For the first time in a month we get a game outside of the Pac-12 Conference on the Thursday night ESPN national telecast, as unranked ACC Coastal Division foes Virginia and Miami (Fla.) square off in South Florida.
While the Hurricanes still aren’t close to what they were at the start of this century, it does appear that the program finally has some positive momentum under first-year Coach Al Golden.
While UM is only 4-3 overall and 2-2 in the ACC, they could easily be unbeaten: All three losses came in the final minute or two of games. And Miami was missing key suspended players for two of those games.
On Saturday the Canes had easily their best performance of the season thus far, beating then-No. 22 Georgia Tech, 24-7. Miami entered as the 94th-ranked rushing defense in the country. But the Jackets, No. 2 in the nation in rushing, had 122 yards on 41 carries for a 2.8-yard average. It was their second-lowest rushing total in more than three seasons.
Overall the Jackets were held to more than 300 yards and nearly 36 points below their season averages entering the game. Miami, a game behind first-place Virginia Tech (who beat the Canes a few weeks ago in the final seconds), still has a shot at the Coastal Division title with a little help.
Virginia (4-3, 1-2) appears to be making progress under second-year Coach Mike London, as the Cavs look for their first bowl trip since 2007. For comparison’s sake, Virginia also beat that same ranked Georgia Tech team, 24-21, the week before Miami did.
But last week the Cavs stumbled against N.C. State, falling at home, 28-14. Four turnovers and only 125 yards passing doomed Virginia.
Virginia at Miami (Fla.) Betting Storylines
Expect a different look at quarterback this week and going forward for Virginia. The Cavaliers have employed a two-quarterback rotation this season with Michael Rocco and David Watford. Both were lousy against the Wolfpack, with Watford going 4-for-16 for 89 yards with three interceptions and Rocco 7-for-19 for 36 yards.
Early this week, London essentially said the job is now the more experienced Rocco’s, and that Watford’s snaps would be severely cut back because the freshman might be a bit overwhelmed. Thus, Virginia will not implement a pre-scripted quarterback rotation, but will instead start Rocco, a sophomore who is second in the ACC with eight picks, and utilize Watford only in limited doses.
Look for the Cavs to emphasize the run more as they have the No. 3 rushing offense (183.1 yards per game) in the ACC and have a deep stable of running back. Even with that great effort vs. Georgia Tech, Miami has the second-worst run defense (179.4 yards per game allowed) in the ACC.
As for the Canes, their offense usually goes how QB Jacory Harris goes.
He had been a maddening turnover machine entering this season, but he actually had played extremely well until last week, when he finished 8-for-23 passing for 140 yards, no touchdowns and an interception. Still, that’s only interception he has thrown in his last four games (he entered the season with 50 career touchdowns and 39 picks), and that came when a ball bounced off his receiver's hands.
UM is still a running team first behind Lamar Miller, who is second in the ACC in rushing.
There is one key injury of note for UM heading into this one: starting right tackle Jon Feliciano was injured celebrating a Miller touchdown last week and is likely out. Either redshirt freshman Malcolm Bunche or former top recruit Seantrel Henderson, a sophomore, will start there.
UM also gets back defensive tackle Micanor Regis after missing the Georgia Tech game due to suspension. But he may have lost his starting job to Darius Smith, who played very well against the Jackets.
These two teams have split the past six meetings. Last year at home, UVa beat Miami, 24-19, in a game in which Harris was knocked out with a separated shoulder. In reality, that loss was the beginning of the end of Randy Shannon’s tenure at the “U”.
Virginia at Miami (Fla.) Betting Odds and Trends
UM opened as a 13-point favorite with the total at 48 on NCAA football odds. About 55 percent of the lean is on the Hurricanes.
UM is 4-3 against the spread (ATS) this year and 2-2 ATS at home. Virginia is 2-5 ATS and 0-2 ATS on the road.
The ‘over’ has hit in just one of Virginia's games but four of Miami’s. Virginia has covered in five of its past seven as a road dog of more than 10 points. UM has covered five of its past seven on Thursdays. The ‘under’ is 4-0 in Virginia’s past four as a dog. The ‘under’ has hit in eight of Miami’s past 10 as a favorite. The underdog has covered six of the past seven in this series.
College Football Picks: Virginia at Miami (Fla.) Betting Predictions
Miami is no stranger to Thursday night games, while the Cavaliers haven’t played a Thursday night contest since a home victory over North Carolina in 2006. I do think that matters just with getting used to the quick turnaround and unique practice schedules, etc.
I’m not sure Virginia is very good. It does have that win over the Jackets, but the Cavs’ other three are over an FCS team (William & Mary) and then two wretched FBS teams (Idaho and Indiana) by a total of four points.
I definitely like the ‘under’ here. I’d feel obviously better if UM was a 9.5-point favorite instead of 13, but the Canes probably win by two touchdowns so still take them before it may rise to 14.
Doc Moseman is the owner of Doc’s Sports football picks Web site.