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Preview: No. 8 Miami Hurricanes vs. Syracuse Orange


The No. 8 University of Miami Hurricanes will host Syracuse Saturday at Hard Rock Stadium.

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m.

TV: ESPN

Weather Forecast: 85 degrees; Scattered thunderstorms (Precipitation Chance: 50 percent)

All-time Series: Miami leads 15-7 (Last won: Miami 17-10 in 2003)

Miami Hurricanes

Head Coach: Mark Richt (2nd season)
Record: 5-0 (3-0 ACC)
Ranked: No. 8 (AP); No. 7 (Coaches Poll)
Top Players: RB Mark Walton (injured); WR Ahmmon Richards; LB Shaquille Quarterman; LB Zach McCloud; LB Michael Pinckney; TE Christopher Herndon IV; DT Kendrick Norton; DT RJ McIntosh; DE Chad Thomas; DE Joe Jackson; QB Malik Rosier; OL Navaughn Donaldson; WR Braxton Berrios; WR Darrell Langham; RB Travis Homer; DB Jaquan Johnson.

Syracuse Orange

Head Coach: Dino Babers (2nd season)
Record: 4-3 (2-1 ACC)
Ranked: N/A
Top Players: WR Steve Ishmael; QB Eric Dungey; WR Ervin Phillips; LB Parris Bennett; RB Dontae Strickland; TE Ravian Pierce; RB Moe Neal; DB Jordan Martin; DE Ryan Guthrie; OL Evan Adams.

The Storyline
The No. 8 Miami Hurricanes return to action after capturing a last-second win over visiting Georgia Tech, thanks to a “Money” Michael Badgley field goal.

The “Cardiac Canes” went on an 85-yard drive in the final two minutes of the game, which included a tough fourth down catch by redshirt junior receiver Darrell Langham – who also made the game-winning catch two weeks ago at Florida State.

However the wins have come, Miami remains undefeated and has not only climbed into the top 10 but has also crept into the College Football Playoff conversation – as UM is the only undefeated team left in the ACC.

Standing in Miami’s way this week is a Syracuse team that is riding a two-game win streak. Before you dismiss it as an insipid feat – especially in comparison to the 10-game winning streak the Hurricanes are on dating back to the 2016 season – consider that the Orange upset defending national champion Clemson this past week (27-24).

Syracuse is a pass-happy squad, averaging 318 passing yards per game this season. The Orange have an emerging signal caller in 6-foot-4, 222-pound junior Eric Dungey, but their true offensive star is senior wide receiver Steve Ishmael.

Ishmael, a Miami native and North Miami Beach High alum, is one of the country’s top receivers statistically and is Syracuse’s top playmaker.

While a lot of people will say this will be a pesky game for the Hurricanes, UM has a decisive advantage over the Orange in just about every way.

The Canes defense should be able to get pressure on Dungey with its front seven and throw off his timing with Ishmael and Ervin Phillips. Offensively, Miami must continue to feed sophomore running back Travis Homer and let him wear down the Orange defense and open passing lanes via play-action.

Key Injuries
Miami
+ OL Navaughn Donaldson (right ankle/foot) is PROBABLE
+ DB Dee Delaney (right lower extremity) is OUT
+ RB Mark Walton (ankle) is OUT for the season
+ LB Jamie Gordinier (knee) is OUT for the season
+ WR Evidence Njoku (right lower extremity) is OUT for the season

Syracuse
+ WR Sean Avant is PROBABLE
+ DL Shaq Grosvenor is PROBABLE
+ TE Kyle Kleinberg is PROBABLE
+ DB Jordan Martin is PROBABLE
+ DL Kendall Coleman is QUESTIONABLE
+ DL Josh Black is DOUBTFUL
+ DB Scoop Bradshaw is OUT
+ DB Antwan Cordy is OUT
+ OL Liam O’Sullivan is OUT
+ OL Aaron Roberts (knee) is OUT for the season

Miami Keys To Victory
+ Be confident, not cocky – While Miami is the clear favorite in this matchup, the Canes cannot take this game for granted. While Syracuse did take down Clemson, they also lost to Middle Tennessee State this season. UM needs to flex its muscle early and take control of this game from the onset.

+ Create pressure – Unlike last week against Georgia Tech when Miami’s defense had to do a lot of thinking and reacting, this week Manny Diaz’s unit can just “go play”. Because the Orange want to pass the ball – a lot – the Canes need to generate pass rush and get to the quarterback not only for sacks, but also for pressures and hits.

They Said It
Miami junior safety Jaquan Johnson about Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey
“He’s the toughest guy on offense. He runs the ball, he throws the ball. He doesn’t really slide, he likes to take hits. He threw a pick against LSU and he was the guy to tackle him. He ripped the defensive back’s helmet off. Those are the type of things you want from a quarterback when he makes mistakes.”

Syracuse’s South Florida Connections
Colin Byrne (64) – redshirt sophomore offensive lineman played at St. Thomas Aquinas

Antwan Cordy (8) – redshirt junior defensive back played at South Dade and was a part of the Buccaneers’ 2013 Class 8A state championship team

Nadarius Fagen (27) – freshman linebacker played at Miami Southridge

Kenneth Ruff (45) – sophomore defensive lineman played at Fort Lauderdale Dillard

Sharod Johnson (87) – freshman wide receiver played at Miami Booker T. Washington

Steve Ishmael (9) – senior wide receiver played at North Miami Beach

McKinley Williams (98) – sophomore defensive lineman played at Fort Lauderdale Dillard

Sean Avant (83) – redshirt senior wide receiver played at Miramar

Samuel Clausman (61) – redshirt sophomore offensive lineman played at St. Thomas Aquinas

Ravian Pierce (6) – junior tight end played at Plantation High

Juwan Dowels (9) – redshirt junior defensive back played at Plantation American Heritage

Score Projections
Miami (-17) over Syracuse

J.T. Wilcox = Miami 35, Syracuse 20

About J.T. Wilcox

J.T. Wilcox is an award-winning sports journalist that has worked in South Florida for more than a decade. He authors "The Bald Predictions" Blog and "The Baldcast" Podcast. J.T. Wilcox joined the Football Hotbed staff in 2017.

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