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College Football Preview Week 5: Oklahoma at Miami

For the first time since 2007, Miami and Oklahoma will square off this Saturday.  The 2007 match up is one that the Hurricanes would like to forget, as the Sooners pounded them 51-13 to officially begin the Sam Bradford era in Norman.

This year, the two teams could not be any more different than they were just two seasons ago.  In this week’s edition, College FootBlog will analyze the ‘Canes and Sooners and give our prediction for the game.

Jacory Harris will look to bounce back after a rough outing against Virginia Tech (google images)

Jacory Harris will look to bounce back after a rough outing against Virginia Tech (google images)

Miami

Strengths:  Sophomore quarterback Jacory Harris exploded onto the college football scene in his big performances against Florida State and Georgia Tech, but he was held in check by Virginia Tech last week, going 9-25 and an interception.

Despite the dismal performance, two things must be considered in last weekend’s defeat.  For one, credit must be given to Virginia Tech’s outstanding defensive coordinator, Bud Foster and his defense, which always seems to overachieve.  And secondly, the monsoon-like conditions last weekend made passing very difficult.

The Hurricanes will need Harris to play like he did in his first two games if they expect to have a shot at winning this weekend.

Key Concern:  Miami’s defense has given up a ton of points in their three games, allowing 30+ points in two of their three games this season.  The pass-happy Sooners have not skipped a beat after losing Heisman Trophy winner, Sam Bradford in their opener against BYU.

Oklahoma

Strengths:  OU’s defense has been lights out this season only surrendering 13 points in their three games.  After giving up two touchdown passes to BYU’s Max Hall in the opener, the Sooners have shut out their last two opponents, most recently against offensive juggernaut Tulsa.  The Sooners will face the most speed and balance that they have faced so far this season when they travel to Miami, but there is not much more that Bob Stoops could ask from his defense so far this year.

 

 

Heisman winner Sam Bradford would like to come back this weekend in Miami (google images)

Heisman winner Sam Bradford would like to come back this weekend in Miami (google images)

Key Concerns:

  Although it is still unclear if or how much Sam Bradford will play in this game, it looks as though he will attempt to play on Saturday.  He started light throwing last week and experienced some discomfort, which was expected.  Backup QB Landry Jones has lit up the scoreboard in relief of Bradford the last two weeks, leading the Sooners to their unbelievable 109-0 point differential in those two games.

 

 

If Bradford is not 100% but still attempts to play, the ‘Canes could slow down OU’s powerful offense.  The success of Jones the last two weeks give the Sooners a viable option off the bench, but if Bradford cannot make all of his throws, the OU offense may have trouble clicking.

Miami Offense vs. Oklahoma Defense

As explosive as Miami’s offense was in their first two games, the moment they went against a solid, well-coached defense when they played Va Tech, they faltered badly.  As mentioned, the weather probably played a major factor in that game as well, but Jacory Harris will likely have his toughest test to date this weekend. 

Anchored by DT Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma’s front four may be the most talented in all of college football.  Couple that with two senior corners, Dominique Franks and Brian Jackson, and Harris may have his hands full.  EDGE:  OU

Oklahoma Offense vs. Miami Defense

Miami has a much faster, more athletic defense than OU has faced so far this season.  But as athletic as they are, the ‘Canes defense has given up a lot of points this season.  The ‘Canes had been great against the run until they encountered Ryan Williams last weekend.  Whoever plays quarterback for OU this weekend should have some success against this Miami secondary.  EDGE:  OU

Special Teams

Oklahoma’s Ryan Broyles and DeMarco Murray are very dangerous returners, but kicker Jimmy Stevens has not been tested much this season because OU’s offense has been so dominant.  With the return of Javarris James, Miami has been able to let Graig Cooper return kicks this season, and the results have been there.  Cooper is a game breaker.  Kicker Matt Bosher has not been flawless by any means, but he will be playing at home.  Slight EDGE:  Miami

Prediction

Miami showed some real vulnerabilities last weekend in Blacksburg, especially on offense.  Look for Jacory Harris and his stable of receivers to have a much better performance than last weekend, but they will still have a very tough time against this veteran and very talented OU defense.  If Harris can find a rhythm, the ‘Canes will have a shot, but if OU can force a turnover early on, it could be a long day for Miami.

