Before Canes fans everywhere rip my head off for this, look at the numbers. Miami averages a mere 10.3 more yards per game passing than Wake Forest. Redshirt senior Riley Skinner has also been better against ACC opponents than sophomore Skinner, having thrown for 1,157 yards, nine touchdowns and five interceptions in four games compared to Harris’ 1,062 yards, seven touchdowns and six interceptions in the same span.
Running Backs: Miami
Miami needs to establish the run this weekend to take pressure off of Harris and give the offensive line some confidence. The Canes have found a new weapon in junior Damien Berry, who is averaging 7.7 yards per carry in just three games this season, not to mention the usual arsenal of senior Javarris James, junior Graig Cooper, redshirt sophomore Lee Chambers and freshman Mike James.
Wide Receivers: Wake Forest
The receiving core for Wake hasn’t missed a beat after the departure of starters D.J. Boldin and Chip Brinkman. Redshirt junior Marshall Williams is fourth in the ACC in receiving yards and is tied for second in the conference in receptions. Standout sophomore Devon Brown is an unsung hero on this team as well having 16 catches for 252 yards in conference play.
Offensive line: Even
Both are evenly bad. Think about this, in the month of October, Jacory Harris dropped back to pass 119 times and 14 of those times he was sacked. That is 12 percent of the time. Riley Skinner had a similar month, being sacked 17 from 144 drop-backs, also 12 percent of the time. Both teams will be outmatched by more dominant defensive lines this week so expect a lot of short runs and little time for quarterbacks to throw.
Defensive Line: Miami
Have you ever thought how successful a team would be if they only ran the ball and didn’t throw once? That sort of stuff is usually left to Madden10 but that’s exactly what Navy did in their win over Wake Forest last week: 64 plays, 64 runs, 0 passes, 338 yards rushing. The Midshipmen still averaged 5.3 yards per carry! C.J. Spiller, who torched Miami last week, ran for 106 yards and 2 TDs on only 9 carries versus Wake Forest. Expect Miami to try to stuff the run early and then bring the heat on Skinner.
Led by redshirt junior Hunter Haynes, the Deacons are a linebacking core still looking for an identity after losing team leaders Stanley Arnoux and Aaron Curry to the NFL. Redshirt junior Colin McCarthy continues to lead the team on defense and is racking up the stats. Against Clemson, McCarthy had a team best 11 tackles with senior Darryl Sharpton a close second with 10.
Defensive Backs: Wake Forest
Senior Brandon Ghee has National Football League written all over him and the emergence of redshirt freshman Kenny Okoro gives the edge to Wake Forest. Also, expect the Demon Deacons to be throwing a lot more than the Canes giving them more opportunity to beat up on a Miami secondary that gave up 326 yards and looked lost against Clemson. “A breakdown. All sloppy play. You give up big plays when you get sloppy,” said Randy Shannon when asked about the game-winning touchdown last week.
Special Teams: Miami
Matt Bosher was named a Lou Groza Award “Star of the Week” last week for his 22, 49 and 51-yard field goals against Clemson. Bosher is the fourth most accurate kicker in the ACC at 82% where Wake Forest kickers have combined to be an ACC worst 64% kicking field goals this year.
At least in preparing for the game, there’s no question that Miami has the edge. There may be some more questions raised when gameday comes, especially if the coaching staff can’t get on the same page as seen against Clemson. Right before the half Shannon and offensive coordinator Mark Whipple were caught by cameras arguing on the sideline. Jim Grobe has lead Wake Forest to three straight eight-win seasons but at the end of the day, Miami’s coaches just seems to have a better understanding of what it takes to win.
Ian Hest may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.