After the Labor Day meltdown against Maryland to start off the season, the Hurricanes are coming off their bye week to prepare for an upcoming matchup against the No. 15 Ohio State Buckeyes. Here are five things to take into account as the Canes look to rebound from their opening night loss:
1. Jacory back in the fold: Following the loss on Monday night, head coach Al Golden announced on Tuesday that he would be opening up the quarterback battle over the weekend before naming a starter. Almost immediately after that announcement was made, the depth chart was released, with senior Jacory Harris sitting at the top of the quarterback spot. It’s not that Morris had a bad game against the Terrapins; he was 19-25 with 195 yards and did not throw an interception until late in the fourth quarter, when the Canes were looking to come back in the final minute. Both Morris and Harris had been in a “dead heat,” according to Golden, throughout fall camp. However, Golden also recently admitted that had it not been for the NCAA investigation that resulted in Harris’ one-game suspension, he would have won the starting job. Harris brings two years’ and several games’ worth of starting experience, and has supposedly looked spectacular throughout camp. Now the question remains: Have the mistakes that led to an interception-plagued year been remedied?
2. Defense looks to bolster up: Against Maryland, the defense gave up 348 passing yards, 499 total yards and, for most of the game, was completely manhandled by the Terrapins’ affinity for screen passes. With three starters returning on defense from their NCAA mandated suspensions, Miami is hoping to cut down drastically on the total yardage given up. With senior linebacker Sean Spence returning to call plays on the defensive side, look for the game plan to run much smoother. The leadership that he brings to the defensive front was missed against Maryland, perhaps more so than his overall skill set. With defensive lineman Marcus Forston returning as well, look for the line to put added pressure on Buckeye quarterback Joe Bauserman.
3. Buckeyes looking vulnerable: In two games so far this year, Ohio State has yet to prove how they can play against a big-name team. After a 42-0 romp over the Akron Zips, a team that went 1-11 last year, the Buckeyes struggled mightily to put away Toledo on Saturday afternoon. They eventually came away with a 27-22 victory that perhaps brought along more questions than it really answered. Sure, there’s always the possibility that the Buckeyes suffered because they were caught looking ahead to their upcoming matchup with the Canes. But the fact remains that Saturday’s win came more due to Toledo’s mistakes than to OSU’s ability. Bauserman is in his first year starting for the Buckeyes, and the Hurricanes present the toughest test he has yet to face. The biggest concern for Ohio State will be on special teams, where the unit struggled on Saturday. Miami will need to take advantage of a strong special teams unit and create some momentum of their own with long kick returns to put themselves in a good position to win the game.
4. Hurns’ emergence: Before sophomore receiver Allen Hurns’ emergence in camp, he had spent the majority of two years primarily as a special teams contributor, not getting much of an opportunity to hit the field otherwise. But after a strong camp which earned him a start against Maryland, he did not disappoint, bagging four receptions for 67 yards, including a long 37-yard catch and run. Golden gave Hurns plenty of praise throughout camp for his physicality and his ability to block, as well as the speed he brings to the receiving corps. With a major hole to fill after the departure of last season’s receiving star Leonard Hankerson, Hurns looks to become one of the guys that the quarterback, whether it be Harris or Morris down the line, will use in big play situations.
5. Intangibles: In addition to the obvious bad blood between the Canes and Buckeyes, these are two programs that went through tumultuous offseasons. The Buckeyes lost their head coach and starting quarterback, and now are relying on Bauserman and rookie head coach Luke Fickell to lead the charge. Ohio State will still have seven starters out with suspensions against the Hurricanes, while Miami will have five starters returning. It’s also worth mentioning that many of these players were in Ohio last year for the beatdown the Buckeyes laid on the Canes, a 36-24 loss for Miami. The team will be looking to make amends for that loss. Combine the revenge factor and what should be a packed crowd at Sun Life Stadium and expect the Canes to come out fired up for this one.