With a matchup against their top rival (third-ranked Florida State) looming, the Miami Hurricanes host the Wake Forest Demon Deacons on Saturday. The Canes have won six straight meetings against Wake, and will need to make it seven if they want to remain undefeated going into their annual tilt with the Seminoles.
Jim Grobe's Demon Deacons are 4-3, shaking off early losses to Boston College and Louisiana-Monroe with commanding wins over ACC rivals NC State and Maryland in its last two games.
The Canes barely escaped Chapel Hill with a win last week, and will look to correct problems in pass defense and the passing game before heading up to Tallahassee. This will also be the first game of head coach Al Golden's tenure without the cloud of an NCAA investigation over UM, as the NCAA finally ruled in the Nevin Shapiro case this week.
When the Canes have the ball: The good news for Miami is that RB Duke Johnson is expected to play after leaving last week's UNC game with a head injury. He was not even listed on the injury report this week, nor was QB Stephen Morris, who has been slowed by an ankle injury for the past month.
Morris is coming off probably the worst start of his career, throwing four interceptions at North Carolina. He will get a chance to redeem himself against a Wake Forest defense that is giving up 226 yards per game through the air. With his favorite target Phillip Dorsett out with a knee injury, a new deep threat will have to arise, possibly true freshman Stacy Coley or sophomore Herb Waters.
DE Nikita Whitlock is the centerpiece of Wake's defense, with 13.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks in six games. But the Deacs are giving up 142 rushing yards per game, giving Johnson and backup Dallas Crawford a chance to do some real damage.
When the Deacs have the ball: Wake Forest's offense lives and dies with the passing game. Only 10 teams in FBS earn less than Wake's 100.8 rushing yards per game. QB Tanner Price has had an up-and-down year, only completing 60 percent of his passes but throwing 10 touchdowns to just three interceptions. He can also run when needed, but has churned out only 2.4 yards per carry on 66 rushes.
His favorite target is undersized WR Michael Campanaro, who has 44 catches for 582 yards and four touchdowns. Miami struggled to cover UNC TE Eric Ebron last week (who caught eight passes for 199 yards), and will be on guard against Wake TE Spencer Bishop (8 receptions, 151 yards).
The Canes are 7th in the nation with 3.3 sacks per game, and Wake is allowing two per game. Miami will try to contain the passing game with its pass rush, but its DBs will have to do a better job in coverage than they did against UNC.
Who has the edge? In their only game against a ranked team this year, Clemson destroyed Wake 56-7. Miami is clearly in a class above Wake in the ACC, and should prove it on Saturday.
The Pick: UM 38-Wake 13
Kickoff is at noon ET Saturday, with coverage on ESPNU.