What Awaits Vols In Miami?

If Tennessee had been preparing to play Miami this time last week, I could have made a good case that the Canes were ripe for an upset. Unfortunately, a fired up Virginia Tech team, that had been embarrassed by West Virginia the week before, proved that premise before the Vols ever got their shot.

Now Miami is looking for redemption and instead of being in position to pull off a shocker, Tennessee appears to be in the wrong place at the wrong time against the wrong team. In short: the Hokies ended Tennessee's upset hopes along with a Miami regular season win streak that stretched back to the 2000 season.

On the positive side, Virginia Tech provided a blue print for defeating Miami. Despite being out gained in total yards 377 to 219, the Hokies were able to post a 31-7 victory by converting four turnovers into 24 points. The key for Tech was keeping pressure on quarterback Brock Berlin, who has thrown 12 interceptions in eight games, including four last week. Forcing turnovers hasn't been Tennessee's forte this season as the Vols rank No. 96 nationally in turnover ratio and have only scored 10 points off opponent miscues this season.

Neither is Tennessee particularly good at pressuring opposing QBs. The Vols have recorded 19 sacks this season but 12 of those came in the first three games. Since UT's early success with linebacker blitzes, opponents have done more in way of formations and play selection to make outside linebackers Kevin SImon and Kevin Burnett accountable for assignments.

Miami appears to be vulnerable against the run especially with a pair of defensive tackles Orien Harris and Santonio Thomas missing from the rotation, but again Tennessee may be hard pressed to take advantage in light of their 107-yard per game rushing average over the last five games. The Canes will also be without starting cornerback Antrel Rolle, who is serving a suspension for his part in an altercation at Virginia Tech, however, the Canes have plenty of depth along with extraordinary talent in the secondary and Tennessee's young wide receivers have been inconsistent.

Tennessee's biggest edge is at quarterback where Casey Clausen brings four years of starting experience and an outstanding track record on the road. He led the Vols to victories at Florida in both 2001 and 2003 as well as a pair of wins over Bama in Tuscaloosa.

As good as Miami is, this is not the same caliber club that beat Tennessee 26-3 in Knoxville last season. Running back Jarrett Payton doesn't pose the threat that Willis McGahee did when he ran for 154 yards, and the Canes don't have a wide receiver to match Andre Johnson who recorded 103 yards in receptions.

By the same token, Tennessee's rush defense has slipped considerably this season as evidenced by the six ball carriers who have rushed for 100 yards against the Vols in the last five games.

Certainly, Tennessee won't be able to sneak up on Miami, but there could be unexpected fallout from the Canes' loss to VTU. Confidence bordering on arrogance has always been a part of Miami's psychological profile and playing without the cloak of invincibility could pose a variety of problems. More significant than the loss to Virginia Tech was the way Miami reacted, as the Canes clearly lost their poise late in the contest.

Again, for the Vols to take advantage there are several things they must do that they haven't done in a single game to this point of the season. (1) Tennessee needs to get off to a quick start and avoid the crippling penalties that have plagued the team all year. (1) UT needs to control the ball, keep the clock moving and keep the defense off the field. (3) It has to force more turnovers than Miami and come up with a big play or two in the kicking game.


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