Fresh off suffering their first loss of the season last week, the No. 11 Miami Hurricanes must rebound on Saturday against ACC nemesis Virginia Tech.
Miami was gaining steam in the rankings, but a spanking from Florida State sent supporters running away. The Hurricanes will try to save face against the Hokies, who have not fared so well either lately.
Following a Week 1 loss to Alabama, Virginia Tech embarked on a six-game winning streak before dropping its past two games. While its AP ranking quickly vanished, its chances in the ACC Coastal Division are not yet invisible.
These factors will shape Saturday night's game when these two squads meet in Florida.
When: Saturday, Nov. 9 at 12 p.m. ET
Where: Sun Life Stadium, Miami, Fla.
Miami: Run Well Without RB Duke Johnson
Adding injury to insult, Miami lost one of its most dynamic players during its loss to Florida State. Star running back Duke Johnson will miss the entire season after fracturing his ankle last week.
Johnson had registered 920 rushing yards and six touchdowns on 145 carries while breaking the 150-yard barrier three times. The sophomore was especially prolific in between the tackles, as illustrated by ESPN Stats & Info.
Quarterback Stephen Morris has proven erratic, completing 59.5 percent of his passes with 12 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. If it's all on Morris to infiltrate a defense that allows just 150.6 passing yards per game, the Hurricanes have a long day ahead of them.
Luckily, all hope is not lost in Miami's ground game. Sophomore Dallas Crawford has averaged 4.4 yards per carry with nine touchdowns and freshman Gus Edwards has averaged 6.4 yards per attempt.
Most of Edwards' damage was inflicted against Savannah State in a 77-7 rout, so Crawford figures to be the next man up in the U's backfield. Against a defense that allows 2.9 yards per carry, it won't be easy.
Virginia Tech: Maintain a Slow, Low-Scoring Tempo
Virginia Tech is at its best when winning ugly.
All but one of its wins has come by more than 10 points for a team that has engineered more than 30 points in just one game. The Hokies rely on the defense to protect their end zone, keeping the game as dull as possible.
The defense has recorded 17 interceptions to just seven passing touchdowns, so Morris is unlikely to accomplish much against a lock-down secondary. On the other side, quarterback Logan Thomas does not have to be a hero for Virginia Tech.
If he can just avoid the costly mistakes while the offense keeps pounding the ball away, the Hokies could generate enough points to win a snorer. If the defense can turn a takeaway into some points, even better.
In a battle of offensive explosion, Miami will win with ease, even without Johnson. That's why Virginia Tech must control time of possession and keep Miami's offensive weapons off the field.
Prediction: Miami 23, Virginia Tech 17
In the end, Virginia Tech just doesn't have enough offensive firepower to keep up. The Hokies will need a big defensive play to shift the tides, otherwise they won't be able to locate enough points. The Hurricanes will ride a patch-work rushing attack and a big play here and there to a narrow victory, as long as Morris avoids making any huge mistakes.