Two ranked teams -- No. 18 Miami, No. 21 Oklahoma State -- meet in Cheez-It Bowl
Perhaps the Miami Hurricanes have caught a break.
Or maybe not.
The 18th-ranked Hurricanes (8-2) will play the No. 21 Oklahoma State Cowboys (7-3) in the Cheez-It Bowl on Dec. 29 in Orlando, Fla.
Oklahoma State is 2-2 against ranked teams this season and Miami is 1-2. The Hurricanes are coming off an embarrassing 62-26 home loss to the North Carolina Tar Heels, who had 554 yards rushing and 778 yards in total offense.
"Our kids have a bad taste in our mouths after that game," Hurricanes coach Manny Diaz said.
The break that Miami might have caught is that Cowboys star running back Chuba Hubbard earlier this month opted to skip the rest of the season to prepare for the NFL draft.
Hubbard was a unanimous All-America selection last season, when he rushed for 2,094 yards, a 6.4-yard average and 21 touchdowns.
This year, Hubbard managed just 625 yards, a 4.7 average and five TDs. He hasn't played since Nov. 21 due to an ankle injury, and his backups have done very well.
Meanwhile, Miami has been weakened on defense as both of their star defensive ends -- Jaelan Phillips and Quincy Roche -- are skipping the bowl game to prepare for the draft. Phillips and Roche combined this season for 30 tackles for losses, 12.5 sacks, four passes defensed, three fumble recoveries and one interception.
Redshirt freshmen Jahfari Harvey and Cam Williams are Miami's new starting defensive ends, and they combined for 3.5 tackles for losses this season, albeit in few snaps.
The Cowboys, who have alternated a loss with a win for their past six games, are coming off an impressive 42-3 victory over Baylor on Dec. 12.
With Hubbard out, the Cowboys have had a 100-yard rusher in each of their past three games. The streak started when Dezmon Jackson rushed for 235 yards (6.5 average) and three touchdowns in a 50-44 win over Texas Tech.
"All week, I was running so hard to get myself in shape because this was my first start," Jackson said after that game. "Practice translates to the field, and I wasn't really tired in the game."
Jackson then had 118 yards (4.1 average) in a 29-22 loss to Texas Christian.
Against Baylor, Dominic Richardson ran for 169 yards (7.3 average) and three touchdowns.
Oklahoma State's passing game, led by Spencer Sanders, also is dangerous. Sanders, a second-year starter, has passed for 26 touchdowns and 3,767 yards in the past two years. But he also has been intercepted 19 times in 19 games.
Cowboys wide receiver Tylan Wallace, a third-year starter, has 53 catches for 877 yards and six TDs. But when he went down with a leg injury against Baylor, OSU's Dillon Stoner had a huge game, grabbing eight passes for 247 yards and three scores.
Oklahoma State's ability to find new stars on the fly has to concern a shaken Hurricanes defense, especially without their star linemen. Miami starting cornerback Al Blades also is out, due to myocarditis, a heart condition.
Offensively, Miami is led by D'Eriq King, who has passed for 2,573 yards, 22 TDs and just five interceptions this year. He has also rushed for 520 yards and four touchdowns.
Wide receiver Mike Harley (49 catches, 730 yards, six TDs) is King's biggest playmaker.
Tight ends Brevin Jordan and Will Mallory -- both NFL prospects -- have combined this season for 48 catches, 742 yards and nine touchdowns.
--Field Level Media