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All-time series: Miami leads 5-2
All-time series in Miami: Miami leads 3-2
All-time series in Clemson: Miami leads 1-0
Last Meeting: 2005: Miami 36 Clemson 30 (3 OT)
Dabo Swinney: 7-6
Randy Shannon: 17-14
When: Saturday, October 24
Where: Miami Gardens, Fla. - Land Shark Stadium (74, 916)
Time: 3:30 p.m. EST
TV: ABC (Gabe Lamont & Brian Griese)
Latest Line: Miami by 4.5-5.0
Clemson Message Boards: Tigerillustrated.com
Miami Message Boards: Gary Ferman's Canesport.com
Jacory Harris is a big reason why Miami finds itself in the top 10 at the midway point of the season. The sophomore quarterback ranks second in the ACC in pass efficiency, and is completing nearly 65-percent of his throws. Harris has thrown for 1,518 yards, and owns an 11/7 touchdown to interception ratio. He took his lumps a week ago, sacked six times by UCF. UM, which will rotate six, maybe seven offensive linemen in this game, has given up 16 sacks this season.
Clemson's Kyle Parker is coming off his best game of the season, and will need a repeat performance if the Tigers are to walk out of Land Shark Stadium with a win. Parker is completing 49.7-percent of his throws, and has thrown for 1,027 yards. He carries a 6/5 TD to INT ratio into this game.
Through six games, Harris has made a strong case for conference player of the year honors. He is undefeated in his career as a starter at home. Advantage: MIAMI
Running Back - Running Game
Miami averages just 126.3 rushing yards a game, eighth in the conference, and somewhat par, given that the Hurricanes have averaged less than 139 rushing a contest every year over the last six seasons with the exception of 2007 (146 ypg). Javarris James has already surpassed his 2008 production, rushing for a team-high 362 yards and four touchdowns. Junior runner Graig Cooper (offered by CLEM), another big back for the Canes, is averaging 4.7 yards a tote (200 yards). Former Belle Glade safety Damien Berry is averaging a team-high 7.9 yards a carry in limited work (28 touches).
Clemson's ground attack took a step forward last week by piling up nearly 200 yards. C.J. Spiller (offered by Miami), who silently verbally committed to Clemson during an in-home visit with Dabo Swinney and Tommy Bowden on the night he returned from an official visit to Miami, will now get his chance to face the Canes. And he'll do so with a streak of six consecutive games where he's produced at least one play of 60 yards or more. He delivered a 66-yard scamper last week. For the season, Spiller has rushed for 466 yards (5.0 AVG) and three scores. Andre Ellington has put the ball on the ground twice, but has easily been the Tigers' second-most productive rusher (181 yards, 6.7 AVG). Jamie Harper (offered by Miami) had his best game of the season last week.
Clemson averages 145.2 yards rushing a contest, fourth-best in the ACC. We give the Tigers an edge in personnel here, as well its production to date on the ground, and also take into account UM's thin rotation up front on both sides of the ball. Advantage: CLEMSON
Sophomore receiver LaRon Byrd has a team-leading 18 catches for 258 yards and a touchdown. Leonard Hankerson, a junior, and another primary target that stands over 6'3, is second on the team with 15 grabs for 293 yards and a touchdown. Travis Benjamin, one of the fastest players in the conference, also has 15 receptions for 280 yards and two scores. Veteran tight end Dedrick Epps has been involved some in the passing game, and is fourth on the team in receptions (11).
Clemson waited for much of the first half of the season to find a No. 2 complement to Jacoby Ford (26 catches, 358 yards, 2 TD) and in the last couple of games the player most likely to step into that role is senior tight end Michael Palmer who accumulated half of his reception total (16) in the last two contests. Spiller has 12 catches for 163 yards and a score, while Marquan Jones and Terrance Ashe have seven catches apiece. Xavier Dye has just five grabs, but has made a couple of big plays in the last two outings. The Canes draw an edge in both personnel and production to date. Advantage: MIAMI
Miami does get junior right guard Joel Figueroa (6-5, 330) this week, but rotates essentially six players at this juncture in the season. Veteran tackle Jason Fox (6-7, 314, 42 career starts) holds down the left side, along with 6-7, 318-pound Orlando Franklin (G, 20 career starts). A.J. Trump (C 6-3, 300), a senior, brings 16 career starts to the table, after working at guard in 2008. Sophomore right guard Harland Gunn (6-2, 315) will rotate with Figueroa, and senior Matt Pipho (6-7, 307), a career backup, will again get the nod at right tackle, a spot the Tigers' front is expected to go after hard.
