Miami Hurricanes Football: Previewing the Matchups vs. the Kansas State Wildcats

Stephen UrbaniakCorrespondent ISeptember 20, 2011

Miami Hurricanes Football: Previewing the Matchups vs. the Kansas State Wildcats

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    The University of Miami Hurricanes are back on the winning side of things after an impressive 24-6 beating of then-No.17 Ohio State in a battle of two programs that are under the heavy scrutiny of the NCAA.

    Lamar Miller rushed for 188 yards and a score in the contest, which included a scintillating 54-yard run from his first carry from scrimmage. 

    Next up for the embattled Hurricanes are the Kansas State Wildcats, winners of two games against Kent State and Eastern Kentucky. 

    The Wildcats have not faced a defense of the caliber of the Hurricanes, and junior QB Collin Klein should expect to be hit and hit often by the aggressive defense of the 'Canes.

    A win by the Hurricanes will make a definitive case that they should be in the Top 25.  No one is really expecting the 'Canes to do much, as the ongoing NCAA investigation is likely to be a season-long distraction.

    Here are 10 key matchups that will go a long way towards deciding Wildcats-'Canes:

1. Jacory Harris vs. Collin Klein

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    Jacory Harris and Collin Klein are the two quarterbacks on opposite sides of this clash. One is in the twilight of his collegiate career and the other is only a junior.

    Harris returned to the starting lineup for the Hurricanes last week vs. the Buckeyes, and while his play wasn't exactly stellar as evidenced by his awful decisions that resulted in two interceptions that led to two Ohio State field goals.

    A lot of Miami fans were very upset with Al Golden's decision to give Harris the starting job in front of fan favorite and eventual successor Stephen Morris, and when he made the two mistakes against the Buckeyes, a lot of fans were saying, "I told you so."

    On the other side, we have Collin Klein for the Wildcats.  He has been regarded as a run-first quarterback, and the Hurricanes must not allow any of that kind of play from the junior signal-caller.  Anytime a running quarterback takes a snap, if he does not see an opening downfield he will run and make plays with his feet.

    If the Hurricanes are to win, they must continue to get adequate play from Harris and he must cut down on his mistakes.  K-State's defense is beneath the abilities of Maryland and Ohio State, but he must be well aware of where the defenders are on the field.

    EDGE: In this matchup, the SLIGHT edge goes to Miami's Jacory Harris.  He has the experience of being in big games, such as the 2009 clash against Florida State, when he led the 'Canes on a thrilling game-winning drive in the face of constant pressure.  He will need that same coolness under duress to set the team up with manageable down and distance situations.  He also has the ability to make any throw anywhere on the field. 

2. Lamar Miller/Mike James vs. John Hubert

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    The best running back combination in the country, Lamar Miller and Mike James had a huge role for the Hurricanes in their win against the Buckeyes.

    Miller sliced through the Buckeyes' defense for a 54-yard run on his first play from scrimmage, enroute to rushing for 188 yards and a score. 

    James put the finishing touch on the day by scoring the final touchdown for the Hurricanes that put the exclamation point on a strong day from the running backs.

    On the other side is the sophomore John Hubert.  He has proven to be capable of producing big plays, and the Hurricanes must do a better job at stopping the run after allowing Ohio State to sustain long drives that ended with field goals. 

    EDGE: The significant edge goes to Miami's Mike James and Lamar Miller.  The duo is capable of taking over a game as Miller did last week.  The key for Miami to control the clock and time of possession is to simply feed them the rock.  Miami must be able to smash the ball right at Kansas State's defense, and do it well.  A strong running game will control the tempo of the game, and keep the opposing offense off the field.

3. Allen Hurns/Tommy Streeter vs. Chris Harper/Brodrick Smith

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    The receiving corps in this game, Allen Hurns and Tommy Streeter of Miami, and Chris Harper and Brodrick Smith of Kansas State are all big-play receivers who can take over a game.

    Allen Hurns was on the receiving end of two Jacory Harris touchdown passes last week, and will continue to try to make a case to be the team's No. 1 receiver.

    Travis Benjamin returned from suspension last week, but did not make as big of an impact as Hurns.  The Hurricanes need any and all playmakers to step up to give Jacory Harris more targets on offense.

