Know Thy Enemy is a weekly Q&A where the perspective changes from the eyes of The State News to the student newspaper of Michigan State football's opponent. This week, The State News' Jared Ramsey spoke with The Miami Hurricane Football writer Luke Chaney.
Michigan State and Miami are set to face off on Saturday at noon in the beautiful setting of Coral Gables, Florida. Despite high expectations for Miami and low expectations for the Spartans, the script has flipped heading into the matchup.
The Miami Hurricane's football writer Luke Chaney sat down to discuss his view on this big time matchup.
Q: What have you seen from Miami through two weeks and how would you judge them going into another tough non-conference matchup?
A: So far, I've been a little disappointed with the way Miami has played. Their run defense especially has been lackluster. Their linebacking core has been undisciplined, a lot of missed tackles. I think Miami's one of the leading teams in the country on missed tackles. On offense, it really hasn't been up to par from what we saw last year from the Canes. I know Miami was at 24th nationally in points per game and they've yet to score more than 25 so far, so that's been concerning.
Q: What do you think are some of the issues on offense? Obviously, D’Eriq King is back and running the show but what are some of the offensive issues this year?
A: I think the main offensive issue has definitely been getting the run game going. There really hasn't been a ton of creativity from offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee in that department. A lot of runs are just inside zones up the middle, there really hasn't been a whole lot of outside runs, not that many stretch plays. There hasn't really been that many design quarterback runs for D'Eriq King. It's very vanilla. A team like Michigan State who has disciplined linebackers should be able to handle the run game pretty easily.
Q: Miami just lost one of their running backs Don Chaney Jr. and linebacker Keontra Smith is out for the game too. Can you talk about the impact of missing those two players?
A: So Don Chaney was the second running back in the rotation to Cam’Ron Harris. It's obviously going to be a huge loss for them, Chaney's out for the season. So they'll be looking for contributions from Cody Brown and Thad Franklin to step up as another one of their backup running backs; Jaylen Knighton has been suspended for four games, so he’s gonna be out for the Michigan State game. They're going to have to rely on contributions from freshmen who have not received any playing time.
As for Keontra Smith, he was a starting linebacker. He was definitely the most versatile and athletic of their current linebackers so his loss will definitely be felt on that defense. He's going to be out for the next four games. So they'll be looking for contributions from veterans like Bradley Jennings Jr. and Waynmon Steed to kind of make up for that.
Q: Of the guys available, who do you think will need to step up, on both sides of the ball, if Miami is going to pull this one out?
A: Definitely the front seven. I mean, obviously, Michigan State has a phenomenal running back and a phenomenal run game led by Kenneth Walker. So the front seven definitely have to stay disciplined in their gaps. Like I said earlier, the missed tackles have been a huge problem for the Canes so far this season, so they'll just have to be a lot more disciplined than they have been so far. Another thing that the Canes have struggled with not only this season, but in prior seasons in the Manny Diaz era, is just a lack of discipline when it comes to blowing coverages. So when Michigan State runs their play-action sets, that's something that Miami has to stay disciplined with.
Q: What is your prediction for the game on Saturday?
A: I think from a talent perspective, Miami has the upper hand. Miami has just an abundance of former four and five-star recruits. But at the same time, I think Michigan State, at least what I've seen so far, is better coached than the Canes. Miami has had struggles against disciplined, run-heavy teams for the past 10 to 15 years. So just picking up on recent trends and comparing how these two teams have played so far this season, I would predict a Michigan State victory on Saturday.
Q: Final score prediction?
A: I think it's going to be somewhat low-scoring just because Michigan State can control the time of possession really well and that's something that Miami has struggled with so far. I'm going to say 24-20, Michigan State.
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