Everything You Need to Know: Louisville v. Miami (FL)

Kickoff: 7:30 ET, ABC (TV)

Spread: Louisville -2.5, O/U 65 (Bovada)

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Louisville’s offense had nearly 500 yards (328 passing, 168 rushing), including 142 receiving yards from Tutu Atwell.

But a record day from Miami quarterback Jarren Williams would be the difference in an early November showdown between the Cardinals and the Hurricanes. The redshirt freshman set a new school record with six passing touchdowns, as Miami blew out Louisville in a 52-27 win. Miami receivers Mike Harley (six rec., 116 yards) and Dee Wiggins (three rec., 85 yards) both caught a pair of touchdowns, while the Hurricanes defense tallied 14 tackles for loss in the contest.

Miami (FL) leads the all-time series 10-3-1. Louisville has won three of the last five games in the series, dating back to 2004.

Synopsis: 2020 Miami Hurricanes

Miami’s win against Louisville last November would be their last of the 2019 season. The Hurricanes dropped their final three games of the season, including a shocking neutral-site loss to cross-town FIU, and a 21-0 shutout loss to Louisiana Tech in the Independence Bowl.

Despite completing 61% of his passes for 2,187 yards and having a 19:7 TD-to-INT ratio, Jarren Williams decided to transfer to Garden City Community College. Williams entered the portal three days after Houston quarterback D’Eriq King committed to Miami as a graduate transfer, giving the Hurricanes a former All-AAC second team QB and a dynamic playmaker.

Year two of the Manny Diaz era started with a 31-14 win over UAB last Thursday. The Hurricanes enter Saturday’s game with a 1-0 record, and ranked #17/18 in the AP and Coaches polls, respectively.

Offensive Players to Know: QB D’Eriq King, TE Brevin Jordan, RB Cam’Ron Harris

Miami’s 52 points against Louisville was only the second time that the Hurricanes scored 30+ points against FBS competition in 2019. The offense otherwise struggled, ranking 98th in total offense (367.2 YPG), 90th in scoring offense (25.7 YPG), and was the worst among Power Five schools in sacks allowed (51). This led to the firing of offensive coordinator Dan Enos after one season with the Hurricanes, putting Miami in search of an offensive coordinator.

Miami would hire Rhett Lashlee, a 37-year old offensive coordinator fresh off a remarkable season at SMU. Under Lashlee’s guidance, the Mustangs averaged 41.8 points (seventh nationally) and 489.8 yards per game (ninth). Among other things, SMU had a 3,900 yard passer, and a 1,200-yard runner and receiver. If Lashlee could get close to those same numbers at Miami, pairing that with a defense that was 13th in total yards per game last season would surely put Miami in the mix for an ACC Coastal Division title.

Having D’Eriq King join the team in the offseason definitely helps Miami’s goal to improve the offense, and it also helps that Lashlee has worked with dual-threat quarterbacks of his caliber before. Lashlee was the OC at Auburn from 2013-16, mentoring Nick Marshall as the Tigers made a surprise run to the BCS National Championship Game in his first season alongside Gus Malzahn.

King was a productive quarterback at Houston, scoring 50 total touchdowns (36 pass, 14 rush) and accumulating 3,500 total yards (2,982 pass, 674 rush) in 2018, earning All-AAC Second Team honors in the process. He’s also been efficient as a passer, completing 62% of his passes and currently holds a 5:1 TD-to-INT ratio (51 TDs, ten INTs) with 32 rushing touchdowns to boot. He’s a dynamic runner with elusiveness and good leg strength, and the arm strength to make throws in short and intermediate passing.

King has a ton of playmakers at the skill positions, with tight end Brevin Jordan and running back Cam’Ron Harris the most notable. Jordan is one of the elite tight ends in college football, a two-time All-ACC player and John Mackey Award finalist last season (35 rec., 495 yards, two TDs in 2019). I like his athleticism and well-rounded approach to the position. He’s a capable run blocker (which definitely helps if you have a quarterback with running ability), but his speed and hands make him a huge threat as a receiver. He can line up outside and become a mismatch for smaller defensive backs, as he can use his size to get good releases and make tough catches. He should be an ideal fit for NFL teams needing a tight end that can split out wide and create mismatches, similar to some elites at the position like Travis Kelce and Jimmy Graham.

Cam’Ron Harris split reps with Deejay Dallas last season, but is now the top running back on the roster after Dallas declared for the NFL Draft. He had a big showing in his first game as the feature back, gaining 134 yards on 17 carries against UAB (including a massive 66-yard touchdown run in the first quarter). He’s a very nimble runner with breakaway speed once he hits the next level, and can be very tough to bring down on first contact. He’s an excellent complementary piece to King’s running ability, one that should test many defenses in the ACC.

