Wake Forest is set to play Miami for the first time since the 2009 season and enters the game with a 4-3 (2-2) record while the Hurricanes come in ranked 7th in the nation and 6-0 (2-0). This will mark the fifth time that the two teams have squared off as members of the ACC and Miami currently boasts a 4-0 record against the Deacs in these four conference games. Miami also leads the all-time series history with a 7-3 record against Wake while Wake has not defeated the Hurricanes since 1944. Furthermore Wake has not defeated a team ranked in the top 10 since 1946 when they beat fourth-ranked Tennessee by a 19-6 score (also on the road).
It is evident that the Demon Deacons have struggled with the Hurricanes in the past and there is no reason to believe that the 2013 version of the Hurricanes is going to be an easy task to handle either. Many media outlets selected Miami as the pre-season favorite in the Costal Division and they did not disappoint. While the division features several solid teams, including Virginia Tech, North Carolina, and Georgia Tech, the return of senior quarterback Stephen Morris coupled with the deep receiving corps and the continued emergence of running back Duke Johnson in the backfield placed the Hurricanes in solid contention for the division crown. Miami has exceeded expectations so far while some of the Coastal Division foes have been underwhelming so far.
Third year head coach Al Golden entered the season with a 13-11 record with the school, but has improved his record to 19-11 with the hot start to 2013. The Hurricanes were forced to find a new offensive coordinator to replace Jedd Fisch who was hired by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Golden ultimately chose James Coley, who had previously served as the assistant offensive coordinator under Jimbo Fisher at Florida State. Coley inherited a stacked offense which was immediately expected to produce points for a Miami team that had struggled at times over the past couple years to stop the opposing team's offense. The defense, which struggled mightily in the 2012 season, returned only four starters but has had vast improvement for a side which ranked in the bottom 20 teams in the nation in both rushing and passing defense. The defense has allowed the 11th fewest points per game in the country at 17.2 points per.
The article today takes the preseason preview and adds thoughts to the team so far on the offensive front. Tomorrow will touch on the defense and special teams.
Starting with perhaps the most explosive portion of the Miami attack, running back Duke Johnson entered the 2013 campaign looking to build upon a freshman season that was one for the history books. Johnson ran for 135 yards on just seven carries against Boston College in the season opener, but still struggled to find starting time despite impressive games against Bethune-Cookman and Georgia Tech. Ultimately though Johnson continued to get the football in the backfield alongside Mike James and rushed for 947 yards on the season a freshman record for Miami. This rushing output included three 100 yard games out of the final four of the season and showed that Duke is the future of the backfield for the Hurricanes. So far in the 2013 season Johnson has run the ball for 655 yards and four touchdowns.
With Johnson at the starting running back position, senior quarterback Stephen Morris was looking to build on his own hot streak from the end of the 2012 season and lead the Hurricanes down the field on a consistent basis at the start of the year. Morris entered the season without an interception in his final four games, a stretch where the Canes went 3-1. So far in the 2013 season Morris has thrown for over 1200 yards with nine accompanying touchdowns, but he has also struggled at times throwing eight interceptions including four picks in the last outing against North Carolina.
Morris started the season with receivers Phillip Dorsett, Allen Hurns, and Rashawn Scott as expected targets, all players who have started in prior seasons for the Hurricanes, but Rashawn Scott went down with an arm injury in the opener and has missed the past six weeks. Dorsett was the leading receiver last year with 842 yards on 58 catches and four touchdowns, but so far in 2013 Hurns looks to be the go-to target with 26 catches, 481 yards, and four touchdowns. The Canes were hoping to have the assistance of incoming freshman Derrick Griffin, but he had to attend prep school first and still looks to enroll in Miami in the winter. Another incoming freshman, Stacy Coley, had been impressive in preseason scrimmages and built on that into a productive first year with 15 catches, 226 yards, and three touchdowns.
The skill guys have also been aided by the return of all five starters on the offensive line from last season, an ensemble which boasted a total of 91 starts in their careers entering the year. Senior Seantrel Henderson still projects to be an early round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft and is one of the top tackles in the country. When Henderson plays well on the right side he is able to mitigate the presence of nearly any defensive lineman in the country, but he has missed games this year due to suspension for a violation of team rules. When he is on the field he makes a major impact but keeping him on the field has been an issue over his tenure at the school.
With Coley's offense still somewhat similar to the sets used by Fisch last year, the Hurricanes' offense has only continued to improve as the season progresses. The Canes rank an impressive 28th in the nation in pass offense last year, and even more impressively has moved the football on the ground and ranks 22nd in rush offense. Back Duke Johnson is also expected to play after leaving last week's matchup with UNC. Overall the Hurricanes rank 16th in the nation in total offense and are going to be very difficult to stop. The Deacs will need to get penetration into the backfield and shut down Johnson and Morris to have any shot at all. Wake has been hot lately but the Canes will present the second biggest challenge of the year so far.
This was a very straightforward preview which I amended to adjust for this year's statistics. I'll have the defense and special teams out tomorrow.