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Miami Preview and Prediction

The Syracuse game was a big bump in the road for the Hokies. No one would’ve expected that to be the next game the Hokies lost. A notable blemish of the Beamer era was that the Hokies dropped games that no one expected them to. It appears in year 1 of the Fuente era that still remains a problem for the Virginia Tech program.

The biggest concern for me from the Syracuse game is that one loss can turn into three losses. The Miami game is only five days after the Syracuse game with only three days of practice. That is not much time for the team to put the Syracuse game behind them. My hope is that one loss does not turn into another loss to Miami which could hurt the team’s confidence. After two consecutive losses, who would feel confident going to play Pitt at Heinz Field?

Another thing that concerns me is that Tech’s losses have come in twos in recent years.

2015
at East Carolina (9/26/2015)
Pitt (10/3/2015)

at Miami (10/17/2015)
Duke (10/24/2015)

2014
East Carolina (9/13/2014)
Georgia Tech (9/20/2014)

at Pitt (10/16/2014)
Miami (10/23/2014)

2013
Duke (10/26/2013)
at Boston College  (11/2/2013)

This suggest a group of players that don’t bounce back well from losses. Which gives me concern given the short week and a tough-to-swallow loss on Saturday. Let’s hope that this staff can get the team to focus on the next game in a short period of time. They did a great job of regrouping after the Tennessee game. The Hokies went out a blew out Boston College the next Saturday.

Now let’s talk about Miami. These look like two very evenly matched teams.

Virginia Tech

Overall S&P+ ranking: 16th
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 79th
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 6th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 39th

Miami

Overall S&P+ ranking: 17th
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 38th
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 12th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 38th

The key to stopping the Miami offense is to limit the running game. If Miami has to go one-dimensional with the passing game then Brad Kaaya’s passing statistics drop. The key to slowing down the Miami offense will be limiting their talented running backs, Mark Walton and Joe Yearby. If the Hokies can do this, they should be able to slow down Miami’s offensive attack.

If the Hokies want to have success against the Miami defense, they will need to use misdirection. Miami starts three true freshmen linebackers. If the Hokies want to have success on offense, they will need to use misdirection to confuse them. That means more read option than we saw against Syracuse.

Both teams are suffering significant injuries. Both teams are coming off losses. Both teams are trying to get back in the Coastal division race. This should be a very close game. In a game like this I tend to give a slight advantage to the home team. It’s a big deal to have to travel when you have five days between games.

The Hokies lost to Tennessee then rebounded quickly to beat Boston College. This coaching staff has shown they can turn things around quickly after losses. Expect the Hokies to put together a better performance than they did against Syracuse. Should be a close game but I expect the Hokies to win.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 24, Miami 21

Miami Preview and Prediction

Who knows with either of these two teams? It’s been a long time since anyone could figure out what was going on with either of these two programs besides the fact that both have been treading water. A win on Saturday would be big towards staying in the Coastal race for both teams. The winner of this game becomes a legitimate contender in the Coastal division.

The Hokies are catching the Canes at a good time. Recent history tells us that the Canes lose a little bit of their edge after losing to FSU. It’s been like that for about the last five years. We’ll see if a beat up Miami team still has the focus and energy to show up on Saturday.

A couple of keys for the Hokies will be stopping Miami’s advanced passing game. Brad Kaaya is a very good passer having thrown for almost 1,500 yards with eight touchdowns and only one interception. VT’s young secondary will have to be up to the task of covering Miami’s group of talented and experienced wide receivers. They have the type of speed that should pose a major challenge to the Hokies inexperienced secondary.

Last year, the Canes steamrolled the Hokies on the ground. The just lined up and ran it down our throats. That’s less likely to happen this year since the Canes are starting a very young offensive line along with two running backs who while talented, are not Duke Johnson. This is a game where the Hokies can’t afford to get bad play from their linebackers. They need to be able to stop the run and make Miami have to beat the Hokies through the air.

This is not your father’s Miami defense. This is a game where the Hokies offense should be able to move the ball both on the ground and through the air. Regardless of who is playing quarterback for the Hokies, they need to look to establish the run to set up the pass. In each of their victories this season, the Hokies have been able to run the ball effectively to help out their passing attack. Let’s hope we see more carries for Travon McMillian this week. The Hokies simply need to pick a running back and stick with him like they did in the NC State game.

On paper, this game looks very even. Most Virginia Tech-Miami games are. One team is going to take a big step forward this week toward remaining in the Coastal race. The team that loses this game runs the risk of letting the division race slip away from them. I’m hoping the Hokies gained confidence from that win against NC State but I’m still worried that the speed of Miami’s wide receivers combined with inconsistent play from the VT linebackers will lead to a long day down in South Florida. Just like last week, prove me wrong, Hokies.

Prediction: Miami 34, Virginia Tech 20

Miami Q&A with StateOfTheU.com

You can follow Jerry Steinberg @TheStateOfTheU on Twitter or visit his website at StateOfTheU.com.

What are your thoughts on your team so far?

In all honestly I am disappointed. The defense, while statistically improved, failed miserably in Miami’s losses to Georgia Tech and Nebraska. The offense has been explosive, and freshman QB Brad Kaaya has been all that was advertised and more, but third down struggles have also cost the ‘Canes in their three losses.  More than anything I am upset that some of the same failures of recent seasons (consistency on both sides of the ball, ability to stop the run) have shown up again this year.

What are your expectations going into the VT game?

I expect Miami’s offense to move the ball against the injuries riddled Hokies D.  Duke Johnson is tough to stop for anyone. Kaaya looks better each time out.  But I also expect the Hokies O to get “healthy” against UM’s D.  Miami has yet to show the ability to stop the opposition in this type games during the Golden/D’Onofrio era.  Until it happens, in a big game against a good team, a solid/game-winning type defensive performance is not to be expected. Even in the biggest win n recent years (Last season Vs UF) it was more about forcing turnovers than making consistent plays.  Look for a high scoring game.

At this point, how do you see the Coastal division shaking out? Which team do you think will end up winning the division?

As much as Miami’s issues frustrate me, I realize that each and every team in the division has problems.  Someone is going to win, and I think 5-3 gets it done.  I’d like to say Miami, but my guess is it ends up being Duke again.

What is your prediction for the game?

Miami makes a bunch of big plays on offense, but gives up a few as well, and loses the special teams battle. However a key late turnover saves their season in a 31-27 win.