WVU wide receivers Shawn Terry and Phil Braxton vs. Miami cornerbacks Mike Rumph and Phillip Buchanon
We're not harboring any illusions that either Braxton or Terry are going to ring up 100+ yards worth of receiving on Miami's secondary. But, Terry and Braxton can have an effect in the rushing game, because blocking is as much about desire and tenacity as it is about talent.
West Virginia will have to run the ball to be successful, and in order to keep the ball WVU's wideouts have to block effectively. Miami's secondary is outstanding at run support, and even if the Mountaineers are able to block the front seven, not much will come of it if the secondary isn't hit a few times as well. WVU's wide receviers must put Hurricane DB's on the ground a few times in the hopes of springing Avon Cobourne for consistent gains.
WVU whip Shawn Hackett vs. Miami tight end Jeremy Shockey
Shockey is beginning to get notice as a vital cog in Miami's passing attack, and for good reason. He's a big, quick target that can get downfield and make big plays.
Although Hackett won't be the only player covering Shockey, he will be on him in many situations. Hackett has the speed to stay with the swift Hurricane tight end, and the aggressiveness to battle him off the line. WVU must keep Shockey contained, especially on the seam routes he runs downfield.
WVU Red Zone offense vs. Miami Red Zone defense
The Mountaineers have a poor 9 for 18 touchdown ratio in the red zone in 2001. That is, of the 18 times WVU has had a first down in the red zone, they have scored touchdowns only nine times. That stat has to improve dramatically if West Virginia has any hope of scaring the Hurricanes.
Should WVU visit the redzone, they have to score touchdowns, not field goals. There aren't likely to be many chances against the outstanding Hurricane defense, and the Mountaineers will have to maximize every one of them to have a chance to spring an upset.
With WVU's Rick Sherrod unable to play due to his swollen knees, it will be interesting to see both who plays the position and how he plays it.
While Sherrod has piled up some monstrous tackle totals, he has also been caught out of position more than once, and has taken some bad pursuit angles on other plays.
If Miami so chooses, this could be the game where West Virginia's pass defense finally gets tested. Despite being second in the nation in pass defense, WVU's secondary hasn't really been tested yet, due to a combination of poor opponent passing attacks and WVU's bad rushing defense.
Especially, watch WVU cornerback Richard Bryant, who has been having a solid season. Bryant has clamped down on opposing receivers and come up with a couple of spectacular interceptions. It should be interesting to see what he can do against the Hurricanes' receiving corps.
Of course, Miami might choose to simply pound away at West Virginia's leaky front, but the suspicion is that the Hurricanes will take more than a few shots at the Mountaineers through the air. Stats & Trends