    For Kansas State, they have Chris Harper and Brodrick Smith at wide receiver and they have the same big-play capability as Hurns and Streeter.  They are capable targets for Collin Klein and the 'Canes secondary must be able to keep track of them during the game, still without standout safety Ray-Ray Armstrong.

    The key for Kansas State will be to constantly test the still-depleted Hurricanes' secondary and try to catch them off-balance. 

    EDGE: This matchup is a draw.  Both groups of wide receivers are unproven and are looking to make a name for themselves.  Miami is going to try to stretch the field early, and try to find Hurns and use his height to their advantage.  If Miami can get the wideouts involved early, it could turn into a big day for the Hurricanes' group.

4. Hurricanes' Offensive Line vs. Wildcats' Defensive Line

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    The Hurricanes' offensive line has been talked about being a unit that has the potential to be great, but they also have the potential to be downright awful.

    The penalties on the line have almost driven Coach Golden to the point of a heart attack.  The unit has played undisciplined football, and has been some of the causes of drive-killing mistakes.

    Against the Wildcats, the offensive line must play better and give Jacory Harris time to find the open man.  Also, the line needs to cut down on what Golden says are "mental mistakes" in order to sustain drives and keep control of time of possession and thus, control the tempo of the game.

    The Hurricanes' offensive line did a great job opening holes for early Heisman contender Lamar Miller last week vs. the Buckeyes and they should look to repeat that success against the Wildcats' defense.

    The Wildcats' defensive line looked strong in wins against Kent State and Eastern Kentucky, but will get a true test against Brandon Washington and Seantrel Henderson (if healthy), and the rest of the offensive line of the 'Canes.

    EDGE: The edge here is a draw. Both units have the potential to be great, but also make crucial mistakes.  Both have a tendency to play undisciplined football, and to allow big plays.  If the Wildcats' defensive line can get a push on Miami, then they can rattle Jacory Harris into making some of his critical mistakes and they can set the tone for the game early.  If Miami can have a repeat performance from last week, then Lamar Miller will have room to run and carry the Hurricanes to the win and all the way into this Sunday's new Top 25.

5. Hurricanes' Defensive Line vs. Wildcats' Offensive Line

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    When Marcus Forston and Adewele Ojomo returned from suspension for last week's contest against the Buckeyes, the difference was apparent.  The Buckeyes' quarterback team of Joe Bauserman and Braxton Miller were held to 35 yards passing.

    This effort had alot to do with the fact that they were under constant pressure.  Marcus Robinson had a heads-up play when he chased down Braxton Miller and swatted the ball out of his hands.

    The Hurricanes have always had a strong defensive line, producing such stars as Vince Wilfork.  The key for the group is to get a push up the middle and harass the opposing quarterback.

    Against Ohio State, the pressure created up the middle by the defensive line enabled the secondary to play at a high level, forcing a beautiful interception by JoJo Nicholas to end a long Buckeyes' drive.

    The key to controlling the game defensively for the Hurricanes will be to get after the quarterback early and often. 

    EDGE: The edge here goes to Miami's defensive line.  With almost everyone back on defense except Ray-Ray Armstrong and Olivier Vernon, the 'Canes will be able to pressure Collin Klein from almost every direction.  The Hurricanes' defensive line had great success last week, and they will look to continue that trend against the Wildcats.

6. Hurricanes' Linebackers vs. Wildcats' Offensive Line

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    The linebackers, led by All-ACC linebacker Sean Spence is the strength and the heart and soul of the defense.  They are counted on to make plays if the first line of defense is broken by the opposing offense.

    Spence is the player that gets everyone lined up and settled in on every down.  He returned from suspension last week and immediately made an impact by stopping the run on a few occasions to prevent the Buckeyes from getting crucial first downs.

    The strength of the 'Canes on defense will be the linebackers stepping up and either rushing the passer, or dropping into coverage and making a play on the ball.

    Kansas State has not had a test like what awaits in Miami, and they have their work cut out for them with Spence lurking in the middle of the field.

    EDGE: The edge here goes to Miami.  Spence is a presence that makes offensive coordinators have nightmares when they gameplan.  Miami's linebackers have the ability to play sideline-to-sideline, and they also have the ability to drop into coverage and make plays on the ball or stop the run.  Miami has to be able to stop the run and play quicker than the offense.

