Key Matchup: Miami Rushing Offense vs. Louisville Rushing Defense

Chris Perkins

It's too simplistic to say if 17th-ranked Miami can run the ball effectively it will win Saturday at 18th-ranked Louisville. But there's a lot of truth to that statement. 

Miami running back Cam’Ron Harris rushed for 134 yards and two touchdowns last week against Alabama-Birmingham, leading a UM ground game that gained 337 yards on 52 carries. Louisville allowed Western Kentucky to 119 yards on 35 carries.

Anecdotally, that gives the Hurricanes a distinct advantage Saturday night in this ACC opener between top 20 teams.

Interestingly, neither team excelled in these areas last season. Miami was 120th in rushing at 118.1 yards per game; the Cardinals ranked 112th in rush defense (205.8 ypg).

Here’s a closer look at this potential game-deciding matchup. 

Miami rushing offense: The Hurricanes’ offensive line did a good job in last week’s 31-14 UAB victory. Still, change is happening as left guard Jakai Clark gets the start over Ousman Traore. Center Corey Gaynor won ACC OL of the Week honors for his effort last week. Harris’ game was highlighted by his 66-yard touchdown run but he ran tough the entire night. Freshmen running backs Jaylan Knighton (nine carries, 59 yards) and Donald Chaney Jr. (eight carries, 52 yards) also showed good things. Quarterback D’Eriq King (12 carries, 83 yards) must also be mentioned here. Expect UM's offensive line and run game to reveal a few tricks. They were fairly basic last week.

Louisville rushing defense: Louisville allowed Western Kentucky 3.4 yards per carry last week. But WKU had a veteran offensive line, possibly as good or better than UM’s, and it did good work against Louisville’s front seven. Nose tackle Jared Goldwire and defensive ends Yaya Diaby and Tabrius Peterson lead the Cardinals’ 3-4 defense with outside linebackers Yasir Abdullah and Rodjay Burns (five tackles last week), middle linebacker Dorian Etheridge (team-best eight tackles) and weakside linebacker C.J. Avery providing additional support. Louisville must be fundamentally sound, meaning no freelancing. UM's backs have the cutback speed to exploit tiny creases.

Edge: Miami. The Hurricanes must get their ground game going to both fuel their offense and, importantly, consume the clock. Perhaps UM, with its’ up-tempo, spread offense, could win a high-scoring shootout but such a matchup would seem to favor Louisville. If the Canes run the ball effectively they have a good chance at victory. If Louisville stops Miami’s running game the Cardinals almost certainly win.