The NCAA finally handed down its penalties to the University of Miami football this week after a two and a half year investigation, placing Miami on three years probation that includes a loss of nine scholarships for the football program.
But along with it came a sigh of relief, as the program received no further bowl bans. Now it can focus squarely on just a football game.
Up next for the Hurricanes this Saturday is a matchup with Wake Forest. Miami is ranked 7th in the first BCS rankings and are 6-0 for the first time since 2004. A win over the Demon Deacons would give the Hurricanes their best start since 2003.
Last Thursday Miami just squeaked by North Carolina in Chapel Hill and overcame a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter to knock off the Tar Heels 27-23. Quarterback Stephen Morris led the Hurricanes on a 90-yard game-winning touchdown drive that culminated with a Dallas Crawford touchdown run, who was filling in for injured running back Duke Johnson, with 16 seconds remaining.
Without Johnson in the lineup, who left the game with a head injury, Crawford ran the ball 33 times for a career-high 137 rushing yards. Crawford will get some relief Saturday as Johnson is expected to return. That’s huge for Miami as he leads the team with 677 rushing yards on 92 carries.
Miami was hit with a bigger injury last Thursday as wide receiver Phillip Dorsett partially tore his ACL and is reportedly out for at least six weeks. This is a big loss for Morris as Dorsett was Miami’s second leading receiver on the season with 13 catches for 272 yards to go along with two touchdowns. Receivers Herb Waters and Stacy Coley will have to step up in his absence.
Morris struggled greatly in the victory over UNC and losing Dorsett doesn’t make it any easier to bounce back this week. Morris threw four interceptions, zero touchdown passes, and completed just 19 of his 35 pass attempts while overthrowing receivers all night long. Miami’s offense has also become turnover happy recently, turning the ball over 4 times in each of the last three game after turning it over just two times in its first three games. Morris and company must find a way to correct that this weekend, especially with a showdown with No. 2 Florida State next Saturday in Tallahassee.
Wake Forest is led by senior quarterback Tanner Price and wide receiver Michael Campanaro. Campanaro leads the Demon Deacons with 55 catches and 704 yards and is averaging 9.2 receptions per game. Miami must contain him to be successful on defense. Remember last week? If you recall UM surrendered 199 receiving yards to Eric Ebron on eight receptions. The Hurricanes cannot let Campanaro go off on them in the same fashion.
If Miami can limit Price and Campanaro then it limits Wake Forest’s offense immensely. The Demon Deacons are ranked 113th in the FBS in rushing yards per game and are only averaging 3.1 yards per carry. They’re leading rusher is Josh D. Harris, who is only averaging 2.4 yards per carry with 218 yards on the season. Its crucial that Miami’s offense doesn’t turn the ball over and make its defense defend a short field. Wake Forest’s offense won’t be able to march up and down the field with long drives all afternoon to keep up with the Hurricanes.
This could very well be a trap game for the Hurricanes. They already had one last week so it’ll be interesting to see how much Miami learned from that close victory over UNC. Wake Forest comes into South Florida with a record of 4-3 and a two game winning-streak, defeating Maryland 34-10 last Saturday where its defense forced three turnovers. However, its one road game against a top ten opponent this season was Clemson, who demolished the Demon Deacons 56-7. Miami needs to come out ready for this game and fix its issues on offense before heading into Tallahassee next weekend. That means Morris must take better care of the ball or Miami could find itself in another close game.
That being said, I think you’ll see a much more productive Stephen Morris tomorrow and a more efficient offense. Morris had the worst game of his career last week and I expect him to bounce back at home. The defense has also played well for most of the season and Wake Forest is only averaging 22 points per game while Miami’s defense is giving up just over 17 a game. It shouldn’t have a problem with Wake Forest’s offense as long it doesn’t have to defend a short field.
Prediction: Miami 31, Wake Forest 20