This week’s opponent scouting report comes to us from the guys over at SB Nation’s Miami blog, The 7th Floor Blog.
This Hurricanes offense is slowly becoming a powerhouse. At that start of camp, there were basically two sure things: 1) Stephen Morris was going to be the QB and 2) Mike James was going to be the running back. Outside of those two, the rest was more or less unknown. Duke Johnson was heralded, but his conditioning and ability to play in every game was worrisome. The wide receiving corps was decimated by graduation and Tommy Streeter leaving early. The offensive line was solid, but at the same time still a bit of an unknown. Our tight ends were expected to be consistent, and were promised to have more pronounced roles in the playbook. In short, people were worried.
We had zero clue what the product would look like once it got on the field. So far, each game has peeled back a layer on this offense and shown what it is capable of doing. Against Boston College, Duke Johnson announced himself to the CFB world, and hasn’t stopped since. Against Kansas State, Morris was steady and the tight ends were productive. In the 3 games since, Bethune-Cookman, Georgia Tech, and most recently North Carolina State, the wide receivers have been taking shape.
The play calling is still a bit suspect at times, but over all this machine is starting to run as it is supposed to. Philip Dorsett is emerging as a top threat out of nowhere, Allen Hurns has been steady, Mike James is running like a man possessed, and if you don’t have the defense keyed in on Duke Johnson when he’s out there, that’s your problem, not ours.
It’s no secret that the strength of this Notre Dame team is the defense. Manti Te’o scares the bajeezus out of me, but then again, Harrison Smith is gone (so is Jacory Harris). This Canes offense will be in for a tough assignment, but if they can stick to the game plan, they will be able to move the ball against this D. They have as of late been running a steady mix of WR screens, running the ball both to the outside as well as inside, all setting up for the deep ball to Dorsett. It’s hard for any defense to cross all of those things off the chart at once, so something is bound to give.
This is where things get infuriatingly weird. This defense is a sieve for rushing yards, and at time, can’t cover the pass. The defensive line more often than not gets almost no push up the middle, which allows for the offensive line to keep Shayon Green and Anthony Chickillo tied up on the outsides. Yet, as of late, they have been making key plays when needed to prevent the opponents from scoring. Whether it is allowing Georgia Tech to drive in overtime only to stop them on 4th and 1, or stopping NCSt after each missed red zone opportunity to even out missing out on points.
Their last game was a turnover festival, with fumbles and interceptions repeatedly ending productive Wolfpack drives. The old cliche “bend but don’t break” seems to apply here, but yet that doesn’t even feel like it covers everything. The one saving grace coming into this game is that the Notre Dame offense doesn’t seem like it is all the way there yet. Granted, I haven’t watched their games myself save for a portion of the game in Ireland, but I get the feeling that they show up in spurts, but most of the time it isn’t quite right.
There are a few players that worry me, namely George Atkinson III. Our defense hates tackling running backs apparently, so he may be primed for a big day. The QB, Golson, worries me a bit as well, as we have a tendency to make decent quarterbacks look like Vinny Testaverde.
Our defense is certainly helped out by the fact that we have Denzel Perryman back in the MLB spot after missing the past few weeks. He is our Te’o, and we need him back there for a game like this one. This also frees up our other stud linebacker, Eddie Johnson, to not worry so much about compensating for the loss of Perryman. It” either be an interesting game to watch, or it will turn into a one-sided shoot out. Obviously I am hoping that our defense shows up ready to play.
Miami’s Special Teams
Dalton Botts, our punter, was by far our best player on special teams coming into this year. He has since proved that by not only being extremely effective kicking the ball, but also in dragging 4 Wolfpack defenders on a fake punt run for a first down. The major worry on special teams is Jake Wieclaw, our field goal specialist. He was horrible against NCSt, whether it was a 20 yard chip shot or a 40 yard pressure kick. He is normally automatic, but something has gotten into his head, and I am really hoping he has it figured out. I have a feeling that we will need his services come Saturday night. As far as returns go, those are handled by Duke Johnson and Philip Dorsett, and if even 1 Irish player leaves his lane on kick offs or punts, those guys will make you pay.
I really have no clue which direction this game will go. I gave up giving predictions about this team after week 2, because even though they may look like one product going into a game, they usually end up coming out looking like another. Take their last game, they went in figuring to run the ball a lot more than they passed, and by the game’s end, Morris had thrown for 566 yards and 5 touchdowns. If I had to guess, this game will hinge on what our defense can do against Notre Dame’s offense. We all know that our offense will have to work hard, that’s not a surprise, but if our defense decides not to show up or make the right adjustments, we will be in for a long day on the Orange and Green side.