Inside Knights: Last season UCF traveled to Miami and the two teams participated in a close game. The Canes won 20-14 in what was a defensive struggle. Both teams are drastically improved this season but do you see this game being a defensive struggle? Do you see this being a competitive game?
Mike Bakas: No. This is a much different Miami team than the one UCF saw last season. That team had trouble scoring points against anyone. This offense, led by new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple, is a lot different and they're moving the ball and scoring on pretty much everyone. Jacory Harris is having a good year and really spreading the ball around well and I don't think UCF has the defense to keep up in points.
IK: Miami might have overlooked its opponent last week as the Canes fell behind FAMU early last week before they put up 31 unanswered points in the first half. Will Miami overlook a 3-2 UCF squad or should the Knights expect a highly-motivated Miami team?
MB: They'll be ready. I'm not sure UM overlooked FAMU, considering they were up by four touchdowns by the time the starters went out at halftime. They understand it's a one-game season and the coaches have done a good job instilling that mentality in this group.
IK: With an excellent start to the season, Miami fans seem to be buying into the fact that their team is back. With that “The U” swagger starting to pick up, are Miami fans revitalized? What kind of turnout can UCF fans expect from their UM counterparts at Bright House Networks Stadium?
MB: Yes. Winning cures everything and being in the top 10 has the Miami fan base pretty excited. They've never traveled particularly well compared to other major programs, but Orlando is just a few hours away so they should bring a decent amount, more than UCF's other opponents.
IK: Speaking of Bright House Networks Stadium, will the Hurricanes struggle at all with a vibrant UCF crowd? The Canes have struggled a little on the road (they barely hung on at Doak Campbell Stadium and they were crushed at Virginia Tech) and BHNS has earned a reputation for having a surprisingly intimidating crowd.
MB: Maybe, but I don't think playing at UCF will be quite the same as playing in front of 90,000 at FSU or playing in a driving rain storm at Virginia Tech, a place most teams can't win at.
IK: Let’s talk personnel. For the first time in years, Miami has stability at quarterback. Is it fair to say Jacory Harris is the main reason why the Hurricanes are the best they’ve been in years or are there other factors at play?
MB: Yes, and offensive coordinator Mark Whipple. He's a former pro who really understands how to move the ball, create mismatches, get the ball into the hands of his playmakers, and score points. As good as Jacory's been, Coach Whip has been the biggest reason for Miami's offensive turnaround.
IK: Harris has actually thrown five picks and five touchdowns in his past three games. Why do you think the sophomore has struggled recently?
MB: No, even though he's not playing quite as well as he did the first two weeks. His job is to score points and win games and he's been doing a good job of that. He's had a few potential touchdowns dropped, things like that.
IK: The Canes have taken a by-committee approach in the backfield with Javarris James and Graig Cooper accumulating roughly 500 combined yards on the ground this season. Damien Berry has been an explosive change of pace player and together the trio has been impressive. What are the strengths’ of each runner?
MB: James is the tough inside runner who runs downhill. He's the starter, the main guy. Coop is the speedy guy who can bounce it outside and make big things happen with his speed. The number three guy is actually Lee Chambers but he should only touch it two or three times in this one. James and Coop, barring injuries, will get the bulk of the carries.
IK: While the Canes have some talented backs, their receivers have been equally impressive. The Knights have a young secondary, what does UCF have to do to slow down explosive players like Travis Benjamin and Leonard Hankerson?
MB: Play with depth. It's not just one or two Miami receivers making plays -- it's a bunch. They're a deep group and they all can play well at times. Pressuring Jacory, something Va Tech did, is probably the best way to slow those receivers down.
IK: The size on both sides of the line at Miami is scary. Last year they had a big offensive line and this year the group seems even more impressive. How has this offensive line unit carried itself differently than last year’s? What about the front four, guys like Marcus Robinson and Allen Bailey have been very productive and should UCF fans expect them dominate up front?
MB: The O-Line is better for a few reasons. One, they're all a year older. All these guys played last season. Three of those guys are seniors who have played a lot of football. The other reason they look better is because of the playcalling. Coach Whip has done a tremendous job, as I mentioned, getting everyone to perform better in that offense and that includes the O-Line. The job they did against Oklahoma, especially, was outstanding. The D-Line is hot and cold. They're talented enough. They just need to create more pressure, be more consistent in the running game, things like that.
IK: What other players should the Knights look out for on defense? Colin McCarthy and Brandon Harris both come to mind as guys to avoid.
MB: Brandon Harris is emerging as a playmaker at corner like most expected him to be when he was a five-star recruit coming out two years ago. Colin McCarthy has been active and Sean Spence is an excellent football player on the outside as well. If Randy Phillips is unable to go again, look for former Orlando area four-star Ray Ray Armstrong to get his third straight start as a true freshman at safety.
IK: Alright, bonus question time. At the end of the day, do you think UCF has a chance to beat the Canes or will Knights’ fans leave the game frustrated?
MB: This Miami team has a chance to be pretty good but they've been real inconsistent so far this season. If they show up motivated and ready to go, it could be a long day for UCF. However, the Knights will have the home crowd, playing the underdog role, and things like that going for them to try to keep it close.