Miami, Fl. vs. LSU
September 1, 2018
By Brian Edwards
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Matchup: (8) Miami, Fl. vs. (25) LSU
Venue: AT&T Stadium Arlington, TX
Time/TV: Sunday, Sept. 2, ABC, 7:30 p.m. ET
Miami and LSU are set to collide Sunday night at Jerry World in Arlington for the 2018 Advocare Kickoff Classic at 7:30 p.m. Eastern on ABC. As of Saturday afternoon, most betting shops had the Hurricanes installed as 3.5-point favorites with a total of 47. The Tigers were +145 on the money line (risk $100 to win $145).
Ed Orgeron’s team finished 2017 with a 9-4 straight-up record and an 8-5 against-the-spread mark. The Tigers bring back five starters on offense and five on defense. They lost 26 lettermen, including star RB Derrius Guice, senior QB Danny Etling (16/2 touchdown-to-interception ratio last year), its top three wide receivers and five of their top eight tacklers.
The keys to LSU’s offense have been handed to junior quarterback Joe Burrow, a graduate transfer from Ohio State. Burrow participated in a tight battle for the starting QB job at OSU during spring practice. When he didn’t win the gig, Burrow opted to transfer and chose LSU over Ohio and Cincinnati.
Burrow played at garbage time in 10 games for the Buckeyes over two years, throwing for 287 yards and two TDs without an interception. He had a decorated prep career in Athens, Ohio, and was a four-star recruit.
The Matt Canada experiment at offensive coordinator didn’t work out and Canada is now the interim head coach at Maryland. Steven Ensminger, who is entering his ninth season on the LSU staff, will take over as full-time OC for the first time in his career. He faces many challenges and doesn’t have a star RB returning like the last five LSU teams have had.
In addition, sophomore right guard Ed Ingram has been suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules. Ingram started 12 of the 13 games he played in as a true freshman. Junior WR Drake Davis is also suspended indefinitely (legal issues). As a sophomore, Davis had only three catches but they went for 134 yards and two TDs.
Senior TE Foster Moreau is ‘questionable’ due to an undisclosed injury. The hope is that Texas Tech transfer Jonathan Giles will immediately return to his 2016 form after sitting out last year due to transfer rules. Giles was a second-team All-Big-12 selection in ’16 when he hauled in 69 receptions for 1,158 yards and 13 TDs. There’s also a lot of optimism for true freshman WR Terrace Marshall, who enrolled early and participated in spring practice. He is a five-star recruit that many publications had as the country’s best prep WR last year.
Phil Steele’s SEC Unit Rankings have LSU’s running backs ranked 11th out of 14 teams. The offensive line is ranked fifth in the SEC and 19th nationally, but the WRs are ranked eighth in the league.
While the offense is dealing with a lot of change, the LSU defense still has one of the nation’s best DCs in Dave Aranda, who is the highest paid assistant in college football with a $2.5 million salary per year. His group has a pair of preseason first-team All-Americans in cornerback Greedy Williams and LB Devin White.
White garnered second-team All-American honors as a true sophomore last season. He produced 133 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, five QB hurries, three passes broken up and one interception. Williams, who Steele has ranked as the No. 1 cornerback available for the 2019 NFL Draft, recorded 38 tackles, 11 PBU, six interceptions, 1.5 TFL’s and one QB hurry. Williams earned first-team All-SEC honors in 2017.
LSU’s defense allowed only 18.9 points per game last season. Sophomore safety Grant Delpit is a preseason second-team All-SEC pick. He had 60 tackles, eight PBU, 3.5 TFL’s, one interception and one QB hurry.
Steele ranks LSU’s secondary No. 1 in the SEC and No. 4 nationally. Meanwhile, the LBs are second in the SEC and 10th in the nation, and the defensive line is ranked sixth in the conference and 26th in the country.
Cole Tracy will be LSU’s place-kicker after arriving from Assumption College as a grad transfer. He is a preseason third-team All-SEC selection in Steele’s mag.
