Bowl eligibility on the line when the Cardinals face the Hurricanes
After their disappointing loss to Georgia Tech on Oct. 19, the Miami Hurricanes have recovered to win two consecutive games. Their latest win, a 27-10 romp over Florida State, brought their record to 5-4 (3-3 in the ACC). After being on the road for two weeks, the Hurricanes will have their Senior Day as they will host the Louisville Cardinals.
Just like Miami, Louisville also had some early-season struggles after losses to Notre Dame and FSU. However, the Cardinals (5-3, 3-2) have won three out of their last four games, including their 28-21 win over current ACC Coastal leader Virginia on Oct. 26.
Saturday’s game will be the first meeting between the Cardinals and Hurricanes since the 2014 season opener in which Louisville claimed a 31-13 victory. Miami owns a 9-3-1 series advantage over Louisville, but the Cardinals have won the last three meetings.
Louisville at Miami
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 9 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Miami -6.5
When Louisville Has the Ball
Through eight games this season, the Cardinals have one of the best offenses in the ACC. Louisville ranks 35th in the country in total offense at 444.6 yards per game. The Cardinals' offensive line has been one of the keys to their recent success. The unit certainly played a significant role in the team’s win over the Cavaliers. In that contest, Louisville ran for 227 yards against a Virginia team that ranks in the top 20 in total defense.
The Cardinals will have their hands full again this weekend, as they will play a Hurricanes team that also fields one of the nation’s better defenses. Miami has held opponents to 290.1 yards per game, which ranks 14th in the FBS. The Louisville offensive line will also have to worry about one of the best young pass rushers in college football in Gregory Rousseau. Against Florida State a week ago, Rousseau recorded four sacks on the afternoon. Two weeks ago, at Pittsburgh, Rousseau had another dominating performance, as he had three sacks in the Hurricanes' win. Rousseau has 12 sacks on the season, which only ranks behind Ohio State’s Chase Young (13.5).
Because Miami has shown they can rush the passer, expect Louisville to focus on the ground game and trying to control the clock on the road, especially with Micale Cunningham behind center. The Hurricanes' run defense has been inconsistent throughout the year, as shown in the loss to Georgia Tech.
When Miami Has the Ball
Against Florida State, quarterback Jarren Williams made a case on why he should be the Hurricanes' starter for the rest of the season. Williams finished the game 21-of-37 passing for 313 yards and two touchdowns. One of the biggest reasons for his success was the play of the Miami offensive line. Unlike in the games against Florida and Virginia Tech, Williams had a lot of time in the pocket and was accurate when he didn’t feel any pressure. That was demonstrated on the 56-yard touchdown pass to Dee Wiggins. Williams also connected with Jeff Thomas for a 39-yard score.
There’s no reason why the Hurricanes' offense can’t carry over that same success against the Cardinals this weekend. Louisville is ranked 101st in the country in total defense, as they’re giving up an average for 437 yards per game. Assuming he gets time to throw the football, expect Williams to have several opportunities for big plays on the Louisville defense.
Miami could be without its best offensive weapon since head coach Manny Diaz said that Brevin Jordan will be a game-time decision. Jordan sustained an injury against Florida State and caught just two passes in the victory. He leads ACC tight ends with 35 receptions for 495 yards and two touchdowns on the year.
Miami has lost two of its last three games at Hard Rock Stadium. But after the two road wins against Pittsburgh and Florida State, this appears to be a totally different team than the one that lost to Georgia Tech three weeks ago.
Louisville’s offense is averaging 32.8 points per game, but scores could be difficult to come by against an excellent defense like Miami’s. The Hurricanes love to win close, defensive battles, something Louisville isn’t necessarily used to. This should be a close game, but it is hard to go against a great defense.
Prediction: Miami 24, Louisville 23
— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post and is a reporter for Pro Player Insiders. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.