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Get to Know the Opponent: Miami (FL)

The Spartans face a top-25 test against the Hurricanes on the road this week

Appalachian State v Miami Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Michigan State Spartans take a 2-0 record down to the Sunshine State for its first true test of the season. The Spartans will face a top-25 Miami (FL) Hurricanes team that has struggled a bit out of the gate, but remains a pretty solid squad. This is part of a home-home series that has been on the books for a while (although the 2020 matchup in East Lansing was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and a makeup date has not yet been announced), and it is going to be interesting to see how Mel Tucker’s team performs in a true hostile road environment. Let’s get to know “The U.”

School: University of Miami

Nickname: Hurricanes

Conference: ACC (Coastal Division)

Location: Coral Gables, Florida

Head Coach: Manny Diaz (third season, 15-11)

Record: 1-1

Mascot: Sebastian the Ibis

All Time Series: Miami leads 4-0 (last meeting was in 1989)

Miami is clinging to a top-25 ranking this week after getting beat down by Alabama in the opener, and barely squeaking by Appalachian State last weekend at home. The best performance in that game might have been the fans that saved the cat from falling in the viral video. Again it is hard to read into the overall stats too much this early in the year, but let’s take a look at how the Canes have fared so far.

Team Stats

The offense has not been putting up points the way most Miami fans would have expected. After averaging 34 points per game in 2020 (26th nationally), the Hurricanes are at just 19 points per game so far this year, which is 111th in the country.

On the ground the Hurricanes are averaging 131 yards per game, which is 94th overall, and 3.54 yards per rush, which checks in at 97th nationally. Again, this is what will happen when Alabama holds you to 87 yards and 2.81 yards per carry in Week One. Last week, Miami put up 175 yards on 4.07 yards per carry. Not great, but certainly an improvement.

The team is not much different through the air, where Miami is at 96th overall, averaging 189.5 yards per game. The Hurricanes are averaging 5.9 yards per pass attempt, which is 107th in the country, and they are 99th in quarterback rating with two interceptions to just one passing touchdown. The stats were pretty consistently mediocre in both games.

On defense, Miami is giving up 33.5 points per game, again largely due to Alabama putting up 44 on the Hurricanes in the first game of the year. Appalachian State put up 23 against them last week.

The rushing defense ranks 69th overall, allowing 137 yards per game, and 63rd overall with an average rush of 3.56 yards against. The Hurricanes held both Alabama and App State to less than four yards per carry.

Through the air the Miami defense checks in at 65th overall, allowing 203.5 yards per game. However, the Canes are 93rd in yards per attempt, at 7.6, and have allowed five passing touchdowns against just one interception. Alabama torched them for 354 yards on 9.1 yards per attempt and four touchdowns, while App State was held to 199 yards on 5.9 yards per pass attempt.

Players to Watch

Obviously the big name here is the quarterback D’Eriq King. The transfer from Houston is in his second season with Miami, and while he has been pretty good, he hasn’t quite lived up to what they were hoping for when he announced he was coming to Coral Gables. But make no mistake, he can take over a game with his skills and athleticism.

NCAA Football: Appalachian State at Miami Richard Graulich-USA TODAY Sports

On the season, King has completed 68.3 percent of his passes for 379 yards at an average of six yards per attempt. He has one touchdown and two interceptions. Last season he averaged 8.2 yards per attempt and had 23 touchdowns against just five picks, so don’t expect the numbers to stay where they are after the first two games.

King is a dual-threat as well, as he ran for over 500 yards last season. This year he has 89 yards rushing on 28 attempts for an average of 3.81 yards per carry. He is second on the team in rushing attempts and yards.

The leading rusher is junior running back Cam’Ron Harris, who led the team in rushing last year as well. Harris has 128 yards on 4.27 yards per carry and a touchdown through two games. Last year he averaged over five yards per carry and scored 10 touchdowns. He will occasionally catch a ball out of the backfield as well, with a couple receptions for 14 yards so far this year.

The top two receiving threats for Miami are freshman Key’Shawn Smith and junior Charleston Rambo. Smith has eight catches for a team high 110 yards (13.75 yards per reception) and Rambo has a team high 12 catches for 86 yards. Both are new to the team this year, and Rambo is a transfer from Oklahoma, where he had 25 receptions for 312 yards and three touchdowns a year ago.

On defense, Nesta Jade Silvera and Jared Harrison-Hunte are the top two tacklers for loss so far this year. Silvera leads the team with three and Harrison-Hunte is right behind at 2.5 tackles for loss. Silvera was fourth on last year’s team in TFLs with eight.

The Hurricanes have two sacks this year, coming from a pair of freshmen with Chantz Williams and Jahfari Harvey grabbing one each.

Senior safety Amari Carter has the lone interception on the year, and has 11 total tackles to go along with it. Carter was the second leading tackler a year ago for Miami.

On special teams, freshman Andres Borregales is handling the kicking duties this year. Borregales has made five of his six field goal attempts to start his career, and has made all three extra point attempts.

NCAA Football: Appalachian State at Miami Richard Graulich-USA TODAY Sports

The punter is junior Lou Hedley and he is averaging almost 43 yards per punt with 11 total punts through two games. He averaged over 47 yards per punt last year, so he can certainly flip field position.

So that’s the skinny on the Hurricanes. They are probably a better team than what the stats show through two games, but certainly not one that blows you away. Turnovers may very well be the key to this one as Miami does have a tendency to turn it over the last two years. Either way, I expect a pretty good game from these two teams.