Junior left tackle Chris Hairston (6-6, 325, 14 career starts) is fully healthy after missing the better half of two games in the first half of the season, and has been - by far - the Tigers' most consistent blocker up front this fall. Thomas Austin (LG, 6-3 ½, 310, 31 career starts) turned in one of his better games of the season last week, as did Dalton Freeman (6-4, 283), a red-shirt freshman, who will make his second career start tomorrow. Antoine McClain (RG 6-6, 320, 6 career starts) will share some of the load by sophomore guard/center Mason Cloy (6-3 ½, 310, 17 career starts), as will Landon Walker (RT, 6-5 ½, 305, 14 career starts), a sophomore, who will split action with David Smith (6-5, 290, 3 career starts). McClain and Walker will still work with the first-team.
Clemson's offensive front is now three weeks removed from the Maryland game, and has to date been slightly more efficient in pass-pro and ground production in comparison to Miami. But it should be noted that UM also has faced Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Florida State, Oklahoma and a UCF team that ranks 10th in the nation in rush defense. Advantage: EVEN
Right end Eric Moncur (6-2, 250, 10 tackles & 1 sack) is expected back tomorrow as is junior tackle Josh Holmes (6-0, 280, 6 tackles). Allen Bailey (6-4, 288, offered by CLEM) has worked at both tackle and end but will line up inside here. Bailey has 13 tackles and three sacks this season. Joe Joseph (6-3, 304, 20 tackles, 5 TFL) will line up alongside Bailey. Junior tackle Micanor Regis (6-3, 300, offered by CLEM) also will play a lot. Regis has 13 tackles and three TFL this fall.
Clemson's front produced its best outing of the season a week ago, manhandling Wake Forest's offensive line. Da'Quan Bowers (6-4, 280, offered by MIA) has 34 tackles, 8 TFL and 3 sacks on the season. Opposite end Ricky Sapp (6-4, 240, offered by MIA) also has 8 TFL and 3 sacks to go along with 27 stops. The Tigers have had a consistent push inside from junior tackle Jarvis Jenkins (6-4, 310, 31 tackles, 5 TFL) and sophomore Brandon Thompson (6-2, 305, 25 tackles 2 TFL). Tackle Jamie Cumbie (6-7, 290, 19 tackles, 2.5 TFL) and Andre Branch (DE, 6-4, 250)) are two of the overall 10 players that rotate here.
Clemson's front-line talent and depth receive the edge in this comparison. The Tigers also have produced more sacks, tackles for loss and are slightly better in run defense. Advantage: CLEMSON
Swinney bragged on sophomore weak-side backer Sean Spence earlier in the week. Spence, who is third on the team in tackles (34), was ACC Rookie Defensive Player of the Year in 2008, after making nine starts and finishing second on the Canes' defense in stops. Veteran MIKE backer Darryl Sharpton (25 career starts) brings plenty of experience to the table. He is second on the team in tackles (36). Junior strong-side backer Colin McCarthy, who has 19 career starts, leads the Canes in stops (38).
Clemson's backer rotation will have its hands full, given Mark Whipple's propensity to dial up plenty of underneath routes. Sophomore MIKE backer Brandon Maye (18 career starts), is tied for second on the team in tackles (41), and Kavell Conner (19 career starts) has tallied an efficient 43 stops in 230 snaps, which ranks second on the team. Conner may have had his best game last weekend since his start versus Auburn two years ago. Senior end - SAM backer Kevin Alexander has started three games this season, and does have 12 tackles. Advantage: MIAMI
Miami ranks 22nd nationally in pass defense. Sophomore cornerback Brandon Harris leads this unit in tackles (32, 1 INT). Veteran corner Sam Shields (offered by CLEM) is second in stops (22), and will rotate with DeMarcus Van Dyke (9 tackles). Safety Randy Phillips, a senior, is battling a torn labrum, but is holding off from surgery. Phillips has 18 stops and a tackle in three games this season. At free safety, a pair of freshmen will rotate - Vaughn Telemaque (18 tackles) and Ray Ray Armstrong (14 tackles). Backup strong safety Jared Campbell has 13 stops in six games, and will spell Phillips.
Clemson's pass defense ranks seventh in the country, allowing just over 147 yards a game. Its leader, DeAndre McDaniel, is atop Clemson's defense in tackles (46) and interceptions (5). Junior free safety Marcus Gilchrist leads the defense in snaps (381) in his first year as a starter, and ranks third in tackles (41). Miami native Chris Chancellor, who will wear No. 6 in honor of friend and former teammate Jasper Howard (former UCONN DB who was fatally shot last week), has 18 stops and a pick, while senior corner Crezdon Butler has 12 stops on the year. Physical corner Byron Maxwell and red-shirt freshman safety Rashard Hall (2 INT) will play a lot in this one as well. Advantage: CLEMSON
Junior place-kicker Matt Bosher pulls double duty, also punting (41.5 AVG), and has connected on six of eight field goals this year (long of 46). He was an impressive 18-20 a year ago with a long of 52 yards. Cooper, who sat out the UCF game (hip), averages 28.6 yards per (kickoff) return. Benjamin is for the second year in a row the Canes' top option on punt returns, but thus far is averaging just under eight yards an attempt. UM ranks 47th in kickoff return yardage defense, Clemson 30th. Clemson ranks 103rd nationally in punt return yardage defense, UM 107th.
