Coming off a convincing loss to the No. 8 Clemson Tigers, the No. 21 Virginia Tech Hokies will look to bounce back and remain in the thick of the ACC race against the 2-2 Miami Hurricanes.
Prior to last week's loss to Clemson, the 4-1 Hokies were ranked No. 11 in the nation and looked like the clear team to beat after Florida State's recent struggles. The Hokies were exposed by the Tigers, though, and are in a difficult position currently.
The Hurricanes got off to a tough start by losing to the Maryland Terrapins to open the season, but they defeated then-No. 17 Ohio State and seemed to be back on track with many of their suspended players returning to the lineup. That momentum was curtailed, however, by a loss to No. 20 Kansas State.
With both teams sitting at 0-1 in the ACC Coastal Division, this could be a big swing game in determining which team will challenge No. 13 Georgia Tech for the right to take on Clemson (presumably) in the ACC Championship.
Where: Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Va.
When: Saturday, Oct. 8 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Listen: WBRW 105.3 FM (Virginia Tech) and WQAM 560 AM (Miami)
Betting Line: Virginia Tech (-7.5)
Who Might Not Play for Miami (FL): DL Olivier Vernon
Defensive lineman Olivier Vernon was one of many Miami Hurricane players to be suspended prior to the season for receiving improper benefits. Vernon was the most severely punished player as he was suspended for six games and will not be eligible to return until Oct. 22 against Georgia Tech.
Vernon was a key player for the Hurricanes last season as a sophomore. He started 11 games, totaled 10.5 tackles for loss and was second on the team with six sacks. It is obvious that his presence has been missed to this point.
Who Might Not Play for Virginia Tech: WR Dyrell Roberts
The Hokies don't have many significant injuries to speak of, but senior wide receiver Dyrell Roberts will miss the remainder of the season due to a broken arm. While Roberts was never a top target in the passing game, his absence certainly thins out the receiving depth.
Roberts entered the 2011 season coming off two consecutive 300-plus-yard seasons, but his main contributions came on special teams as a kick returner. Roberts is a very nice utility player and losing him to injury was certainly a blow to Virginia Tech.
Key Storyline: Will Virginia Tech Bounce Back after Loss to Clemson?
Having been in control of the ACC for the past few seasons, the Hokies were expected to assert their dominance over the upstart Clemson Tigers last week. They were stymied by the Clemson defense, however, and dropped a 23-3 decision.
The Hokies have bounced back from early season losses before, most notably last season when they lost the season's first two games to Boise State and James Madison. Virginia Tech will have to be resilient again as Clemson and Georgia Tech look destined to meet for the ACC title.
If Virginia Tech loses even one more time this season, then it could mean curtains for their BCS bowl aspirations.
BCS/Top 25 Poll Implications
With two losses to their credit, and one of them to a less-than-impressive Maryland squad, the Hurricanes are unlikely to enter the Top 25 with a win, although it would move them in the right direction. A loss, however, would severely damage their chances of ever cracking the polls this season.
Virginia Tech, on the other hand, would almost certainly drop out of the Top 25 with a loss. A win probably wouldn't improve their standing significantly, but it might move them up a couple spots and it would also keep them in the ACC title picture.
What They're Saying
After being suspended for the season's first four games for receiving improper benefits, Hurricanes safety Ray-Ray Armstrong will make his season debut against Virginia Tech on Saturday, according to Susan Miller Degnan of the Miami Herald.
UM coach Al Golden assured reporters Tuesday he has little time for things like “national acclaim.” But he clearly knows the importance of getting back the 6-4, 215-pound junior, who was suspended for receiving approximately $788 in benefits he allegedly received from former UM booster Nevin Shapiro during a 2008 recruiting trip.
“We’ve got to make sure we get him in the game,” Golden said. “I don’t think he’s ready to go 65 or 70 [plays]. But we’d like to try to get him in 30, then special teams on top of that, and go from there.”
Miami (FL) Player To Watch: RB Lamar Miller
Through four games, sophomore running back Lamar Miller has nearly matched his entire rushing total from last season with 511 yards. Miller has ran for more than 100 yards in each game this season and has scored in three of those games.
Miller was at his best in Miami's biggest win of the season over Ohio State. In that game Miller gained 184 yards on 26 carries for a 7.1-yards-per-carry average. With quarterback Jacory Harris' inconsistent play, it will be of paramount importance for Miller to have a solid game on Saturday.
Virginia Tech Player to Watch: RB David Wilson
Due to the departure of quarterback Tyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech's passing game is still a work in progress. Logan Thomas has shown some promise at the position, but his inexperience has prompted the Hokies to orchestrate a very run-oriented offense.
The key cog in said offense has been junior running back David Wilson. Wilson has 639 yards rushing over the season's first five games as well as five touchdowns. Like Miami, Virginia Tech relies on running the ball offensively and playing sound defense, so Wilson will be vital.
Key Matchup: QB Jacory Harris vs. Virginia Tech Secondary
In a game between two teams with solid running games and strong defenses, the outcome will likely be decided by who wins the turnover differential. Miami quarterback Jacory Harris is extremely interception-prone as evidenced by his 32 interceptions combined in 2009 and 2010.
Harris has been a bit more conscious of his decision-making so far this year with a 6:3 touchdowns-to-interceptions ratio, but the Hokies have one of the better pass defenses in the nation and have picked off opposing quarterbacks eight times this season. If Harris plays with reckless abandon as usual, then the Hokies will make him pay.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 24, Miami (FL) 14