No. 9 Miami-No. 11 Virginia Tech: Tough ACC Test Brewing In Blacksburg
Somehow after defeating wildly inconsistent Florida State and thumping one-dimensional Georgia Tech, Miami is "back."
The "swagger" has returned, and "Da U" is back on top of the college football world.
At least that’s what the media would have us believe.
Pat Forde claims Miami is No. 1, Kirk Herbstreit put Miami at No. 5, and with all the media love, the Hurricanes leapt 11 spots in the AP poll to No. 9.
Now give credit where credit’s due. Randy Shannon has done a fine job revamping the Miami program. After their post-probation mini-resurgence in the first half of the 2000s, the ’Canes fell off under Larry Coker. Without the firm hand of Butch Davis, the team went off course, and Shannon has done well to bring back the discipline.
That said, one has to wonder aloud if Miami is really "back."
Jacory Harris is an impressive quarterback, to say the least. Through two games, Harris has completed 41 of 59 passes for 656 yards and five touchdowns. That’s a staggering 69.5 completion percentage.
Perhaps less known is how good his offensive line has been. This season Harris has been sacked just one time and hasn’t been pressured any other times.
The key matchup come Saturday in Blacksburg will be Miami’s offensive line versus Virginia Tech’s defensive front.
The Hokies haven’t been getting the sack production that they would like, but they have been pressuring the quarterback.
Tech hit Nebraska quarterback Zac Lee 10 times in a 16-15 victory Saturday, and the Cornhuskers were called for holding numerous times because of the pressure up front.
The Hokies have to force Harris to scramble and react to pressure. Lee handled it admirably early for the Huskers but was battered all game into completing just 11 of 31 passes for 131 yards and two interceptions.
If the defensive front gets pressure ,they can force throws into a secondary that will finally be at full strength. Cornerback Stephan Virgil returns after missing Tech’s last two games since tweaking a knee in the opener against Alabama.
That will be a big help because Miami’s receivers are young but talented.
Sophomores LaRon Byrd and Travis Benjamin have both shown flashes of brilliance, with Benjamin going for over 100 yards in the opener with a touchdown and Byrd adding 83 yards and a touchdown against Georgia Tech. There’s plenty of big play ability there.
Tech has been unable to stop the run this season, currently ranking a surprising 107th nationally in rushing defense.
Expect Miami to utilize their talented running back tandem of Javarris James and Graig Cooper quite a bit on the ground. Both are used extensively in the passing game as well, but ‘Canes offensive coordinator Mark Whipple will test the Hokie run defense early.
Offensively for the Techmen, Tyrod Taylor will have to build on his last minute heroics in the win over Nebraska.
Taylor has looked uncomfortable this season and has shown a reticence to scramble for yardage, instead sitting in the pocket and looking for receivers.
Both his 80-yard completion to Danny Coale and the eventual 11-yard winning touchdown pass saw Taylor buy time with his feet and make good throws. He’ll need more of that to avoid Miami’s talented line, anchored by standout defensive end Eric Moncur.
Tech’s come-from-behind win over Nebraska was probably the ugliest victory I can recall seeing. Despite that, sometimes a win like that can galvanize a team and give players like Taylor who performed when it mattered important confidence.
One thing is certain: These two teams do not like each other. I’ve seen Miami and Virginia Tech play in person six times, both in Blacksburg and at the old Orange Bowl.
What you will see Saturday is a hard-hitting brawl for 60 minutes. The team that weathers the storm best will come out victorious. If you don’t like watching people get hit in the mouth, this probably isn’t the game for you.
This one really could go either way, but in close games, home field advantage and special teams can often make the difference. Both those categories slant towards the Hokies.
Virginia Tech 31
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