Trying something new around here. Every Friday I’ll give you five projections for the upcoming game, and you tell me how wrong I was (or, grudgingly or not, accept that I was right).
Let’s get to it:
How will Brad Kaaya perform?
He hasn’t looked totally comfortable in the first two weeks, missing a few throws against Florida A&M and throwing two picks against Florida Atlantic. Remember, he threw five all of last year.
He’s had a tough time getting his footing in 2016. He’s working in a new offense, operating under center more than ever. He’s a pocket passer, and his protection has been inconsistent. He’s a rhythm quarterback, and Miami has opted to go to the run.
I think Kaaya will perform as well as his offensive line blocks him.
My guess: he throws for around 200 yards, with one touchdown and zero interceptions. Miami will try to stick with what it does best right now: run the dang ball.
How many tackles for loss will the Hurricanes get?
The nation’s leaders in negative plays (10 sacks, tied for first; 28 tackles for loss, alone in first) will be knocked off their blistering pace. This is a hard-nosed run game they’re facing. But I still think they get their share.
In App State’s opener, Tennessee tackled running back Marcus Cox four times for no gain and four times for losses (twice on rushes, twice on receptions). Old Dominion got one of each. I’ll say Miami matches that, and gets Cox five times for losses and five times for no gain. I don’t think the Mountaineers will throw enough for Miami to match the seven-sack output against FAU, but I think the Hurricanes get three.
Can App State stop Miami’s run game?
Not sure which Mountaineers defense the Hurricanes will encounter in the area known as the High Country. App State held Tennessee to 2.95 yards per carry, surrendering 127 yards on 43 carries, and registered five tackles for loss. Then it went ahead and let Old Dominion have 5.06 yards per (31 for 157). Not good.
I think all the crowd-driven energy that comes with this game, which they’re calling the biggest event in the town’s history, fires up App State’s defense enough to swarm Mark Walton and Joe Yearby.
(Context to the above tweet: Walton gained 155 yards on 17 carries; Yearby gained 121 on 20.)
I think Walton gets to 100 yards, Yearby doesn’t, and Kaaya is the one that ultimately proves the difference.
Will the crowd be a factor?
Short answer: yes, in spurts.
Long answer: App State will make a few plays and get the crowd hopping, but it will be intermittent. Or, the crowd might be loud the whole game, but App State won’t be able to overcome a faster, more talented team.
Crowd energy can only take you so far. Miami has more horses.
Does Miami win this?
I think so. I don’t think it’ll be easy, but the Hurricanes have shown so far they can run the ball and stop the run, and despite a jump up in competition, I think both of those factors travel. And App State hasn’t seen a quarterback like Kaaya, his FAU picks aside.
I think Miami’s pass game looks better this week, and App State finds it hard to contend with the Hurricanes’ balance. Cox will spring at least one big run, and quarterback Taylor Lamb will find a few holes in UM’s defense, but they won’t sustain drives all afternoon. Miami has enough firepower to earn a sweaty, but very satisfying 31-24 win.