Stanford completely dominated the line of scrimmage of the Oregon offense, completely shutting Oregon’s uptempo offense.

Miami will show their youth and inexperience at times, so don't be surprised to see any of the freshman linebackers or safeties out of place time to time. However, the Canes talent is far better than FAU’s, and in this new defensive scheme their talents should be showcased.

Another positive is that FAU is virtually a one-trick pony. They have the ability to throw the ball with QB Jason Driskel, but Driskel is a streaky QB and is best when he isn’t facing pressure/has the run to fall back on. When Miami took the run away from FAU, Driskel and his passing abilities were exposed. With the aggressive new defense, I don’t expect him to be in much of rhythm through the air. With a pedestrian passing attack, I expect Miami’s defense to make FAU rather one-dimensional and key on the uptempo rushing attack, limiting their success. This game will be the young freshman linebacker’s first test of their ability.

Miami - 41 / FAU - 10