Virginia Tech-Miami: The Hokies Will Beat the Hurricanes If...

Justin CocchiolaCorrespondent ISeptember 25, 2009

ATLANTA - SEPTEMBER 05:  Ryan Williams #34 of the Virginia Tech Hokies against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at Georgia Dome on September 5, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Miami and Virginia Tech have been rivals going back to their Big East days. Before that, Miami dominated the meetings between the two schools, but that was before Virginia Tech had arrived on to the college football scene.

Virginia Tech has dominated the ACC the last two years, but "The U" is back. Are they here to stay? Well, we'll find out this weekend.

Miami is getting a lot of hype right now, which is great for their conference. The Hurricanes have gone from being unranked to the ninth rated team in the AP Poll after only two games. 

The jump surprises me for one reason. Everyone talks about how the ACC is so weak and how the conference just isn't that great. Maybe now people are starting to take notice.

Miami has beaten Florida State and Georgia Tech, both of which were ranked when they played. If you're going to vote Miaimi into the top 10 of the AP Poll after only two games, both against ACC opponents, you have to say the ACC is stronger than expected. 

You can't have one without the other. This is just a point I wanted to stress, because, personally, I'm a bit tired of hearing about how weak the ACC is.

Moving on, Virginia Tech is coming into this game after a shocking finish against Nebraska. The Hokies had next to no offense against Nebraska after their first offensive drive, and then Tyrod Taylor makes the two biggest throws of his career on the last offensive series, which finished with 20 seconds left.

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Hokie fans are still in shock of the finish. If Tech had lost that game, they could have been staring at a very possible 1-3 start. Maybe that finish gives the Hokies' offense some much needed momentum heading into Saturday's game against the Hurricanes.

Virginia Tech simply cannot play the way they have been playing and continue to win games.  It's going to catch up with them at some point if they don't turn it around, and it's not just their offense that needs work.

Defensivley, the Hokies are not the same as past years. I think the problem area is with the linebackers who seem to be missing a lot of tackles. Tech is very young at that position and they've had some very tough opponents to start the year, but it gets no easier with Miami coming into town.

The Virginia Tech secondary has been the defense's biggest strength, and that's been without senior boundary corner Stephan Virgil, who has missed the last two games. If the Hokies have Virgil back for this game it will be a huge boost.

Frank Beamer said it best at Virginia Tech's press conference on Tuesday. "Being ready to play won't be a problem," he said, "You just have to play better." Simple, but to the point. Some would say obvious, but it's the truth.

Here are my five keys to win for Virginia Tech:

1. Pressure Jacory Harris

Harris has to be a legitimate Heisman candidate at this point in the season. The sophomore has completed nearly 70 percent of his pass attempts, throwing for 656 yards and five touchdowns.

Why? Great protection to start, and the fact that Harris has been sacked only one time this season. If the Hokies can get pressure on the Harris then it's more likely he will make mistakes.

He had a few arrant passes against Florida State and I felt there were a lot of holes in the Florida State secondary, along with Georgia Tech. 

Tech's defense isn't as great as it has been, but it will definitely be the best defense Miami has faced all season.

2. Offensive Production

Virginia Tech has to move the ball on offense or they will get blown off the field by the Hurricanes. Last week's game went a lot differently than I expected. I was thinking a lot of points would be scored, but obviously that was not the case.

This allowed an abysmal offensive performance to keep the Hokies in the game and then all of a sudden, the offense woke up. Well, Taylor found a wide open receiver who took it to the three-yard line after an 81-yard gain.

Taylor kept emphasizing in Tuesday's press conference that he and the offense will get better with more film study and practice. Taylor said his timing is a little off with some of his receivers and it's showing.

3. Special Teams

Dyrell Roberts has been an absolute beast on kickoff returns for the Hokies, and was probably a big reason the Hokies scored on their first offensive possession.  He's starting to look a lot better on offense as well.

Jayron Hosley has also been impressive as a punt returner and with a stagnate Hokies offense, Hosley's ability to adjust field position with his punt returning capability will pay dividens.

However, I'm expecting Virginia Tech to be a lot more agressive on blocking kicks this week. We've yet to see the Hokies really send the house on a punt attempt by an opposing team, and the few times they have, it's been pretty close to being blocked.

If the Hokies want to win this game, they're going to have to be aggressive with their play calling. Otherwise, they'll struggle to win.

4. Ryan Williams

The Hokies' offensive production has been poor, but Williams has been the one constant for the Hokies. Saying that, Williams re-injured his ankle against Nebraska and it slowed him down in the second half.