The bye week for OU last week also plays a huge factor in this match up.  Miami had a lot of success in their first two games, but some of that can be contributed to an entire off season to install a new offense that Florida State had not seen until their opening day match up.  And the ‘Canes had bye week immediately following that victory to prepare for Georgia Tech.  They do not have that luxury in this game.  Final Score Prediction:  OU wins 31-21

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College Football Preview Week 4: Miami at Virginia Tech

Same bitter rivalry, different conference.  For years, the annual match up between the Miami Hurricanes and the Virginia Tech Hokies often determined the Big East Champion.  Now that Miami is back in the national spotlight, this Saturday’s game could very well determine who will represent the Coastal Division in this year’s ACC Championship Game.

In this week’s edition, College Footblog will analyze these two former Big East rivals and their match up this coming weekend.  We will look at the strengths of each team, we will break down the game and we will give our prediction for this very important match up.

Jacory Harris has taken Mark Whipple's offense and run so far in 2009.  (google images)

Jacory Harris has taken Mark Whipple's offense and run so far in 2009. (google images)

Miami

Strengths:  The strength of Miami, particularly on offense has to be the emergence of sophomore quarterback Jacory Harris.  After splitting time with now departed Robert Marve, who transferred to Purdue last spring, Harris has silenced all of the critics who questioned his ability to win games with his arm.

In two games this year against quality opponents, Harris has amassed 656 yards, while completing just under 70% of his passes.  He has taken to new offensive coordinator, Mark Whipple’s scheme, and he has really come into his own so far in 2009.

Miami’s other major strength is the two-headed monster they have at running back.  Graig Cooper and Javarris James were held someone in check in the ‘Canes’ opener at Florida State, but in two games, they have combined for 232 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, while averaging just over 4.7 yards per carry.

Virginia Tech

Strengths:  In a season that has not been full of offensive highlights, the play of freshman running back, Ryan Williams has been a constant for the Hokies.  While sharing the backfield with fellow freshman David Wilson, Williams has still managed to rush for 235 yards and five touchdowns, while averaging an astounding 8.1 yards per carry.

The other strength for Virginia Tech is their massive and experienced offensive line.  Anchored by seniors Sergio Renderand Ed Wang, the Hokies’ O-line is physical and athletic, and they are a big reason for the success Frank Beamer’s squad can control the clock with a solid running attack.

Ryan Williams could have his biggest test this weekend.  (google images)

Ryan Williams could have his biggest test this weekend. (google images)

VT Offense vs. Miami Defense

Look for Miami to stack the box in an effort to limit Williams and the VT running game to fewer big plays on the ground.  The Hurricanes’ defense managed to shut down a Georgia Tech’s more dominant ground game to less than 100 yards last Thursday.  That is the same Georgia Tech offense that broke 300 rushing yards in each of their first two games this season.

Much like the ‘Canes did to Georgia Tech, they will dare the quarterback to beat them through the air.  Va Tech quarterback, Tyrod Taylor has only managed to throw for 252 yards in the Hokies’ three games this season.  EDGE:  Miami

Miami Offense vs. VT Defense

As previously mentioned, the rise of Jacory Harris has surprised many in the college football world, but he has been the real deal.  He and the weapons around him are much more explosive and dynamic than the Alabama Crimson Tide offense that lit up Virginia Tech in week one for nearly 500 yards.

Miami’s balance on offense and the depth they have at running back and wide receiver will be a lot for Virginia Tech to handle.  EDGE:  Miami

Special Teams:  With a healthy Javarris James back in the rotation at running back, head coach Randy Shannon has been able to utilize Graig Cooper in the return game this season–and the results have been there.  Add the explosive Travis Benjamin to the mix, and the ‘Canes have some homerun threats in the return game.  As solid as the return game has been for Miami, junior kicker Matt Bosher has been a little shaky.

Virginia Tech has always been known for their special teams, and this year has been no different.  Davon Morgan and Ryan Williams have added some explosiveness to the return game, and the Hokies feature a senior kicker and punter.  Couple that with Frank Beamer’s uncanny ability to block kicks, and the VT special teams are always a threat.  SLIGHT EDGE:  Virginia Tech

Over the opening weeks of this college football season, Virginia Tech has shown the same consistency that they have shown in the last several years–solid running game and special teams, and Bud Foster is still one of the best defensive coordinators in all of college football.

