Week 5 - Thursday, October 1, 2015 - Time: 7:30 PM ET - Nippert Stadium
Miami (FL) Hurricanes at Cincinnati Bearcats
Who Are They?
The Miami Hurricanes are a very talented team that somehow finished 6-7 a year ago with a 3-5 record in the ACC. They had seven players drafted to the NFL this past spring, but still possess a number of talented athletes and playmakers. Despite losing those players, the Hurricanes can put up points, much like they did in their 55-34 win over the Bearcats last season.
This year's model of the Hurricanes begins with sophomore quarterback Brad Kaaya, who earned the ACC Rookie of the Year award and set school records for passing yards and touchdowns for a true freshman with 3,198 yards passing and 26 touchdowns to 12 interceptions.
Running back Duke Johnson is gone, as is wide receiver Phillip Dorsett, but the Canes have a way of replacing talent with more talent. Sophomore Joseph Yearby and junior Gus Edwards figure to get their share of carries this season. Yearby is the smaller, lighter back and Edwards is more of a bruiser.
The receivers are deep with Freshman All-American (2013) Stacy Coley figuring to factor into the gameplan. The top returning receiver is senior Herb Waters who caught 20 passes for 277 yards and one touchdown last season before suffering a neck injury. The offensive line is untested, replacing Ereck Flowers. Only right guard Danny Isidora is returning as a starter.
The defense was great statistically a year ago, finishing 14th nationally in total defense, but had major issues throughout the year that would say that stat is a little generous. The Canes gave up over 300 yards rushing to Nebraska and Georgia Tech and the defense was largely to blame for being unable to put away Florida State or South Carolina.
The defensive line is going to look a little different, but there are rumblings that Chad Thomas and Al-Quadin Muhammad cold be very good this season. The linebackers are retooling, trying to replace Denzel Perryman, but returning the second leading tackler from a year ago, Jermaine Grace. Grace had 60 tackles with 6.5 for a loss in 2014. The secondary should be solid with senior safety Deon Bush bringing back his five forced fumbles. Experienced junior corners, Corn Elder and Artie Burns, are supposed to be very good this season. The big issue with Miami defensively is a lack of depth.
Why We Should Worry...
First and foremost, Kaaya is a talented quarterback. Not only does he have a lot of talent, but he figures to have a number of weapons at his disposal, even if they aren't the biggest of names quite yet. The talent that always seems to be present with the Canes will step up this season and with a player of Kaaya's caliber calling the shots, that's bad news for anyone. While I think the Cincinnati secondary will step up this fall, there is reason to worry that Kaaya could build upon last year's showing against the Bearcats where he was 17/24 for 286 yards passing, three touchdowns and zero picks. A quality quarterback is always a concern.
The second reason to worry for the Bearcats is simply the Canes' overall team talent. This isn't discrediting what Cincinnati has, but Miami (FL) always has a deep roster full of guys who can have profound impact on games. They don't always perform to their potential as a team (especially under current head coach Al Golden), but they are a tough matchup on a position-by-position basis given their talent level.
And Why We Shouldn't...
This is the most difficult home game I have in my ranking. Miami (FL) is a solid team, but Cincinnati, at least, gets them at Nippert this season. The home-field advantage should help things for the Bearcats. It is a mid-week clash, at Cincinnati and in primetime. Those factors should make for a hostile environment for the Hurricanes to walk into. That certainly helps the odds.
The other factor that should calm Cincinnati fans is actually Miami's schedule heading into the matchup. In the week prior to their trip to Nippert, the Hurricanes host Nebraska on Saturday, Sept. 19. That game figures to be a tough one anyway, but also puts the Hurricanes on a short week. Cincinnati will have a full week's preparation, playing Sept. 24 at Memphis the week prior. Miami (FL) must travel to Cincinnati and then, the next week, must travel to play Florida State on the road. I wouldn't consider Cincinnati a "trap game" team, but the Bearcats could be the beneficiaries of a tough stretch for the Canes.
This is a game where the scenario sets for Cincinnati to win a big one in primetime, at home, against a tough opponent. While Miami (FL) will bring a bunch of talent into the matchup, including Kaaya, the Bearcats have a very real opportunity to win this one. Given the Hurricanes schedule and the game being hosted in Nippert, I like Cincinnati to win a close one again as Kaaya duels with Gunner Kiel and company. I expect a shootout with the home crowd playing a factor in the outcome.