Opponent: Miami Hurricanes
Head Coach: Al Golden (2nd Season)
All-Time Series: Miami leads 9-1-1
Last meeting: September 16th, 2006 – Louisville 31, Miami 7
2013 Record: 9-3 (5-3)
Kickoff: 6:45 p.m.
Game Location: Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium – Orlando, FL.
TV: ESPN with Clay Matvick and Matt Stinchcomb on the call
Radio: 84-WHAS with Paul Rogers and Craig Swabek on the call
Spread: Louisville -3.5
The #18 Louisville Cardinals will attempt to win their second straight postseason match-up tomorrow in Orlando as they get set to face the Miami Hurricanes in the Russell Athletic Bowl. The Canes (9-3) finished out the regular season by winning their final two games against Pittsburgh and Virginia after losing three straight in early November. Head coach Al Golden has done an admirable job turning around the program amidst NCAA sanctions and scholarship restrictions and will look to guide his team to their first bowl victory since 2006. In fact, it’s been three years since the school has even appeared in a postseason game (2010 vs Notre Dame; a 33-17 loss).
Miami enters Saturday’s contest averaging 35.9 points per game (26th in the nation) and 446.8 yards of total offense (46th in the nation). The team presents an extremely balanced offensive attack, posting 274.3 passing yards and 172.5 rushing yards (63rd) per game. They were able to score at least 40 points in each of their last two outings (45 against Virginia and 41 against Pitt). Defensively the Canes are giving up 26 points per game (59th nationally) and rank 42nd overall in total team defense. They snagged 18 interceptions and posted 28 sacks in the regular season. However, they weren’t as sharp over their last 5 games in which they allowed an average of 37.6 points per game (they went 2-3 in that span).
Starting with the QB spot, Miami is led by 6’2, 218 lb, senior Stephen Morris. The Miami native is 186-317 on the season (58.7%) and threw for 2,868 yards, 21 touchdowns and 12 picks. Like Teddy Bridgewater, Morris gets a faulty label as a mobile QB, but the most yards he ever rushed for in a single game was 18 (counting sack yardage). He’s more of a traditional pocket QB that has all the throws in his arsenal, but he’s prone to mental mistakes (as evidenced by the less than 2-1 TD to INT ratio). He was also up and down with his overall performances, posting QB ratings as high as 93 against Pittsburgh and as low as 49 against Florida.
Morris will be without his top running back and the team leader in rushing yards as Miami lost sophomore Duke Johnson for the remainder of the year to an ankle injury week 8 against Florida State. Through those first 8 games, Johnson had rushed for 920 yards and 6 touchdowns on just 145 attempts (6.3 yards per carry). In his place, the Canes have turned to fellow sophomore Dallas Crawford who’s rushed for 523 yards and 12 scores on 126 attempts. Crawford is a more bruising, physical back that excels at running between the tackles. Freshman Gus Edwards (54 attempts for 300 yards) will split carries and spell Crawford sporadically, as well.
Out wide Miami relies heavily on all-conference (honorable mention) senior receiver Allen Hurns who grabbed 60 balls for 1,138 yards and 6 touchdowns. At 6’3, 195 lbs, Hurns has next-level size and speed and averages 19 yards-per-catch on the season. He posted 6 games in which he went over the 100-yard-receiving mark. Freshman Stacy Coley (30 catches, 559 yards and 8 touchdowns) is an all-purpose threat who’s also capable of breaking a big play on special teams. Finally, Miami will use a pair of talented tight ends in senior Asante Cleveland and junior Clive Walford who are equally effective as run blockers or catching passes out of the backfield.
Though the Canes struggled towards the end of the season on the defensive side of the ball, they were still able to do some nice things. For instance, they had 27 turnovers (one more than Louisville) and were able to stop their opponents 59% of the time on third down conversions. The Miami defense will line up in a traditional 4-3 front and they rely heavily on their interior linemen to provide the initial push necessary to bring blitzing packages from their linebackers and safeties. The Miami D was beaten up pretty badly on the ground throughout the season, but especially over their last three games where they gave up a total of 821 Rushing Yards. Shawn Watson and the Louisville offense (which averages 150 rushing yards per game) have to be smiling at those numbers. Control the clock, pound the ball and establish yourself on the ground; it’s been the Cardinals’ modus operandi all year and there’s no reason to stop now.
If you’re looking for one player to keep an eye on, watch for junior linebacker Denzel Perryman. A member of the 1st Team All-ACC, Perryman started all 12 games and led the Canes with 104 tackles. He had 6 games with at least 10 tackles, with his most impressive performance coming against Florida in which he tallied 13 tackles and forced a key fumble in the 4th quarter. Joining him in the middle are 6’3, senior Jimmy Gaines, who was second on the team with 76 tackles, and 6’3 sophomore Thurston Armbrister (29 tackles, 2 sacks). In the secondary, Miami will start two All-conference honorable mention sophomore corners in Tracy Howard and Deon Bush. Howard led the team with 4 interceptions and racked up 32 tackles while Bush, despite missing the first three games of the year due to injuries, still finished with 24 tackles a pick and a forced fumble.
Up front Miami is led by star defensive end Shayon Green who was third on the team with 63 tackles (10 of which went for a loss) and 3 sacks. A big, physical pass rusher (6’3, 267 lbs), Green has been the driving force behind a solid Hurricane D-Line all year long. Lining up alongside Green on the outside is junior Anthony Chickillo who racked up 44 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 7 QB hurries. An even bigger, more imposing presence than Green at 6’4 and 277 lbs, Chickillo has been a terror along the line all year for the Hurricanes. The Louisville offensive line has certainly been inconsistent – particularly in passing situations – so it’ll be interesting to see how Watson tries to scheme against two very talented edge rushers.
I look at the style in which Louisville has played, offensively, and I just think this is a good match-up for them. Strong and Watson have been steadfast in their belief of establishing a run-game first (no questions asked), and this Miami team has struggled immensely at stopping teams that seem to do that well. Hell, they’ve struggled at stopping the run against teams that don’t do it well. I mean, 821 yards in their last 3 games? And that’s not to mention the 192 they gave up to Florida State or the 335 they allowed in a win over Georgia Tech. I can see Louisville struggling to put points on the board early, but if they can wear down the Miami defensive line, establish a running game and remain patient, it should open up some play-action opportunities for Teddy Bridgewater and the Louisville playmakers on the outside.
I think it’s a rough first half, but the Cards make a late push and secure a narrow victory, 21-17.