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Three things to watch: Oklahoma State

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Will Miami be able to pressure the quarterback without Jaelan Phillips and Quincy Roche?

NCAA Football: Miami at Duke
Miami quarterback D’Eriq King and tight end Brevin Jordan celebrate a touchdown in Miami’s victory over Duke on December 5.
Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports

This month has truly been a roller coaster for the Miami Hurricanes.

A dominant win, an ugly loss, an outstanding 21-signee haul in the early signing period, D’Eriq King returning for the 2021 season, and finally, tonight’s Cheez-It Bowl.

The Hurricanes will take on Oklahoma State tonight at 5:30pm at Camping World Stadium in Orlando in search of their ninth win of the season. The Cowboys were listed as small favorites by most sports books on Monday night.

Here’s three things to watch as the Hurricanes look to close out 2020 with a win.

How Miami’s young defensive ends will handle their new roles

Both Jaelan Phillips and Quincy Roche have opted out of tonight’s game to prepare for the NFL Draft.

That leaves two gaping holes in Miami’s defensive line that will likely be filled by freshmen.

Redshirt freshman Jahfari Harvey, redshirt freshman Cameron Williams and true freshman Chantz Williams are likely to see a bulk of the snaps at Miami’s defensive end positions tonight.

With players like Phillips, Roche, Greg Rousseau, Jonathan Garvin, and Joe Jackson dominating on the edge for Miami in recent years, the Hurricanes always seem to have at least one dominant defensive end on the field.

Whether or not that will be the case tonight remains to be seen. Miami’s three young defensive ends have seen very limited playing time in their Hurricane careers and tonight is truly their first opportunity to shine in an increased role.

Oklahoma State’s offensive line has struggled to protect the quarterback at times as the Cowboys have allowed 24 sacks in 10 games this season.

What answers Miami will have for Tylan Wallace

Wide receiver Tylan Wallace will be Oklahoma State’s most explosive player on the field since running back Chubba Hubbard opted out of the season earlier this year.

Wallace was a Biletnikoff Award finalist in 2018 and is one of the best receivers in college football. He is difficult to tackle and makes tough catches look routine.

With Miami missing cornerback Al Blades Jr. because of a health concern, it will be interesting to see how the Hurricanes approach covering Wallace. DJ Ivey and Te’Cory Couch will be challenged by Wallace and the Hurricanes might be better off double teaming him when able.

Don’t be surprised to see Miami mix up how they cover Wallace to try and confuse Oklahoma State quarterback Spencer Sanders, who has 19 interceptions in 19 games played for the Cowboys.

Whether or not the North Carolina game will linger

Miami’s 62-26 loss to North Carolina on December 12 was one of the most embarrassing losses in school history.

The Hurricanes allowed 778 yards of total offense to the Tar Heels, 554 rushing yards specifically.

While Miami needs to learn from the mistakes of that game, the Hurricanes can’t let the Tar Heels beat them twice. Oklahoma State has surely watched film of that game and knows where to attack Miami’s defense.

The Hurricanes need to make the necessary adjustments to fix what can be fixed in two weeks from that game. Another defensive performance even remotely similar to that one is not acceptable.

While Oklahoma State does have one of the best defenses Miami has faced this season, tonight’s game will come down to how Miami plays on defense and whether or not it can get enough stops to win.