Russell Athletic Bowl Prediction, Miami vs. West Virginia Game Preview, History, Scores
Three reasons why you should watch the Russell Athletic Bowl between Miami (8-4) and West Virginia (10-2), why each team might win, honest thoughts, line and prediction.
Date: Wednesday, December 28th
Game Time: 5:30 pm
Venue: Camping World Stadium, Orlando, FL
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Scroll down for the video preview and bowl history
The Bowl Matchup Ranking Of Awesomeness (1 best-40 worst): 11 out of 40
Three Reasons Why You Should Watch The Russell Athletic Bowl
– Miami apparently feels slighted. There’s a chip on the team’s shoulder after being all but ignored in the post-season honors world. The defensive front was among the best in the ACC at getting into the backfield, and the offense was among the most efficient in the league, but despite the production, and even with the four-game winning streak to close out the year, there wasn’t a whole lot of recognition. Expect a salty Hurricane team.
– The Big 12 needs this game. The Big 12 needs a big bowl season to crank up the reputation after a rocky regular season, but it particularly could use a victory here. West Virginia was the third-best team in the conference – losing to both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State – and put together a strong season, but to lose to an okay Miami team would be a major disappointment. 11-2 would be terrific, even if it didn’t end with a Big 12 title.
– Can Miami change its bowl life with Mark Richt the head man? There might be things to dog Richt for during his time at Georgia, but he was terrific in bowl games, going 9-5 – 10-5 if you give him any credit for last year’s team winning the TaxSlayer – including a run of seven victories in eight seasons. The fight will be there from Miami after losing six straight bowl games and seven of its last eight. The last bowl win for the program? The 2006 MPC Computers Bowl over Nevada.
Here’s Why Miami Will Win The Russell Athletic Bowl
– Yeah, about that defensive pressure … Here it comes from the Miami defensive front. The production behind the line slowed down a wee bit after a big start, but it was still disruptive enough to be a problem. The West Virginia offensive line has been good on the whole, but it allowed a few too many plays in the backfield. Miami’s defense allowed just 355 yards per game for a reason.
– Brad Kaaya time. Lamar Jackson won the Heisman, Deshaun Watson has his team in the College Football Playoff, and Mitch Trubisky might be the first quarterback taken in the 2017 NFL Draft. Kaaya was everyone’s darling in the NFL scouting world before the season, but that’s faded over the course of an okay season – and with the rise of Trubisky and DeShone Kizer. But he pulled off a stronger year than he’s given credit for, doing a great job of not making the big mistakes to go along with 3,250 yards and 23 touchdowns with just seven picks – three in the last nine games. Last year he struggled in the bowl loss to Washington State, and couldn’t pull it out in the Independence loss to South Carolina two seasons ago. Can he close out his career – assuming he leaves early – with a splash? Big bowl performances always seem to provide a spark in NFL circles.
– It might not be thrilling, but … the Canes should own the punting game. Braxton Berrios averaged close to 13 yards per punt return, and Justin Vogel had a great year averaging over 44 yards per boot. West Virginia punter Billy Kinney has been fine, but there’s nothing coming from Gary Jennings and the return game, averaging just under two yards per pop.
Here’s Why West Virginia Will Win The Russell Athletic Bowl
– 532 yards, five touchdowns. That’s what Skyler Howard threw for in last year’s Cactus Bowl win over Arizona State. He’s not doing that against the Miami defense, but the senior is a solid, heady veteran who knows how to produce in bowl games. Add in the 2014 Liberty Bowl loss to Texas A&M, and Howard has thrown for 878 yards and eight scores in his two bowl games. Miami’s secondary – even with the help from the pass rush – gets lit up way too easily.
– Miami RB Mark Walton had a strong year, but … the Hurricane running game has been just okay. It rolled early, but it only hit the 200-yard mark once over the last ten games of the season and was way too inconsistent – it couldn’t generate enough of a push. West Virginia’s run defense struggled over the final three games – and got rolled by Oklahoma – but the time off should do the front seven good. Miami won’t control the game on the ground.