Miami is entering the third season of Mark Richt’s tenure since he arrived after a long run at Georgia. Richt is 19-7 SU and 14-14 ATS to date. The ‘Canes went 10-3 SU and 5-8 ATS last year. They bring back seven starters on offense and seven on defense. Only 17 lettermen were lost.
Expectations are high in Coral Gables. Most Vegas books have UM’s season win total at 9.5 and it is the favorite to win the Coastal Division and return to the ACC Championship Game. Richt led his alma mater to its first ACC Championship Game appearance in ’17, but UM was missing several key players to injuries and got thumped 38-3 by Clemson.
Miami won its first 10 games to climb to No. 2 in the national rankings. Richt’s team beat 13th-ranked Va. Tech by a 28-10 count as a two-point home underdog, and then followed up the next week with a 41-8 pimpslap of undefeated and third-ranked Notre Dame as a 3.5-point home ‘dog.
However, in its regular-season finale at Pittsburgh in a cold-weather game, the Panthers captured a 24-14 win as 11.5-point home underdogs. After the loss to Clemson, the ‘Canes dropped a 34-24 decision to Wisconsin at the Orange Bowl.
The three-game losing streak to end of the year didn’t erase all the good that was done last year. Richt secured a third straight highly-ranked recruiting class.
QB Malik Rosier returns for his senior campaign. In his first season as the full-time starter in ’17, Rosier completed 54.0 percent of his passes for 3,120 yards with a 26/14 TD-INT ratio. He can make plays with his legs, too, rushing for 619 yards and five TDs (before subtracting 151 yards from sacks).
Michael Irvin II came out of spring practice listed as the starter at TE, but he sustained a season-ending knee injury in July. Irvin won’t be around, nor will last year’s top two wideouts in Braxton Berrios and Christopher Herndon. Nevertheless, UM’s WRs are ranked second in Steele’s ACC Unit Rankings.
Junior Ahmmon Richards is a second-team preseason All-ACC choice. He was a second-team All-ACC selection in 2016, but his season was cut short in ’17 when he went down with an injury in his team’s seventh game. Richards had 24 receptions for 439 yards and three TDs last year. Sophomore WR Jeff Thomas made four starts as a true freshman, making 17 catches for 374 yards and two TDs.
RB Travis Homer took over as the starting RB when Mark Walton went down with a season-ending injury in late September. Homer ran for a team-high 966 yards and eight TDs while averaging 5.9 yards per carry. He earned second-team All-ACC honors in ’17 and is a preseason second-team All-ACC choice this year. Homer also had 18 catches for 219 yards and one TD.
Homer will get pushed for touches by true freshman RB Lorenzo Lingard, a five-star recruit who enrolled early and showed his talent during spring practice. The UM RBs are ranked fourth in the ACC by Steele and 20th nationally. Meanwhile, the WRs are second in the ACC and 17th in the country, and the o-line is fifth in the conference and 25th nationally.
Miami’s defense allowed only 21.0 PPG last season. This unit brings back its top-five tacklers. The LBs are ranked No. 1 in the ACC and seventh nationally by Steele. The secondary is ranked tops in the league and ninth in the nation, and the d-line is third-best in the ACC and 14th in the country.
Four Miami players are on Steele’s preseason first-team All-ACC defense. These include LBs Shaq Quarterman and Michael Pinckney, in addition to CB Michael Jackson and safety Jaquan Johnson. Junior DE Joe Jackson, who was a third-team All-ACC selection in ’17, is a preseason second-team All-ACC choice.
Johnson produced 96 tackles, four interceptions and one pick-six, four PBU, two TFL’s, one sack, one QB hurry and three forced fumbles. Quarterman recorded 83 tackles, five PBU, 4.5 TFL’s, four QB hurries and 2.5 sacks. Jackson led the ‘Canes in sacks (6.5) and QB hurries (6).
Miami has won three straight neutral-site openers dating back to 1984. Since 1986, the ‘Canes are 19-6 vs. current SEC schools, but they are only 3-9 vs. LSU in 12 all-time meetings. They went just 3-6 ATS in nine games as favorites in ’17.
Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.
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