PREVIEW: Miami and West Virginia face-off in Russell Athletic Bowl

The Miami Hurricanes and the West Virginia Mountaineers are set to face off against one another at the Russell Athletic Bowl.

Each program has had their up and downs over the years but they look to put that behind them as each team is looking to win the title tomorrow night.

Starting with the Hurricanes, they got off to a strong start to the season by winning the first four games. The next four however, not so much as they went on a losing streak against teams like Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, and Florida State.

The Hurricanes however did finish the season on a four game winning streak and even find themselves the favorites to beat West Virginia.

In order for the Hurricanes to do that, their offense needs to be spot on as West Virginia’s offense is one of the best in the country. Miami’s offense has been good at times and not that good at times as well. Coach Richt talked about his overall assessment of the offense this year.

“Oh, gosh, you always watch film and see what could have been. I think, when you are a coach, you are probably more critical than anybody,” says Coach Richt. “So were we perfect, by any means? No. But, I think as the season went on, I did a better job of really understanding our personnel and the things that they could do and tried to get the playmakers in position to make plays. Overall, it was solid, not spectacular, in my opinion. I think the best is yet to come, but it was a good start. It is a good start.”

Another thing in the back of the Hurricanes’ minds is their bowl game drought. They have not won a bowl game in 10 years and that’s starting to linger in everyone’s minds. Coach Richt has other thoughts in his mind.

“The only thing I tell them is everything we do. We had 11 practices, so I told them every single practice, the main goal and function of the practice is to help prepare us to win the bowl game.” Richt says. “I just tell them that the goal is to, when you are working, work hard. And everything we are doing is designed to get you prepared to have a chance to win this ball game and that’s the main thing for me.”

The Hurricanes have no easy task as they are facing a West Virginia team that went 10-2 on the season and are currently ranked 16th in the nation. But after all of their success, the Mountaineers are still 2.5 point underdogs.

“I think something like that brings you closer together,” says West Virginia Coach Holgorsen talking about his team being underdogs. “It gives you motivation to be able to play. Heck, we are not supposed to win this game either, so it will probably motivate us a little bit as well.”

With West Virginia’s high-octane offense being a force and Miami’s offense at times being just as good, it begs the question about high scoring bowl games. Coach Hologorson had this to say about this particular topic.

“I guess when you have more time to prepare. You get creative. We have been working on a lot of wishbone stuff. You get some more time to be able to come up with some new ideas, some new plays. I guess that’s all I can pinpoint.” Hologorson says. “Miami is so good on defense. I don’t know if we will get a first down, let alone score a bunch of points. I guess with more time to prepare you come up with some different things, some creative things. Hopefully, that holds true and we will be able to score a few points.”

West Virginia also has a chance to do something rare in their team’s history as they have a chance to 11 games, something that hasn’t been done very often.

“You know, all wins are important. There is no question that we have been fortunate to win ten of them this year.” Hologorson mentions. “One thing that has been talked about a lot is, there has only been five teams in the last 125 years of West Virginia football to win 11 [games]. That is rare. We have our eyes set on that and that would be special.

“I think, if you go back and look at last year, winning the bowl game last year – that propelled us into a good place going into the year back 12 months ago. “So, you can use it, not only what are you going to be remembered for, but you can also use it, as the boost going into the next year, as well. So, it is very important.”

It should be very interesting to see what is going to happen when these two teams go at each other at the Russell Athletic Bowl.

They will face off tomorrow night at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida. The game will start at 5:30 p.m. EST. The game airs on ESPN.