– Miami shoots itself in the foot way too often with … penalties. West Virginia isn’t a rock when it comes to getting flagged, but the Canes get hammered with negative yards way too often. They’ve been penalized eight times or more six times this season and lost the two times they were flagged ten times. They’re just not good enough to get killed in this game by bad plays.
You’ve Read This Far, So You Get Three Honest Thoughts On The Russell Athletic Bowl
– If West Virginia wins the turnover battle, it’ll win. It was a -2 in turnover margin against Missouri, and lost the battle against Kansas State and Texas, but all three were wins. Oklahoma State and Oklahoma were better than the Mountaineers, and it didn’t help that those were the two games this season when they were -3 in turnover margin. Miami is terrific in the turnover battle going a +6 over the final three games.
– America is overdue for a good Russell Athletic Bowl. In theory, this has been a great bowl matchup over the last three seasons, but instead it’s been among the ugliest of the respective seasons. This was the bowl last year that Baylor ripped off a gajillion rushing yards – 645 yards and seven scores, actually – in the win over North Carolina, and it was the one two years ago that Oklahoma didn’t show up for, getting pantsed in a 40-6 loss to Clemson. The bowl before that? Louisville destroyed Miami.
– If you’re looking to measure improvement … Miami went 8-5 last year. Lose, and this is a tread water first season under Richt. Win, and it’s the second nine-win season since 2009. If West Virginia wins, it’s the first 11-win campaign since Rich Rodriguez led the way to a huge season – marked mostly by the loss to Pitt that cost the program a shot at the national title before all the Michigan drama kicked in.
Super. So Who’s Going To Win The Russell Athletic Bowl?
Which teams will show up? Will this be the Miami that turned it on in November and dominated on both sides of the ball, or will the time off cool everything down?
Will West Virginia bring the defense that was so good against everyone but BYU, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State?
Here’s the issue for the Mountaineers – they sputtered too much against anyone who was any good.
The one aberration was the thumping of TCU, but they struggled against Texas, struggled against Baylor, struggled against Kansas State, and rolled at will against the weak and the sad.
Miami might have lost to Notre Dame, but it destroyed a terrific Pitt team to spark that great late run.
Richt will have the Hurricanes fired up from the start with a big defensive performance to set the tone for what’ll be a big offseason of expectations.
Miami 30, West Virginia 24
Miami -3, o/u: 57
ATS Confidence: 1.5
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Russell Athletic Bowl History, Results
Dec. 29, 2015 Baylor 49 North Carolina 38
Dec. 29, 2014 Clemson 40 Oklahoma 6
Dec. 28, 2013 Louisville 36 Miami 9
Dec. 28, 2012 Virginia Tech 13 Rutgers 10 (OT)
Dec. 29, 2011 Florida State 18 Notre Dame 14
Dec. 28, 2010 N.C. State 23 West Virginia 7
Dec. 29, 2009 Wisconsin 20 Miami 14
Dec. 27, 2008 Florida State 42 Wisconsin 13
Dec. 28, 2007 Boston College 24 Michigan State 21
Dec. 29, 2006 Maryland 24 Purdue 7
Dec. 27, 2005 Clemson 19 Colorado 10
Dec. 21, 2004 Georgia Tech 51 Syracuse 14
Dec. 22, 2003 N.C. State 56 Kansas 26
Dec. 23, 2002 Texas Tech 55 Clemson 15
Dec. 20, 2001 Pittsburgh 34 N.C. State 19
Dec. 28, 2000 N.C. State 38 Minnesota 30
Dec. 30, 1999 Illinois 63 Virginia 21
Dec. 29, 1998 Miami 46 N.C. State 23
Dec. 29, 1997 Georgia Tech 35 West Virginia 30
Dec. 27, 1996 Miami 31 Virginia 21
Dec. 30, 1995 North Carolina 20 Arkansas 10
Jan. 2, 1995 South Carolina 24 West Virginia 21
Jan. 1, 1994 Boston College 31 Virginia 13
Jan. 1, 1993 Stanford 28 Penn State 3
Dec. 28, 1991 Alabama 30 Colorado 25
Dec. 28, 1990 Florida State 24 Penn State 17