MIAMI - There have been three close games for Miami this season, with the Hurricanes winning just one of them against Appalachian State, with the final score being 25-23.
With a 5-1 North Carolina State team headed South to play a 2-4 Miami team Saturday night, the Hurricanes will also be presented with a chance to knock off a good opponent in the Wolfpack, and perhaps get its season back on track.
The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) is not a good league this year. If Miami could pull off the upset, perhaps the Hurricanes get rolling, finally. There’s another side to the equation, however.
If Miami loses to North Carolina State, will that be the final straw for the Miami administration and thus lead to Head Coach Manny Diaz being dismissed from his coaching duties? A loss would place Miami’s record at 0-3 in the ACC, and 2-5 overall.
The following represents what will be one key component of the game to watch, especially because it directly involves Coach Diaz and his coaching acumen as a defensive mind as he came up the coaching ranks. At the conclusion of the article, there's also a final score prediction.
North Carolina State Passing Attack, Can the Hurricanes Slow Down Leary?
One of the most underrated quarterbacks in the nation plays for North Carolina State, and that would be Devin Leary. At 6’1”, 212 pounds, the redshirt sophomore already passed for 1,534 yards, 15 touchdowns and just two interceptions. That’s less than 1% of Leary’s passes being intercepted, while 7.2% of his passes ended up being touchdowns.
He’s not the mobile quarterback that Miami’s D’Eriq King would be, but despite being a traditional pocket passer, Leary proved that he knows how and when to release the football on time to beat the pass rush. Here are Leary’s passing statistics for each game of the 2021 season:
USF - 17/26, 232 yards, two touchdowns, one interception.
At Mississippi State - 30/49, 303 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Furman - 23/29, 259 yards, and three touchdowns.
Clemson - 32/44, 238 yards, and four touchdowns.
Louisiana Tech - 22/36, 251 yards, and two touchdowns.
At Boston College - 16/24, 251 yards, and three touchdowns.
Through six games of the 2021 season, Leary’s passing totals: 140/208, 1,534 yards, 15 touchdowns, and two interceptions. He’s completed 67.3% of his passing attempts, including 72.7% of his attempts versus Clemson, the No. 32 passing defense in the country. For the 2021 season, Clemson’s defense allowed just an overall 58.2% of passes against them to be completed.
The Hurricanes have the No. 80 passing defense in the country by allowing 234.2 yards per game, and also allow 60.7% of the passes thrown against them to be completed.
This is where the Miami defense must step up against North Carolina State. Sure, turnovers and big special teams plays can change a game; that could very well happen when North Carolina State plays at Miami. Those random plays aside, Miami’s defense, led by Coach Diaz because he’s truly a defensive coach, will be placed to the forefront.
Miami absolutely possesses the talent to beat North Carolina State. In fact, this is the type of game that ‘Old School Miami’ would do well because it’s going against a pocket passer that their pass rush would overwhelm.
Miami generated 15 sacks so far in 2021, good for No. 51 in the country. At the least, the Hurricanes need three sacks against the Wolfpack to keep Leary from throwing his usual accurate passes and keeping the chains moving for North Carolina State’s offense.
Final Thoughts and Prediction
This should be a game that Miami comes out and plays like it's got nothing to lose, and quite simply, that’s what everyone should expect. With a 2-4 record, there’s no pressure on the Hurricanes, and it’s all on the Wolfpack.
North Carolina State is a darkhorse for the College Football Playoffs if it wins out, has one of the nation’s best signal callers, and comes into the game favored by 2.5 points, depending on which betting service one feels comfortable with. There’s still reason to feel good about North Carolina State despite what Miami has going for it in terms of emotion and being able to play without concern about pressure.
Leary is the truth. He torched a Clemson defense that’s nationally ranked by tossing four touchdown passes. Can King and the Miami offense keep up with Leary? Can Coach Diaz coach up his secondary to take on the passing attack led by Leary?
In a back-and-forth contest, look for North Carolina State to win with a late field goal. It could be the last game Coach Diaz walks the sidelines for Miami.
North Carolina State 30 Miami 27
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