Miami, on the other hand, has taken a major step forward in their quest to get back to the dominant days of the 80’s and 90’s.  With the emergence of Jacory Harris to compliment the talented running back tandem of Cooper and James, the Hurricanes once again have an explosive offense.  They have also shown with their dominance over Georgia Tech that they not only have the speed and athleticism on defense, but that they are also capable of playing with discipline.

Bud Foster will be able to slow down the Miami offense, but they will still get their yards and the biggest factor will likely be the Miami defense, stacking the line to slow down VT’s running game, and I just do not see Tyrod Taylor being able to win this one with his arm.  Prediction:  Miami wins 24-14

College Football Recap: Miami vs. Florida State

For the first time on a Labor Day game featuring these two rivals, Monday’s game between rivals Miami and Florida State was a very exciting game to watch.  Here is  a quick look at the strengths and weaknesses that each team showed last night:

Miami

Questions Answered:  Although I was very skeptical of Jacory Harris and his ability to lead an offense, he came

Harris stepped up in a big way against FSU on Monday

Harris stepped up in a big way against FSU on Monday

through with flying colors on Monday.  The FSU defense did not get much pressure on him, and Harris made them pay, en route to 386 yards passing to go along with two touchdowns.  As expected, the ‘Noles made it tough for the ‘Canes to run the ball, forcing Harris to beat them, and that is exactly what he did.

The other thing we learned about Miami is that not only is Graig Cooper a talented running back, he is also an explosive kickoff returner.  Last year, due the depth issues at tailback, the Miami coaching staff kept Cooper on the sidelines for kickoffs.  Now, with a healthy Javarris James, the ‘Canes are able to utilize more of Cooper’s skill set.  All he did in the Labor Day match up was gain 177 yards on kick returns, averaging over 35 yards per return.

Key Concerns: 

1.  Pass Defense:  A glaring issue with Miami’s team in 2008 was their defense, or lack thereof.  While the ‘Canes defense was able to slow down FSU’s running game, they were picked apart by Christian Ponder and the FSU receivers.  Either FSU’s passing offense is that good, or Miami still has some major issues on that side of the ball in 2009.

2.  Timeouts:  Another concern is the UM coaching staff and their lack of managing their timeouts.  In this match up, it did not negatively affect the outcome, but burning through timeouts like the ‘Canes did, especially in the first half will bite them if that continues.

Florida State

Questions Answered: 

Greg Reid showed Monday why he was an elite high school prospect last season

Greg Reid showed Monday why he was an elite high school prospect last season

1.  Ponder has stepped up his game: 

Much like Miami, FSU confirmed that they have a solid quarterback.  Christian Ponder did some great things last year with his ability to run, but his passing statistics were nothing to write home about.  Ponder was very decisive and effective all night, and engineered what would have been the game-winning drive by hitting his receiver in the end zone as time expired.  The ball was dropped, but Ponder showed great poise and put his team in position to win because of his arm.

2.  True Freshman, Greg Reid, is the real deal:  Reid was a highly-touted player out of Lowndes High School in Valdosta, GA, and he more than delivered in his first game at Florida State.  Reid took one kick return 51 yards, and ultimately, forced Miami to squibb their kickoffs the rest of the game to keep the ball out of his hands.  He also had a hand in each Miami turnover, intercepting one pass, and disrupting Jacory Harris’ throw on a blitz, which resulted in Marcus White’s pick-six.

Key Concerns:

1.  Passing Defense:  As previously mentioned, Jacory Harris had a great game, but much of that success was his ability to make the FSU secondary pay for a lack of a pass rush and blown coverages.  Harris had way too much time to make his reads, and if the ‘Noles cannot find someone who can apply pressure, BYU quarterback Max Hall will have a field day on September 19.  And other than Greg Reid, the FSU secondary seemed a step behind the Miami wideouts all night.

2.  Kickoff Coverage:  FSU had a couple of dangerous kick returners to deal with, but Graig Cooper’s big day returning kicks had a lot to do with his speed and vision, but it also had to do with dismal coverage by Florida State.  FSU started last season with poor kickoff coverage, but they picked it up when Lou Groza Award winner, Graham Gano returned to the line up and provided deeper kickoffs.  Gano is gone, and true freshman, Dustin Hopkins showed that he has a strong leg with his 52-yard field goal in the second quarter.  Hopkins either has to get more touchbacks, or the coverage has to improve, or the Seminole defense could be dealing with a short field a lot this season.