Williams still ran for over 100 yards and rushed for his sixth touchdown of the season.  His performance may be the biggest determining factor on the outcome of the game.

He received 21 carries last week, the most so far in his career, and, if he's healthy, I think he should carry the ball 25 times on Saturday. When you have a weapon, you need to unleash it.

Williams is the Hokies' greatest offensive weapon with no questions asked.

5. Check Your Benjamin('s)

Travis Benjamin is the real wild card in this one. Personally, I love to watch him play. He can hurt a team in so many ways returning punts, as a receiver, and as a runner. 

Benjamin is very explosive, quick, and potentially the most athletic player on the Hurricanes, which is a huge compliment. 

If the Hokies can take Benjamin out of his comfort zone or at least slow him down, the Hokies have a greater chance of winning the game.

I think Miami is going to use Benjamin a lot against the Hokies and wouldn't be shocked to see the sophomore throw a pass or two out of a set formation or on a trick play.

Both teams are obviously ranked very high and this isn't unusual when the two teams play. Last year was the first time since 1998 that neither team was ranked when they faced off.

From 1999-2005, both teams were ranked when they faced off and Miami won four out of the seven meetings. The last time both teams were ranked facing off in Blacksburg, the fifth-ranked Hurricanes beat the third-ranked Hokies 27-7, back in 2005.

Those are just some interesting tidbits heading into the weekend and both teams should leave it that. The past is the past and last year's game really means little in the whole scheme of things.

Miami beat Tech 16-14 in Miami, but Virginia Tech has a very different team and Miami is more experienced. Hopefully the game will live up to its hype and if both teams come out with a great showing, I think everyone will be able to agree on one thing. 

The ACC is back.

Here's Chris Harring, a featured columnist for the Miami Hurricanes, and his take on my five keys.

First, Tech may be better than FSU and Georgia Tech, but getting pressure on Jacory Harris is easier said than done. Jason Worilds may be on his way to being one of the best defensive linemen in the country, but the ‘Canes have faced a player with that kind of resume. 


Though very different players, the Yellow Jackets' Derrick Morgan receives many of the same accolades that Worilds does. Despite that, he was completely shut down by the one player who most would say is the line’s weak link, Matt Pipho.

If Miami can neutralize Worilds in a similar fashion, specifically if he’s up against the line’s best, Jason Fox, on the blindside, then Jacory will have success.

Second, do the Hokies have to move the ball?  Yes, absolutely, but the Hurricanes' defense should provide a fairly strong test.

The ‘Canes returned two key starters last week in Eric Moncur, the team’s veteran pass rusher, and Vaughn Telemaque, perhaps the team’s most improved offseason player. They both played very well last week and really solidified a defense that looked shaky against FSU.

The key will be keeping Tyrod Taylor contained. Dating back to even the glory days, the ‘Canes have had trouble with mobile QBs and a repeat of one of those performances (think Christian Ponder in '08) would mean bad news for Miami.

Third, the special teams is where the 'Canes could be facing some real trouble against the Hokies. Beamer Ball is based off pressuring punters, running back kicks, and hitting people all over the field. The Miami special teams so far? Not so much. 

Graig Cooper has been tremendous on returns, but with Bosher’s struggles in the field goal department and Alex Uribe’s kickoffs, the overall grade isn’t too high. This young team simply can’t afford to give away points and make big special teams mistakes.

Fourth, despite their total lock-down of Jonathan Dwyer a week ago, I wouldn’t consider the Hurricanes' ability to hold this standout freshman down all that likely. Williams has the looks of a tremendous back and would be even better if he were on a team with a quality passing threat.

The Hokies are going to ride this kid until the end; whether they have any success on offense is dependant on him. Will it be enough to win though, that’s the question.

Fifth, yes, Benjamin is an explosive player, and yes, he’s been tremendous so far this season, but even if Benjamin is completely locked down, the 'Canes' offense can thrive.  If there were a player on the outside I would be making special note of it may not even be Benjamin. 

That honor would go to LaRon Byrd, a tall, fast, dangerous wideout from Louisiana that many feel is emerging as the 'Canes' best weapon.  Expect to see Harris looking downfield for Byrd early and often.  

Thanks to Chris for helping to put this together, and if you want to check out his take on why Miami will win, there's a link in the article.

Now, here's my weekly score prediction. Taking all that was said, defense should prevail and so will the Hokies.

Virginia Tech 19, Miami 17.


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