Defensive Players to Know: DL Quincy Roche, DB Al Blades Jr., S Gurvan Hall, Jr.

Manny Diaz built a reputation as defensive coordinator for Miami with elite units, and his 2019 team was no exception. The Hurricanes were 13th nationally in total yards allowed per game, and 23rd in points per game.

But the 2020 season saw the Hurricanes replacing a ton of talent on that side of the ball. Shaquille Quarterman and Trajan Bandy left for the NFL, and shortly before the season started, star defensive end Gregory Rousseau chose to sit out due to concerns with COVID-19.

Rousseau’s opt out is a huge loss for Miami’s defense, but they still have an elite defensive end in Quincy Roche. Roche comes to Miami by way of Temple, winning AAC Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2019 (49 tackles, 19 TFL, 13 sacks in ’19). He is very quick off the edge, strong with his hand usage and can beat a lot of tackles with bend, especially outside. Louisville did an excellent job at containing Deangelo Malone last week, but can they do it again facing another top pass rusher?

Miami also returns a couple of starters in the secondary, including cornerback Al Blades, Jr. and safety Gurvan Hall, Jr. Blades had two interceptions last year and has played in all 27 games of his college career, with running mate DJ Ivey also returning (Ivey led the team with three interceptions last year). Both also had interceptions in last year’s game against Louisville, so they’ll be playing with some confidence against the Cardinals knowing that they can make plays against a talented receiving group.

The safety position will be one of interest for Miami, as they try to contain a Louisville passing game that averaged 11.3 yards per attempt against them last year, and 10.1 last week against WKU. Safety Gurvan Hall, Jr. is a veteran in Miami’s defense, making 11 starts last season and finishing second on the team in tackles (67) with two sacks and an interception.

Points of Interest:

  • How will Louisville’s defense handle Miami’s high-tempo offense?

One of the hallmarks of Rhett Lashlee’s offenses is the high-tempo pace that they run. Miami ran 84 plays last Thursday against UAB, and a lot of it was executed in no-huddle. Other than Wake Forest and maybe Clemson (if Louisville eventually plays them in the ACC Championship), this will be the fastest team that Louisville’s defense will face in terms of tempo.

Louisville’s defense has two things going for them this Saturday, as opposed to their last meeting in November. They don’t have the late season fatigue that they faced in November, and they have better depth across the board. Louisville’s defense showed that last week against WKU, holding the Hilltoppers to 248 total yards and tallying ten tackles for loss, with three sacks.

However, they will have to play a really solid game in order to contain Miami. King’s athleticism, combined with his arm strength and ability as a passer, will mean Louisville’s secondary can’t play far off receivers like they did last week with Ty Pigrome. They also have to worry about King’s own ability as a runner, as he is really good at creating plays on improvisation, and can really hit the second level with his speed and agility. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Miami take shots downfield against Louisville, as they had some success with that last year as Mike Harley and Dee Wiggins both had catches of over 40 yards (both, by the way, returning for Miami).

Add the no-huddle element to it, and Louisville’s defense will also be tested in terms of staying composed and getting off the field quickly. Avoiding penalties, especially for substitution and 12 men, will help the Cardinals offense get back on the field.

  • Can Louisville’s offense avoid negative plays?

Last season, Louisville’s offense allowed 14 tackles for loss against Miami. That was part of a 2019 season where Louisville was the worst in the FBS in tackles for loss allowed, and last week, Louisville allowed ten against WKU.

Louisville will have to avoid negative plays against Miami. Louisville was able to overcome it last week with big play action passes, but negative plays killed some drives where the Cardinals could have extended the lead or sustained drives.

It will start up front for the Cardinals, who will have to face a Miami defensive line surely able to test them. Quincy Roche will be another tough challenge for Louisville’s tackles, but the matchup I’m watching will be Louisville’s interior against Nesta Jade Silvera. Louisville will need to give Javian Hawkins and Hassan Hall ample opportunities to find holes in the zone schemes, and avoid going behind the chains for Miami to dial up pressure on passing downs.

  • Will Louisville continue to thrive on big passes?

In the event that Louisville does find itself in third-and-long situations (or passing downs, in general), they will need to be able to take — and hit — big shots downfield.

Louisville has proven that they can do it, based on the last 14 games and against Miami last year. Their offensive line will have its work cut out for them against a tough Miami defensive line, but Louisville’s receivers could have the advantage against Miami’s secondary. While Ivey, Hall and Blades all made some plays against Louisville, Tutu Atwell thrived against Miami last year (six receptions, 142 yards, TD). Adding Braden Smith to the fold should put pressure on Miami’s secondary to try and keep them contained in one-on-one coverage, especially if Dez Fitzpatrick and/or Marshon Ford are paired with them.

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