Preview: Miami at Florida State

Monday, September 7th will mark the first time since the 2006 season that the Florida State Seminoles and the Miami Hurricanes will lock up for a Labor Day show down.  The 2006 match up was less than stellar, as the two teams combined for 310 total yards as the ‘Noles edged out the ‘Canes 13-10.

This year’s contest is much more likely to resemble last year’s game in Land Shark Stadium, in which the ‘Noles defeated Miami 41-39 in a monsoon in south Florida.  That is because, despite the dominant defenses that both programs have boasted in the past, it is the offenses of each team that seem ready to shine this season.  In this edition of College Footblog, we will break down the two teams and make a prediction for the game.

Offense

Florida State had the youngest offensive line in the nation last year, starting three freshmen and two sophomores. 

Ponder will try to lead the 'Noles to a second-straight victory over the 'Canes on Monday

Ponder will try to lead the 'Noles to a second-straight victory over the 'Canes on Monday

Despite their youth, the fiesty O-line paved the way for the ACC’s second ranked offense, only eight yards shy of Georgia Tech’s league-leading 4,842 total yards in 2008 (rivals.com).

This year, that same offensive line will be the strength of the Seminole football team and should only boast improved numbers in 2009.  Redshirt junior quarterback, Christian Ponder also returns, and FSU will have much more depth at running back this season, highlighted by sophomore Jermaine Thomas, who was second on the team in rushing in 2008 with 482 yards and 7.0 yards per carry.

Miami’s offense will should see more production from sophomore Jacory Harris, who will no longer be splitting time with Robert Marve, who, last spring, transferred to Purdue.  Harris’ success, however, will depend largely on an offensive line that features three seniors and two juniors.  Other than four year starter, Jason Fox, however, the overall production is a bit of a question mark.  Accompanying Harris in the backfield will be a nice one-two punch of Graig Cooper and Javarris James.

Big Edge:  FSU 

Defense

Senior DE Eric Moncur will look to silence FSU's running attack

Senior DE Eric Moncur will unfortunately miss this year's match up due to injury

Defensively, the ‘Canes appear to have more depth and experience than FSU.  Senior DE, Eric Moncur will likely miss Monday’s showdown due to injury, putting more pressure on senior linebacker Daryll Sharpton and super sophomore linebacker, Sean Spence.  Despite this, UM should still be a smarter, more disciplined defense this season.  Their secondary, however, has a lot to prove after last season.  The ‘Canes spent the spring trying to find the right combination in the defensive backfield, at one time even switching a wide receiver to CB.

FSU has a couple major holes to fill as well with the departures of CB Tony Carter and SS Myron Rolle.  Through spring and summer practices, no one has stepped up and established himself as the unquestioned starter at either of those positions.  Also, Everette Brown, who was selected in the second round of the NFL draft last spring is no longer lining up at DE.  This could be somewhat offset, though, because there is much more experience and depth at defensive tackle and all three linebacker positions this season.

Slight Edge:  Miami

 

 

Special Teams

Miami returns place kicker Matt Bosher who was good for 18 field goals last year, and Florida State has the daunting task of not only replacing Lou Groza Award winning kicker, Graham Gano, they will likely do so with true freshman Dustin Hopkins.

Travis Benjamin was a huge homerun threat as a kick returner last year, and he should provide some big plays again in 2009.  FSU, on the other hand, must replace one of the top returners in all of college football last year,  in Michael Ray Garvin, who averaged just over 30 yards per kick return in 2008.  FSU does have a few young players who could fill that void in redshirt freshman, AJ Alexander and true freshmen, Greg Reid and Chris Thompson.

Slight Edge:  Miami

Prediction:  Each team has some question marks on defense, particularly in the secondary, and based on the history of this rivalry, Florida State does not want this game to come down to a field goal, especially with a freshman kicker.  The ‘Noles do have a significant advantage on offense, and if they can establish a running game early, Miami could be in trouble.  In the end, I see this one close, but not by a field goal, and I give a slight advantage to FSU due to the running game and the fact that this game is in Tallahassee.

FSU  over Miami, 31-24