Miami finds themselves with a huge Friday night matchup with NC State as they try and keep their ACC Championship hopes alive. The 5-1 Canes are the favorites against the the 4-2 Wolfpack, but this is a potential trap game for Manny Diaz’s squad if they aren’t prepared.
A Primetime matchup on the road against a very decent ACC opponent are all factors that make this game favorable against Miami. Without a full crowd in attendance, this should take some pressure off the Canes. Keep in mind Miami had the same circumstances in their game against Clemson than against NC State this week. Both followed bye weeks and were primetime night games for the Hurricanes. However I think the Canes breakdown vs Clemson was a helpful lesson knowing that this is a Must win game and they can’t take it for granted.
NC State Preview
NC State’s offense was performing great until starting QB Devin Leary got injured vs Duke a few weeks ago. Now with Bailey Hockman taking the starting job with Leary out for about 2 months, the Wolfpack’s offense has taken a big hit overall. They will be facing a Miami defense that pressures the quarterback frequently. Keep an eye on the this matchup with NC States offensive line which will be crucial. Next, Wide receiver Emeka Emezie leads the team with 23 receptions for 370 yards and 3 touchdowns proving to be a threat. NC State will likely take a balanced approach in this game, not wanting to pass heavy with a new quarterback, but also try and catch Miami sleeping by taking some shots.
The defense is highlighted by the front 7, with very talented linebacker and defensive line groups. First, LB’s Payton Wilson, Drake Thomas, and Isaiah Moore are the main threats in the middle of that defense, the leader being Wilson who has 53 tackles. The defensive line featured by Daniel Joseph and Terrell Dawkins have combined for 7 sacks so far this season and will also be forces going against a struggling Miami O-Line.
Ever since the Canes dominant 52-10 victory over Florida State, there has been a push back in the team’s play and spirit. With some time off to prepare, Miami will hopefully address the sloppiness that has been present in their past 3 games. It starts with the offense, that has been one dimensional recently due to the absence of Cam’Ron Harris making impactful plays. A big factor is the offensive line which has not helped Harris at all, but even when backup RB’s Jaylan Knighton and Donald Chaney have gotten carries they have looked better. Miami will look to get Harris going again as he’s been an essential part of the offense being successful in 2020. D’Eriq King’s lack of any real legitimate number one option has costed him significantly. While Mike Harley has been great the past 2 weeks, Mark Pope and Dee Wiggins have yet to find any rhythm. Also Tight End Brevin Jordan has been out the passed few meetings, and will finally make his return Friday night. King will need his receivers to be reliable if the Canes want to be effective in the scoring column.
Miami’s defense has improved greatly as the season has progressed, allowing just 14 points to Virginia in a game when Miami’s offense was not helping them at all. Turnovers have been down since the FSU game, but the defensive line has been dominant in pressuring the quarterback and getting tackles for losses. Bubba Bolden has continued his tremendous play with 30 tackles on the year. However, Amari Carter will be out the entire game as he earned his 3rd targeting call of the season against Virginia and reached the limit. This means Gurvan Hall will get a chance to prove himself at Safety as a leader of the Defense. Lastly, the cornerback play has been on and off, with blown coverages being the most detrimental area for the defensive backs. Assignment mistakes will be catastrophic Friday night, and could pass momentum in just one instant. Al Blades Jr. and DJ Ivey are going to have to play great games for the Hurricanes to walk out of Carter-Finley Stadium with a victory.