Fresh off of an emotional win over a rival, Miami football travels to Charlottesville to take on Virginia in what could turn out to be a trap game for the 16th ranked Hurricanes.
Miami rallied last week from a 20-point deficit to earn their second consecutive victory in their rivalry series with Florida State, marking the first time they’ve done that since 2002-2003. The Hurricanes have now reeled off five straight wins after a season-opening loss to LSU in Dallas, including a 2-0 mark in ACC play that has put them in the driver’s seat of the ACC Coastal division.
The second half of the season will be much tougher for the Hurricanes than the first, as four of their final six games are on the road. Tough road games remain against Boston College and Virginia Tech as well as a tilt in Atlanta against a Georgia Tech team that has begun to figure things out. It would be easy for Miami to potentially overlook Virginia on Saturday evening in what is just their second true road game of the season.
Mark Richt made the call to finally bench erratic quarterback Malik Rosier, much to the delight of ‘Canes fans. Rosier struggled to end last season, and had gotten off to a lackluster start to his 2018 campaign when Richt made the call to hand the reigns to talented redshirt freshman quarterback N’Kosi Perry.
Perry hasn’t been perfect, but he showed a lot of moxie in leading the Hurricanes back from the brink of upset against the rival Seminoles last week with four touchdown passes.
What Virginia brings to the table
As for Virginia, they enter the game at 3-2 with a 1-1 mark in ACC play. They had an extra week of preparation after a two-touchdown loss to NC State two weeks ago. The Cavaliers will certainly have last season’s matchup against the Hurricanes on their mind. They held a 28-14 in last season’s contest before surrendering 30 consecutive points in the game’s final 22 minutes to lose 44-28.
Virginia head coach Bronco Mendenhall broke through a bit last season, following up a 2-10 opening campaign with a six-win season and Virginia’s first bowl berth since 2011. He is looking to follow that up by leading the Cavaliers to a second consecutive trip to a bowl for the first time since 2004-2005.
Virginia will go as far as dual-threat quarterback Bryce Perkins can take them against a ferocious Miami defense. Perkins is a talented thrower with the ability to make big plays with his feet when everything breaks down in the pocket. He will likely need to make some big plays on the ground in order for Virginia to have a shot at springing the upset.
Carson Wentz North Dakota State Bobblehead
Can the Cavaliers start hot against Miami like last year and then hang on for a signature victory for head coach Bronco Mendenhall? Or will Miami’s dominating defense impose its will and suffocate Scott Stadium on Saturday night?
Here’s how you can watch the ACC tilt between Miami and Virginia:
Date: Saturday, Oct. 13
Time: 7:00 PM ET
Location: Charlottesville, VA
Venue: Scott Stadium
Live Stream: | FuboTV
Keys to Victory
For Virginia to pull the upset, they will have to neutralize a Miami defensive front that has overpowered opponents this season. The trick for Virginia will be staying ahead of the chains as the Hurricanes defense leads the nation in third-down conversion rate, giving up first downs just 19.8 percent of the time.
Getting into third-and-longs will lead to disaster for Virginia as Manny Diaz’s defense pins its ears back and gets after Bryce Perkins. Miami also leads the nation in tackles-for-loss, thanks to senior defensive tackle Gerald Willis III, who has been one of college football’s most dominant players in the first half of the season. Third-and-longs lead to turnover chains, and if Virginia has any hope at all of getting the win, they will need the turnover chain to stay in the box.
One thing Virginia could do to neutralize an imposing Miami front is throw quick passes, particularly with shifty senior receiver Olamide Zaccheaus, who ranks tied for 24th in the country with 501 receiving yards to go along with six touchdowns. Zaccheaus could prove to be a thorn in Miami’s side, and if Virginia is to pull the upset, it will take a big game from him.
Miami is at its best when it is forcing turnovers, allowing the turnover chain to appear, which seems to energize the entire Hurricanes sideline. In Miami’s only loss of the season, the season opener against LSU, they didn’t force a single turnover. Since then, the ‘Canes have forced 14 of them, which ranks sixth in the country. The quickest way to silence the road crowd is to force a turnover and then capitalize on it.
This will be N’Kosi Perry’s first road start, so it will be imperative that Miami is able to effectively run the ball in order to take some pressure off of his shoulders. The Hurricanes have a trio of runners prepared to shoulder the load. Junior Travis Homer is the leading man, but his understudies, sophomore DeeJay Dallas and blue-chip freshman Lorenzo Lingard, have the ability to bust some big plays on the ground.
If Miami can pound the rock and take care of the football, it will be very difficult for Virginia to do enough offensively against one of the nation’s best defenses to spring the upset in Charlottesville.
Odds courtesy of oddsshark.com
Point Spread: Miami -6.5
The oddsmakers seem to believe that Miami is due for a letdown game after last weekend’s emotional come from behind victory over Florida State. I just have trouble seeing a path to an upset for Virginia unless craziness ensues. The Virginia offense just doesn’t have the firepower to do much damage against Miami, and they will have trouble keeping the Hurricanes front out of their backfield. Miami’s offense may struggle, but their defense will carry them to victory once more.