MIAMI GARDENS (CBSMiami) – The stakes are high on Saturday night as the Miami Hurricanes will look to stay unbeaten, remain in the national title picture, and perhaps, win the ACC’s Coastal Division.
The 10th ranked Hurricanes can clinch their first outright ACC Coastal title on Saturday evening if they defeat Number 13 Virginia Tech, and if Georgia Tech beats Virginia in the afternoon.
Miami (7-0, 5-0 ACC) can send a loud statement to the college football world when they host the Hokies (7-1, 3-1). Virginia Tech trounced the Hurricanes 37-16 last season in Blacksburg, sacking quarterback Brad Kaaya 8 times in the process. This time, Miami will look to feed off an expected capacity crowd at Hard Rock Stadium. The Hokies are 2-3 in their last 5 visits to Miami Gardens.
Miami, ranked 9th in the AP poll and 6th in the Coaches’, debuted in the first College Football Playoff ranking of the season at number 10. The Hurricanes missed an opportunity to earn some style points when they struggled to beat 1-8 North Carolina 24-19 last week in Chapel Hill.
“I’ve done it too long to apologize for winning,” said head coach Mark Richt. “We’ve won twelve in a row. When it’s not clean as it should be, it’s bothersome. It hurts.” Miami’s current winning streak dates back to November of last season.
Arguably the least clean part of Miami’s narrow victory at UNC was the blocking up front. Quarterback Malik Rosier was hit 8 times and sacked twice, and the Canes rushed for a season low 59 yards as a team. Rosier missed a first half series with an injured throwing shoulder, but did return. He finished the game with a career high 356 passing yards, but only completed 16 of 40 attempts.
Rosier rested his shoulder early in the week but will play on Saturday. He is not listed on Miami’s injury report.
The offensive line will look to keep Rosier upright and open holes for the running game. Virginia Tech’s stingy rush defense is the 12th best in the country, giving up just 110.8 yards per game. They rank 2nd in the country in scoring defense at 11.5 points per game.
There is, however, an area where the Hokies’ defense appears vulnerable: big plays. VA Tech has given up 27 plays of 20 or more yards this season. That works right into Miami’s strength, as the Hurricanes offense has recorded 46 plays of 20+ yards in their 7 games.
Miami’s offense thrives on explosive plays, and a trio of those contributed to the win at North Carolina. Malik Rosier threw a 78 yard touchdown to receiver Jeff Thomas, a 51 yard touchdown to tight end Chris Herndon, and a 49 yard completion to running back Deejay Dallas.
Miami has three wide receivers who average over 20 yards per catch: Jeff Thomas (22.6), Darrell Langham (20.7) and Ahmmon Richards (20.3). Richards will likely be given extra attention from Hokies defensive backs. He appears healthier this week than he’s been all season after nursing hamstring issues.
Miami’s leading receiver and most consistent offensive player this season has been senior Braxton Berrios. He leads the team in receptions (32), yards (415) and touchdowns (6).
Hurricanes running back Travis Homer will look for a bounce back week after just 40 yards on 16 carries at North Carolina. Homer also lost a fourth quarter fumble, his first of the season.
The Hokies are led by freshman quarterback Josh Jackson, who’s completed 62.3 percent of his passes this season for 2,032 yards with 17 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. His stats are almost identical to Rosier’s, as the Miami signal caller has 2,071 yards through the air with 17 touchdowns and 4 INT’s.
Cam Phillips is VT’s all-time leading receiver with 216 catches. He has a catch in a Hokies-record 35 straight games. Tech is 5-0 when Phillips registers a 100-yard receiving game.
Miami’s defense will look to keep the ‘turnover chain’ in heavy circulation. The Hurricanes’ 16 takeaways are second most in the ACC. The Canes have the third best interception total in the conference at 11.
Junior cornerback Michael Jackson leads his team with 4 interceptions. He’s collected three of those over the past two games.
Saturday marks the 35th all time meeting between the Hurricanes and Hokies. Virginia Tech holds the recent 13-8 edge over the past 21 seasons.
Kickoff for Miami-Virginia Tech is set for 8:00 PM on Saturday, November 4th from Hard Rock Stadium. You can listen to the game on 560 WQAM.