Miami and Louisville both have one common issue entering the game Saturday. One side of it's line is playing great while the other side of the ball is struggling in some ways. Miami's offensive line is very, very good and they have been lucky enough to be pretty healthy this year. Four of the five starters earned some sort of postseason recognition also, with three of them being named to one of the All-ACC teams by the coaches. The defensive line has been a different story, however. The defensive ends have had good, all around seasons outside of marginal pass rushing numbers. The defensive tackles have hardly done much to help the defense, though.
Giving up thirteen total sacks will always garner respect for an offensive line. Miami isn't a spread offense that gets the ball out extremely quick and doesn't allow a pass rush. This is a pro-style offense that likes deep drop backs and play action passes. They ask the line to hold their blocks for a ling time and the line delivers. Led by All-ACC picks Seantrel Henderson, Brandon Linder, and Shane McDermott the line really doesn't have a weak spot. Some of the sacks they've given up can actually be credited to poor decision making by Stephen Morris.
The right side of the line is the strong point for this unit. Linder and Henderson are both likely to be drafted and have sustained success at the next level. Miami doesn't hide it's strength, either. They love to run the ball to the right side and they do it very well. Even stretch runs to the left end up having massive cutback lanes from the right side sealing so well. Pass protection on the right side is also as steady as it gets. Henderson is massive and Linder has great feet. Rarely does Morris see pressure from the front side.
Ereck Flowers is the youngest member of the offensive line and it shows at times. If there is one thing that Miami's coaches have to be worrying about it's the matchup of Flowers and Marcus Smith. Smith is an All-American and Flowers struggles with speed rushers at times. He's a big guy that doesn't always move his feet very well and Smith and Lorenzo Mauldin are relentless pass rushers. Linder and McDermott are really good at pulling to the left so they do run some power to that side, but it is very obvious that the pass protection isn't nearly as good on the left side of the line.
It can not be stressed enough how important the play of a team's defensive tackles are. Miami is really not very good in the middle of it's line and it impacts the entire defense. Denzel Perryman is one of the top linebackers in the country and he probably missed out on about thirty tackles this year because his defensive tackles were being pushed back into him. Hurricane safeties have been forced to make one-on-one tackles 8-10 yards down the field because opposing offensive linemen have created massive holes to run through and safeties are having to try to fill the hole.
Curtis Porter and Olsen Pierre are similar to Kentucky's defensive tackles. They're both really big guys that play hard most of the time, but they just don't make an impact for whatever reason. Miami's line as a whole has been blown off the ball repeatedly. The 25 rushing touchdowns Miami has given up gives them one of the worst defensive totals in the country and a lot of those touchdowns have been at the goal line or within ten yards.
The Hurricanes run a 4-3 and a 3-4 set with pretty much the same four linemen. Anthony Chickillo always plays with his hand down and the former five-star recruit has been solid this year. He and Shayon Green have combined for 18 tackles for loss on the season. When it comes to pressuring the quarterback, however, the defensive line has been disappointing. Miami runs a ton of stunts and zone blitzes to try to get to the quarterback and none of them really work. The reliance on all of the stunts shows just how little pressure they are getting off the edge and it has to change on Saturday. Teddy Bridgewater has faced a ton of pressure in the second half of the season and it has him off of his game a little bit. If he is allowed to sit in the pocket like he did early on this year, Miami's defensive backs won't be able to hang with a super deep group of receivers and tight ends.
Tyriq McCord is one player that Louisville must keep an eye on. McCord is the future behind Green as a hybrid end/linebacker. He and Al-Quadin Muhammad could see extra minutes to get more game experience. They could actually just be utilized more because they're just better pass rushers than the guys ahead of them. Miami has gotten absolutely no pressure from it's interior line, so I could see Chickillo being moved inside on third downs so that they can bring in the better edge rushers to get some pressure on Teddy.