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Florida State football: A look at Miami's big-play offense

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Joel Auerbach

Miami's offense has been quite effective, but the way which it has gone about things has been interesting.

Miami is 15th in explosive drives (the percentage of each offense's drives that average at least 10 yards per play), 24th in value drives (the percentage of each offense's drives beginning on its own side of the field that reach at least the opponent's 30-yard line), and 27th in available yards (yards earned by the offense divided by the total number of yards available based on starting field position).

Miami's offense is all about chunk plays. The Hurricanes, are very, very athletic. Miami's Duke Johnson is explosive, hitting a crease and often taking runs to the house, with 13 runs of 20+ yards. 30 percent of his runs on first down have gone for ... another first down. He also has runs of 80 and 90 yards on the year.

Receiver Phillip Dorsett is explosive, with 10 catches of 25+ yards. Stacey Coley, though in a down year, is still dangerous, and tight end Clive Walford has really come on, with 29 catches, which leads the team.

But the Canes are 71st in first down rate ( the percentage of offensive drives that result in at least one first down or touchdown), and 125th in methodical drives (the percentage of each offense's drives that run 10 or more plays).

Explosion is good, and being a team that leans on explosive plays is better than one that relies on methodical drives, but being too extreme in either direction can cause inconsistencies.

Miami's numbers match up well with what I see on film from the Hurricanes.

Miami leans on its run game a lot -- in fact, the Hurricanes have run 69 more times than they have passed. This is understandable, because Duke Johnson is tremendous, but also because Miami doesn't want to put too much on Brad Kaaya -- who is very good for a freshman, but is still a freshman.

First down is a great down on which to throw, and Miami does it in two ways.

Because of all the running, the Hurricanes are an excellent play-action team on first down. and on second down after a successful run. Eight percent of Brad Kaaya'a first down throws have gone for 25 or more yards, and 16 percent of his second down throws have. Kaaya has a big arm and is not afraid to push the ball downfield to the speedy receivers. The Hurricanes also target tight end Clive Walford quite a bit with play action. Play action also helps slow the pass rush -- and the Hurricanes are not a great pass blocking team in dropback situations without run action.

The Hurricanes also throw bubble screens when they're in their spread looks, and some other screens, as well.

But outside of play action and screens, Miami is not a great throwing team. Its receivers are better at creating big plays than they are at getting open consistently underneath to pick up first downs. And it's tough to expect a true freshman QB to be a great rhythm passer. Miami has converted third and 7+ via the pass at only a 21 percent clip, and Louisville, Duke and Virginia Tech all held Kaaya under seven yards/attempt.

Florida State's defense has a task in front of it that is simple in theory, but much tougher in execution: they have to prevent the big plays and dare the Hurricanes to move down the field methodically.

To do this, look for FSU to commit to stopping the run as best it can, not in such a fashion that sees them give up big plays over the top with play action. It seems to make sense for FSU to give up some throws underneath, as Miami is not a high completion percentage offense -- meaning that it is going to fail to complete some of the easier underneath passes not because of FSU's own doing, but because of an erratic throw or a drop, or because the freshman didn't see the open man in coverage.

When Miami does complete the passes, FSU needs to be able to tackle, especially underneath. FSU has been a solid tackling team when it's in position to make one, and the bigger issue this year has been one of not being in position or blowing a coverage and having someone wide open. Make the tackle, get back and make the freshman make a good read and a good underneath throw on the next down.