On the ground
The Hurricanes are expected to use a healthy dose of sophomore Graig Cooper (778 yards and 4 TD's) and junior Javarris James (283 yards and 4 TD's). Cooper has been the starter and the main guy all season, while James was bothered by an ankle injury for most of the season. The Canes rank just 78th nationally in rushing offense and the team's third leading rusher (quarterback Robert Marve) is suspended for this game. Cal's run defense is pretty strong, as it's ranked 23rd nationally. Their linebackers are very active and they can run. The Canes struggled moving the ball on the ground at times this season and Cal will provide Miami with one of the stiffest tests of the year on the ground.
Through the air
Canes fans are very excited to see what true freshman Jacory Harris can do running the offense from the start of the game. He hasn't been asked to do that this season and while he's out-performed Marve, statistically, he'll be getting his first career start at the college level. This will be as good a unit that Harris has faced in his young career, as the Bears are ranked fifth nationally in pass-efficiency defense. Harris's former high school teammate and close friend Aldarius Johnson will likely be looked at often, as he's been the team's leading receiver this season with 30 catches for 321 yards and three scores.
The Canes have been giving up just more than two sacks per game this season, which ranks 70th in the nation. Cal's pass-rush looks to be very good, as they're tied for 13th nationally in sacks (22nd in tackles for loss). The big guys up front will have to play well and protect Harris if the Canes have any plans on leaving the Bay area with a victory on Saturday night.
When Cal has the ball...
On the ground
Running back Jahvis Best (1,640 yards from scrimmage and 14 TD's) should be as good a running back that Miami has faced all season. He's done well all year long and helps lead a unit that will be going up against a Miami front seven that has struggled in recent games. The Canes were one of the top teams in the conference against the run for most of the season but big games by Georgia Tech and N.C. State on the ground has Miami currently ranked 69th against the run. They'll need to get back to playing well like they were in the middle part of the season or it could be a long night against what looks like a very strong Cal running game, led by Best and All-American center Alex Mack.
Through the air
Like Miami, Cal played two different quarterbacks throughout the season and it'll be senior Nate Longshore getting the start. He leads the 79th ranked passing offense against a Miami defense that ranks 43rd in pass-efficiency defense. Cal's top four pass-catchers are all 6-foot-2 or taller and the Canes struggled with bigger receivers, especially early in the season so that'll be something interesting to watch. Miami's done a nice job against opposing tight ends this season and that'll need to continue tonight, as Cal utilizes Cameron Morrah (26-324-8) a lot.
Cal's offensive line is giving up just more than two sacks per game. In fact, both teams are giving up 2.08 per game this season. The Canes rank 25th in getting to the quarterback so that'll be an area where Miami will likely have some success exploiting later tonight.
The turnover battle
Turnovers are important to the outcome of any football game at any level and the Canes are hoping this game will be a bit different from those earlier this season. While Miami's turnover margin is 101st in the nation, Cal ranks sixth. They've done a tremendous job all year at creating turnovers so taking care of the football on offense and making things happen on defense will be a major key for the Hurricanes in this one.