As one hurricane departs the Commonwealth, another arrives. The new arrival is certainly less destructive but its intentions are also anything but benign. The bye week expires today and the Hoos are poised to take the field again against another worthy challenger. Miami will make landfall at Scott Stadium ranked 16th in the AP Poll and 15th in the Coaches Poll. The Canes sport a 6-1 record and are fresh off of a 28 to 27 come from behind win over FSU. That was a game in which they trailed 27 to 7.
How can the Hoos send The U back to Florida with an L?
After teasing something special for the Homecomings crowd, the Hoos revealed that they'll be in navy from head to toe under the lights Saturday night.
Exploit N'Kosi Perry's Inexperience
The redshirt freshman made his first career start last weekend agains Florida State. Unless he wins a national title during his college career, it's likely to be his most memorable as well. Perry led a furious second half comeback against FSU as Miami trailed by 20 midway through the 3rd quarter. Perry rallied Miami for three touchdowns to give Miami a one point win in the rivalry game. He finished the contest with 4 passing touchdowns and 204 passing yards. But he was only 13 for 32 throwing the ball. He also ran ten times for -3 yards with a long of 11 yards.
Albeit in limited snaps this season, Perry is talented as the graphic below shows. But, he still has a lot to learn at this level.
Bronco Mendenhall built his career on defense. He has a full game of film on Perry and reams of film of Georgia teams under Mark Richt with both dual threat and pro style quarterbacks. With the Hoos coming off of a bye, Bronco has had ample time to help co-defensive coordinators Nick Howell and Kelly Poppinga devise a gameplan to blunt Perry's impact. The Hoos should know everything that Perry and Richt want to do.
The calls on defense should be aggressive. They should be designed to confuse Perry and his offensive line. And they should force Miami to win a conference game on the road with their young QB instead of on the ground.
Toss The Playbook On Offense
Bronco touched on this while talking to the press this week. He discussed the self scouting done during the bye week in which the offense took a deep dive on the results to date this season. The Hoos' offensive braintrust learned to fall out of love with concepts that were not producing. Plays and lineup configurations were undoubtedly scrapped to go along with the concepts that they supported.
But to win this game, that can be only the first step. The Hoos must go even further.
Without taking the ball out of Bryce Perkins's hands, UVA's offense must attack Miami 180 degrees different from what they've done this season. Simply "being creative" isn't going to be enough.
Miami's D Line versus UVA's O Line is a major mismatch. They also field the top defense in the ACC. As such, the approach on offense must be quick, decisive, and designed to get the ball to playmakers as soon as possible.
This would be a great game to introduce tempo on offense. Maybe not for the entire game, but enough so that Miami's defense feels the extra pressure of fatigue and uncertainty. That extra second to think instead of simply attacking would make a world of difference.
A Hero Emerges On Defense
Think back to Charles Snowden's game against Louisville three weeks ago.
In order to spring this upset, someone on defense will need to dominate like Snowden against Louisville. The lack of defensive line depth and injuries in the back eight make a four quarter, across the board suffocation of Miami's offense highly unlikely.
And to be honest, our hero may even require a sidekick to ensure the job gets done. Our most likely suspects? Snowden again. Chris Peace. Bryce Hall. Juan Thornhill. ZZ Stop. And a healthy Brenton Nelson.
Win The Emotional Battle
Miami currently owns a three game winning streak in the series. They're off to the second hot start in as many years under Mark Richt. They're on the heels of an epic comeback against their biggest rival. It all sets up for a let down game or one in which they come into the game over confident.
There's no disputing the fact that Miami overlooked UVA last year at Hard Rock Stadium. The Canes were on the ropes at halftime before waking up and drawing inspiration from the party like atmosphere in the stadium. They ultimately completed the comeback and surged ahead for a sixteen point win.
For years, my hypothesis is that Miami rarely, if ever, gets up to play Virginia. And really, why would they? And when it happens in this series, the Hoos almost always take advantage. They either win or give Miami a much closer than expected fight.
In this game, the Hoos have every reason to come out amped from the start. They need to play with joy and emotion while smacking Miami right in the mouth from the first play from scrimmage. Test their will to battle. Test their desire to grind. If it's not there, strap it on even tighter and go to work.
Let's be honest about Miami. They're a good team, certainly, but they are not an unbeatable force. They aren't Bama. They aren't Clemson. They aren't mid 90s FSU. But they are a team that's shown so far that they belong inside the Top 20.
This game is winnable if the chips fall in our favor.
I had Miami as one of the most difficult challenges on the schedule this season, contingent on getting acceptable QB now. Now that they've jettisoned Malik Rosier for N'Kosi Perry, they could be on their way.
I also had this game as one of the two least likely wins on the schedule. I underestimated the impact of Bryce Perkins when forming that opinion. But the driving force was the matchup between UVA's OL and Miami's DL. The gap is actually more than I had anticipated. I think that's the key factor in the outcome of this game.
Miami wins 24 to 10.