Measuring a team's average yards per rush and per pass attempt, as well as its average yards surrendered per run and pass attempt, gives the best overall picture of a team's raw offensive and defensive performance. I have broken down these numbers from the games that are arguably Miami and Louisville's most impressive wins – Georgia Tech and North Carolina, respectively – and analyzed them compared to the averages of those opponents against the rest of their schedule. What emerges is an interesting picture of the two teams – nothing particularly shocking, but intriguing nonetheless.
First I broke down the season averages for both Louisville and Miami. Offensively, U of L has played some very weak teams. But it has put up obscene numbers: 5.1 yards per rushing attempt and 9.37 per passing attempt – 6.65 YPA overall on offense. For reference, the passing number is a full 2 yards per attempt better than what Cal averaged Saturday against USC, when its quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, was nearly perfect throwing the ball. The rushing number is similar to what Nebraska's '95 squad, arguably the best running team of all time, averaged. The overall yards per-attempt number, sustained over an entire season, would likely qualify this Cardinal unit as the most efficient offense of all time. Obviously, the competition is not equivalent, but the numbers are impressive nonetheless.
Brent Johnson with the tackle (ITV)
Miami also has impressive averages, particularly on defense, where it is simply incredible, surrendering only 2.56 per rush, 4.5 per pass attempt and 3.33 per play overall. The Canes' offense has been closer to average, however. Their 4.17 YPC average is good, and 6.96 per passing attempt is nothing to sneeze at – but both fall short of being outstanding numbers. They average 5.35 yards per offensive play overall.
Next I analyzed how the Cards and Canes performed against UNC and Georgia Tech, respectively, relative to what those teams have averaged overall for the season. While one game, obviously, does not a season make, this comparison is interesting because it is the closest thing to a common opponent between the two teams. Here's how the numbers stack up:
'The Hammer' Robert McCune (ITV)
The offensive numbers are interesting. U of L controlled the ball on the ground, averaging 5.3 yards per rush, and passed at a clip of 7.4 yards per attempt for an overall average of 6 yards per offensive play. Surprisingly, all of these figures are actually below what the Tarheels surrender on average: 5.57 YPC, 7.84 yards per pass attempt and 6.48 yards per play overall. Is this a cause for concern that U of L's offense may not be as good as suspected? Probably not, since UNC's overall stats are skewed by the UL game itself and a blowout loss to UVA. Also, the Cardinals substituted liberally toward the end of the game and continued to run to control the clock even when UNC played eight-man fronts to stop the run.
Miami's offensive performance versus the Georgia Tech defense is also interesting. Miami averaged just 3.7 per rush but 8.6 per pass, for an overall figure of 5.7 yards per play. Georgia Tech's defense, meanwhile surrenders 4.98 versus the run and 5.95 against the pass. What does this mean? Miami, like Louisville, fell short of the average yards per play that GT has surrendered throughout the year, but, also like U of L against UNC, they won handily.
What conclusions can one take from all this? Well, first of all it is important for comparison's sake to remember that UNC beat Georgia Tech handily. The numbers show that, against UNC, U of L played outstanding defense, as did Miami versus Tech. Miami may not have as strong of a running attack as its fans believe, but Louisville may not either. Both teams appear to have strong defenses, with U of L's being better against the run and Miami's being good against both but superb against the pass.
Analyzing the averages from the season so far, the teams appear similarly strong. Louisville is averaging 2.31 yards per play better than its competition while Miami is averaging 2.02 yards per play better. Taking the varying strengths of schedule into account, it appears that the teams have both performed at a relatively equal level this year, as both have dominated their opponents on both sides of the ball, U of L more on offense and Miami more on defense.
If Louisville does not get flustered playing under the bright lights of the Orange Bowl, this game should boil down to special teams, turnovers and big plays either way. Both of these teams are very good, and it should be a superb battle Thursday night.