Junior place-kicker Richard Jackson is having a breakout campaign, after hitting 15 of 20 field goals in the first six games, including a 3-for-3 mark from beyond the 50. Sophomore punter Dawson Zimmerman has been at times shaky and needs to have a good game tomorrow, as field position will be more critical this week. Zimmerman averages 39.2 yards a boot. Spiller, who ranks third in the nation in kickoff returns (37.1 AVG), already has two returns for scores this season, as well as a punt return for a TD. He's averaging 36.4 yards per (punt) return. Ford also has returned a punt for a score. The two have thus far provided the Tigers with the most explosive return game in the conference. Advantage: CLEMSON
Overview & Prediction
Miami retained its status as a top ten member in 2002 and 2003 after winning the national championship in 2001, and before mounting back-to-back 9-3 seasons in 2004 and 2005. UM needed a win over Nevada in the MPC Computers Bowl in 2006 to finish with a winning record. And it suffered a 5-7 mark in 2007 and last year finished at 7-6.
The Hurricanes aren't yet back, but a No. 8 ranking and a 5-1 record, after nearly plowing through Florida State, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Oklahoma unscathed, suggests this program is headed in the right direction in year three under Randy Shannon.
And it should be noted that throughout the program's down years earlier this decade, it never lost its brand. The Hurricanes, winners of five national titles over the last 26 years, tops in Division I-A, get everyone's best shot. And we think that'll continue tomorrow when Clemson takes its shot.
16 players on the Clemson roster hail from Florida and only two saw any significant recruiting attention from the Canes - Spiller and McDaniel, though Thompson, Bowers and Sapp were recruited by UM as well. So the built-in hype for this game is obvious.
The fact that Shannon has recruited well the last three years is why his team still has a shot to run the table, despite its enormous amount of injuries. It should also be documented that Shannon might have made one of the most crucial off-season hires in all of college football when he brought in Whipple from the Philadelphia Eagles.
Whipple is in our judgment the top offensive coordinator and play-caller in the ACC, and is a master at creating mismatches versus the opposition. Whipple also does a good job of not allowing himself to get locked in on any specific sequence of calls, which keeps opposing defenses off balance. Essentially, this is a hire that has saved Shannon's job.
From a Clemson standpoint, the most difficult game on its schedule to prepare for to date was Georgia Tech, given the Yellow Jackets' option-attack that's rarely used in college football. But the most talented opponent the Tigers will see all season is Miami, whose skill at running back, quarterback and wide receiver will test a Clemson defense - now ranked 11th in the nation - that is starting to catch its stride, as expected.
But the key to this game will be Clemson's offensive front, which is 3-1 with Hairston starting and 0-2 when he's not. With Hairston, the Tigers average 168.3 rushing yards a game. Without him - 99 rush yards a contest. Last week's performance versus Wake was this unit's best of the season, by far. Had the Tigers kept their starters in for the duration of the game, this group could have produced over 300 yards rushing.
Clemson's ability to generate significant yardage on first downs last weekend was a huge key, and it happened largely because of an offensive front that turned in its best outing of the season, and play-calling that in our view was as good as we've seen all season.
Georgia Tech's defensive front lost three starters in the off-season, and the Jackets aren't very talented in their starting rotation at backer, but Clemson's front still struggled in Atlanta. Surprisingly, Maryland, which also was without three starters from its d-line in 2008 and two starting backers as well, also stuffed the Tigers' ground game.
Miami's front has been hit hard with injuries, but its personnel - collectively - is still ahead of what the Tigers faced in Atlanta and at Maryland.
Clemson is every bit capable of winning this football game. It has the athletes to carry this game right down to the wire, which is where we see this one decided. But now 0-2 on the road this year, with no win over a ranked opponent on the road since September of 2006, and a mark of just 16-20-1 against the spread over its last 37 ACC road match-ups, the Tigers don't get these pre-game picks until they start winning these games with at least some degree of regularity. And that's why despite several match-ups in Clemson's favor - at least on paper - we're not able to pick against a top ten team at home. MIAMI by 6
TI staff itemized picks: Cris Ard - MIA by 1 (21-20), Ryan Bartow - MIA by 10 (27-17), Larry Williams - MIA by 7 (27-20).
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