The lull of the college football offseason is in full swing over the next month. I’ll try to fill that void on the blog by taking a look at all of Virginia Tech’s 2013 opponents and (hopefully) getting some insight from a beat writer who covers each team.
The next team up is Miami, which might be the Coastal Division favorites.
Who: Miami Hurricanes
When: Saturday, Nov. 9
Where: Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla.
Series history: Miami leads 18-12 (Last meeting: 2012 in Miami Gardens, 30-12 Hurricanes win)
The coach: Al Golden, third season, 13-11 at Miami; 40-45 in seven years
Last year’s record: 7-5 (5-3 ACC, t-1st Coastal)
How they got there: For the first time in a while, Miami started showing signs of being the kind of team that can make some noise on the national level, at least from an offensive perspective. But a defense that was historically bad — especially for a school that once upon a time produced Warren Sapp and Ray Lewis – limited just how far the ‘Canes could go. Well, that and a seemingly never-ending NCAA probe that led Miami to once again administer a postseason ban in an effort to lessen the eventual blow. On the field, though, the ‘Canes were an offensive machine, topping 30 points in ACC play six times. Granted, the defense was prone to giving up just as many points, and a 52-13 loss to Kansas State and 41-3 loss to Notre Dame showed just how much work Miami has to do to get back to playing with the big boys. A three-game midseason skid to Notre Dame, UNC and FSU threatened the season, but the ‘Canes rebounded by winning three of their last four to finish in a tie for first place in the Coastal. If not for a self-imposed postseason ban, they would have represented the division in the ACC title game for the first time and finally given the league the FSU-Miami matchup it has longed for.
By the numbers
- Rushing offense: 144.75 ypg (81st nationally, 6th ACC)
- Passing offense: 295.42 ypg (25th, 3rd)
- Total offense: 440.17 ypg (37th, 5th)
- Scoring offense: 31.42 ppg (49th, 6th)
- Rushing defense: 217.92 ypg (112th, 12th)
- Passing defense: 268.50 ypg (102nd, 12th)
- Total defense: 486.42 ypg (116th, 12th)
- Scoring defense: 30.50 ppg (82nd, 10th)
- Turnover margin: .58 (t-30th, 2nd)
Offensive starters returning/lost: 8/3
Defensive starters returning/lost: 4/7
Biggest loss: RB Mike James. A bruiser at 5-foot-11, 222 pounds, James was a workhorse for the ‘Canes last year who could get tough yards. His final numbers weren’t overwhelming (621 yards, 4.2 ypc, 6 TD), but he was a reliable, veteran back that they could count on to push a pile forward. But his departure isn’t a huge concern because of …
Team linchpin: RB Duke Johnson. In his first year on campus, Johnson broke Clinton Portis‘ school freshman rushing record with 947 yards. But that was only a fraction of his contribution. He was second nationally in kickoff returns (an 81-yarder vs. Virginia Tech last year helped) and was ninth nationally with 171.7 all-purpose yards per game. Did I mention that was as a freshman? Now that James is gone, expect Johnson’s role to expand. Remember, he only started five games last year. The sky’s the limit for him this season.
Watch out for: QB Stephen Morris. How’s this for a final four games last year? Eleven touchdowns passes, no picks, a 60 completion percentage and 1,131 yards. Not bad for a junior who the previous season only started one game. Morris finished the year with 21 touchdowns to seven interceptions, numbers that figure to go up as teams have to shift more of their focus to stopping Johnson.
The 2013 schedule
- Aug. 30: vs. Florida Atlantic
- Sept. 7: vs. Florida
- Sept. 21: vs. Savannah State
- Sept. 28: at South Florida
- Oct. 5: vs. Georgia Tech
- Oct. 17: at North Carolina
- Oct. 26: vs. Wake Forest
- Nov. 2: at Florida State
- Nov. 9: vs. Virginia Tech
- Nov. 16: at Duke
- Nov. 23: vs. Virginia
- Nov. 29: at Pittsburgh
The buzz: This will be the 10th year since Miami joined the ACC, and the ‘Canes, once the country’s premier football program, haven’t gotten back to the 10-win mark in that time. This year’s team might have a chance. With a loaded and dynamic offense that returns plenty of parts and an influx of talent from Golden’s recruiting prowess that could inject some life into the defense, Miami might just be the favorites in the Coastal Division. We’ll find out what they’re made of in an early season non-conference tilt with state rival Florida. Games at North Carolina and Florida State and at home against Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech will decide what direction the ‘Canes go this year. So too will the NCAA, which appears to be close to finalizing a penalty from the Nevin Shapiro claims that have hounded the program ever since Golden took over before the 2011 season. If given the go-ahead to participate in the postseason, this could well be a team that starts to get Miami back on track to being nationally relevant.
Why they should be excited: The offense has all the pieces to be spectacular. And while the skill players get their due — as they should, considering how explosive Johnson and Morris are — the offensive line is the unit that’s most impressive. Five starters are back up front, including mammoth offensive tackle and former top recruit Seantrel Henderson, who’s 6-foot-8, 345 pounds. The five players who return up front accounted for 55 of the team’s 60 starts last year, so it’s an experienced group. Receiver Phillip Dorsett (842 yards, 4 TD) is back, as is Rashawn Scott (512 yards, 3 TD), who was suspended for the final three games of last season for a violation of team rules. With all the emphasis teams will put on stopping Johnson, it’s going to open up some opportunities for other guys to emerge as play-makers. On defense, there’s less to be excited about, but the group does have some positives. Linebacker Denzel Perryman returns in the middle, a hard-hitter who had 64 tackles in a season shortened by injuries. Ends Shayon Green and Anthony Chickillo are seniors who endured underwhelming junior years but could bounce back.
Why they should worry: As good as the offense has the potential to be, it’s still breaking in a pretty big piece — new offensive coordinator James Coley, who came over from Florida State. He grew up the block from the old Orange Bowl, so he knows what The U is about, but this will be his first gig as a play-caller, since he ceded those duties to Jimbo Fisher at FSU. You never know how someone will adjust to that new role. Other than that, most of the question marks are on defense. The line returns several players, but it was pushed around a bunch last year. The linebackers lost two potential starters in the offseason – Gionni Paul, the third-leading tackler last year, was kicked off the team and Eddie Johnson, the fourth-leading tackler, left school and enrolled in community college. And the secondary doesn’t have any starters returning, losing a vital cog in veteran cornerback Brandon McGee. There’s plenty of potential back there, especially safety Deon Bush and cornerback Tracy Howard, a pair of former top recruits, but three of the four projected starters are sophomores, so it’s an inexperienced group. As usual, the drab setting of Sun Life Stadium, some 30 minutes (assuming no traffic) north of the campus, gives the ‘Canes next to no homefield advantage. It’s a small thing, but in a tight race, every little bit helps.
The more you know: Since joining the ACC in 2004, Miami has a 66-46 record. That’s sixth best of ACC teams in that time, behind Virginia Tech, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech and even Boston College.
- Alabama: Team overview | Ask a beat writer
- Western Carolina: Team overview | Ask a beat writer
- East Carolina: Team overview | Ask a beat writer
- Marshall: Team overview | Ask a beat writer
- Georgia Tech: Team overview | Ask a beat writer
- North Carolina: Team overview | Ask a beat writer
- Pittsburgh: Team overview | Ask a beat writer
- Duke: Team overview | Ask a beat writer
- Boston College: Team overview