October 17, 2012

Know your opponent: Miami Hurricanes

2012 Record: 4-3 (3-1 ACC)

Starters returning: 12 total, five offensive, five defensive, and two specialists

Breaking it down: This is not your typical Miami Hurricanes squad. Yes the roster is littered with top tier athletes, but the Hurricanes haven't been able to stop anyone on defense this year.

Miami is dead last in the ACC in total defense, giving up an average of 506.6 yards per game. Despite the struggles, last weekend's 18-14 loss to North Carolina was Miami's first conference loss of the season after finding winning shootouts over Boston College, Georgia Tech and North Carolina State.

Against the Tar Heels starting quarterback Stephen Morris suffered a sprained ankle and will likely have to sit out against Florida State.

Saturday is the 57th meeting all-time between the Sunshine State rivals. Miami holds a 31-25 overall edge in the series, but FSU has won 5 of the last 7 meetings, including the last three in Miami.

"It's one of the great rivalries in college football," FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher said. "A lot of history, a lot of tradition and it means a lot to us, I know that."

Through the air

Player to watch:

QB Phillip Dorsett (So.)

2012 Receiving: 32 receptions for 503 yards and three touchdowns

With Morris likely out, it will be Ryan Williams under center for Miami. Williams has appeared in four games and is 11 of 15 for 87 yards passing with one touchdown. Williams is a Memphis transfer, who started 10 games in 2010 for the Tigers, passing for 2,075 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Miami was having tremendous success through the air with Morris, averaging 296.9 yards per game passing, good for third-best in the ACC. Morris has thrown for 1,991 yards, nine touchdowns and six interceptions through seven games this season.

"You have to prepare for both," Fisher said of Morris and Williams. "When you say prepare for both how drastic are they going to change? In two or three days of practice you can change and do some different things but still the foundation is going to be the same. One is a little more mobile, ones a little bigger and stronger, but they're both good quarterbacks."

Phillip Dorsett has dropped some crucial passes this season, but still leads the team with 32 receptions and three touchdowns. Rashawn Scott is second on the team with 27 receptions for 431 yards and two touchdowns.

Five other UM receivers have caught at least 12 passes this season.

Pounding the ground

Player to watch:

RB Duke Johnson (Fr.)

2012 Rushing: 74 rushes for 428 yards and 5 TDs

Freshman Duke Johnson and senior Mike James have combined to perform a terrific duo on the ground for UM.

Johnson leads the team with 428 yards rushing, five touchdowns and an average of 5.8 yards per carry. James has amassed 402 yards rushing on 88 carries, scored four touchdowns and averages 4.6 yards per carry.

"He was a heck of a player in high school," Fisher said of Johnson. "Bright-eyed, obviously very intelligent with what's he done. To see the extent of how he's done it, I'm not saying I'm surprised, but it's an accomplishment what he's doing. He's a big play guy now."

As a team Miami is averaging 140.7 yards per game on the ground and 4.5 per carry.

Getting defensive

Player to watch:

CB Eddie Johnson (R-Fr.)

2012 Stats: 39 tackles, 5.5 for loss, 1 sack, 1 interception and 3 forced fumbles

There are multiple holes on the Hurricanes' defense and each one is as gaping as the next.

On the ground Miami is giving up 253.7 yards per game rushing (last in the ACC) and 252.9 yards passing per game.

Against both Boston College and N.C. State the Hurricanes gave up more than 440 yards passing. Opponents are averaging 14.5 yards per completion. Still Fisher thinks that Miami has the athletes in the secondary to hang with anyone.

"Defensively they're still athletic and probably cover as good as anybody in the secondary," Fisher said. "Very athletic. They've gotten beat on some balls but they're right there to make the play. There's not guys running wide open, they've just lost some fights and some battles for balls."

As bad as Miami has ben at stopping other teams form throwing the ball, the Hurricanes have been worse on the ground. Teams are averaging 5.1 yards per carry and have scored 21 times on the ground.

Last weekend the Tar Heels rushed for 272 yards as a team. Boston College is the lone team to not run for more than 200 yards against Miami this season (Notre Dame racked up 375 yards on 51 carries).

Still Miami does have playmakers on defense like Eddie Johnson, who has 5.5 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles. SophomoreDenzel Perryman has played in just five games this season, but has a team-high six tackles for loss and an interception retuned for a touchdown.

Defensive ends Anthony Chickillo and Tyriq McCord each have two sacks, the rest of the team has just three.

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