7. Hurricanes' Secondary vs. Wildcats' Offense

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    The Hurricanes' secondary has often been tabbed as the biggest weakness on this team to begin this season.  Ray-Ray Armstrong is still suspended until next month, and his presence has been sorely missed.

    Brandon McGee and JoJo Nicholas have been pleasant surprises to go along with veteran Vaughn Telemaque in the secondary.  They were especially stingy last week, when they only allowed 35 passing yards, thanks in large part to the defensive line's constant pressure on the Buckeyes' QBs.

    The secondary has often been tested by taller, more physical receivers such as Maryland's Kevin Dorsey.  The secondary lacks experience and the passing defense sometimes suffers greatly. 

    The Hurricanes practice a "bend, don't break" rule, and really haven't given up a big play through the air, because of how good their defensive front is.

    EDGE: The edge here is a draw.  The Hurricanes are without Armstrong, and their inexperience sometimes shows.  The Wildcats' receivers don't scare anyone, but do have the tendency to be able to get deep.  The 'Canes must be vigilant and not give up anything long, and play their positions. 

8. Hurricanes' Special Teams vs. Wildcats' Special Teams

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    The Hurricanes' special teams led by kicker Jake Wieclaw has been consistent and had the tendency to be special.

    Travis Benjamin is a threat to take a kickoff or punt all the way to the endzone on any given play.  Teams often kick away from him to prevent such a big play.

    When the offense can't get it done, the special teams must get it done by tacking on extra points and nailing field goals.

    Same can be said for Kansas State.  If the opportunity is there, extra points should be taken rather than leaving them on the field, because a missed field goal or extra point could be the deciding factor in the game.

    EDGE: This matchup is again a tie.  Both special teams squads will be ready should they need to be called upon, and many college football games have come down to a last-second field goal.

9. Al Golden vs. Bill Snyder

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    In this game, we have a legend in Bill Snyder going against a man trying to make a name for himself in Al Golden.

    Al Golden has been embroiled in the scandal first broken by Yahoo! Sports that involved former Miami booster Nevin Shapiro.  He took over the job at Miami before this scandal broke out, and he has been dealing with it ever since.

    Bill Snyder is a legend at Kansas State.  He jokingly said that if he could get out of coming to Miami, he would've, but his predecessor Ron Prince scheduled the brutal non-conference games that included a trip to South Beach.

    A win by Golden's Hurricanes would mark the second straight signature win, and he would most likely see the Hurricanes crack the Top 25 for the first time this season, and thus give the team a sense of pride heading into their game against Bethune-Cookman being 2-1 and very much still in the ACC chase.

    EDGE: The edge has to go to Al Golden.  He is in one of the toughest positions in the country, and he has dealt with a lot over the past 18 months to keep his team together in the face of such adversity.  The Hurricanes have had to deal with constant heckling since the season opener, and they will continue to.  Golden must be able to keep the team focused on football, and keep their attitudes from turning on one another in case things go south.

10. Intangibles

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    Intangibles.  They are measured by the will that a team has to come through in the face of adversity and play on.  The Miami Hurricanes have been to hell and back in the offseason and so far in the start of the regular season.

    Suspensions. Constant Heckling. Stereotypes such as, "Can't spell scUM without UM", "Thug U" and the list could go on.  These kids have had to deal with this kind of thing all across the country.  It will continue until the NCAA investigation has concluded and Miami faces the music for the Nevin Shapiro scandal.

    The ability of the Hurricanes to play for Coach Golden and give their all in such a dark time says leaps and bounds of the fortitude of the current team. 

    Their wins and other future accomplishments may not mean anything by the time the NCAA is finished with them, but to these kids, the only thing that matters is now and the only thing they have is each other.

    For some people, that's all that matters in the world.

    EDGE: The edge goes to the Hurricanes.  They could've packed it in when the scandal broke and just moped around and felt sorry for themselves.  The team has adopted an "Us against the world" attitude and it all starts with their head coach.  It doesn't matter if the NCAA vacates their wins, or bans them from TV.  They have themselves to rely on, and that is what will carry them through these tough times.

    Predicted Final Score: Miami 24, Kansas State 14.  Miami wins behind Lamar Miller's 150 yards rushing and moves into the Top 25 for the first time in two years.  Al Golden gets his second signature win and shows the country that even through the roughest of times, Miami football is not just going to go away quietly in the face of speculated heavy NCAA punishment, that they are going to fight.