Coral Gables, FL (CBSMiami)- The first five games of the Manny Diaz era at the University of Miami have not exactly gone as fans would hope.
The team sits at 2-3, with losses against Florida, North Carolina and Virginia Tech. Their only two wins have come against FCS foe Bethune Cookman and Central Michigan. While the defense has held up its end of the bargain, ranking in the Top 40 in points per game allowed (21.2) and holding opponents under 300 yards per game, the offense has left something to be desired.
Some struggles were to be expected, with freshman quarterback Jarren Williams taking over under center. But, Williams, last week aside, hasn’t been the issue on offense. Rather it’s been the play of the offensive line and the team’s inability to convert on third downs.
“They’re hovering around 20 percent against their FBS opponents,” said CBS Sports Network college football host Brent Stover. “Going into that Virginia Tech game last weekend they were at 18 percent against their FBS opponents. They have also struggled scoring points.”
The third down conversion percentage has crept up slightly following the Tech game, to 29.3%, but that still ranks 125th out 130 FBS teams. And, while the team is scoring 32 points per game, good for 55th among FBS teams, as Stover points out, they haven’t been great in the red zone. The ‘Canes have converted on just 70 percent of their red zone chances this season, which ranks 113th. In 24 chances inside the opponents 20, the ‘Canes have come away with just 14 touchdowns and only three field goals.
Add to that an offensive line that has allowed 25 sacks, which is dead-last in the country, and you can understand why the offense has had issues. But, despite all of that, Stover points out, there are some reasons to be positive. Despite getting down 28 points in the game against Tech, the Hurricanes battled back and lost by just a touchdown. Had they pulled off the comeback, the conversation this week might be entirely different.
“I would have been singing a different tune if they had won the game, were 3-2 and had a four-touchdown comeback,” said Stover.
That all leads into this Friday night, when the Hurricanes host the Coastal division-leading #20 Virginia Cavaliers. The ‘Canes will be without Williams for this game, as he is dealing with an arm injury, meaning N’Kosi Perry will step back into the starting role. Perry was good in relief of Williams against the Hokies, throwing for over 400 yards with four touchdowns. That output, combined with the Hurricanes defense, has Stover believing the ‘Canes have a chance to pull off the upset.
“I do think they are going to give Virginia everything they can handle. They have to get better offensively, and they have to get off to better starts. And they have to limit turnovers,” said Stover. “That all sounds pretty cliche, but against a Virginia team that I think will be playing for the ACC title, they have to be buttoned up.”
The Hurricanes enter the game as two-point favorites, so it would seem the oddsmakers agree that Diaz’s crew has an opportunity to pull off the victory. The win would be a big one, as it would put the ‘Canes back at the .500 mark on the year, which Stover thinks, “can change the tune of the season a little bit.”
The Hurricanes and Cavaliers are set to kick off from Hard Rock Stadium on Friday night at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time.