Game Preview: Virginia Tech at Miami - Moving On, life without Duke

Joel Auerbach

As Miami tries to regroup from their losses in Tallahassee they welcome Virginia Tech down for an ACC Coastal show down. Sorry Hokies, Duke can't come out to play this week. Im sure you are broken up about it.

History: If Florida and Florida State are 1 and 1a when it comes to Miami rivals, Virginia Tech has to be the next up on the list. Miami and VT started their rivalry off in 1953 with UM winning the first 12 games; but it's when the teams started playing yearly in 1992 that the rivalry took shape. Miami is ahead in the series 18-12 all-time, with most of their wins(11) coming at home. Miami has struggled against VT in the recent past with a record of 3-7 since 2003. UM won last year's match up 30-12, largely due to a few key VT turnovers and Duke Johnson going full Duke Johnson. Miami is a game ahead of VT in the Coastal race, but with both teams coming off losses, this week is being looked at as a must win game by both as they try to make it to the ACCCG.

Virginia Tech: Want the good news or bad news first? Bad news it is. So you remember all the great statistics FSU brought into their match-up with Miami? VT is better in every category. Against the rush they rank 9th, giving up 102 yards a game. They gave up a season high 196 yards to Boston College last week, but have held Alabama and Georgia Tech to under 130 yards each this year so I wouldn't get too excited. Their pass defense took over the number one spot that FSU held last week. They give up 150 yards a game through the air, and have tallied 17 interceptions, while only giving up 7 TDS passing this season. They have gone most of the year without one of their top DB's Antone Exum. He's still working his way back, but adds another threat in the VT secondary.

On the bright side VT's offense isn't nearly as potent as their defense. Coming into the season there were questions about the run game, and according to the production thus far they haven't found the answer. Rushing for 116 yards a game has earned them a ranking of 103rd in the nation. They managed to top 100 yards against Alabama week one of the season, but have only topped the 100 yard mark once in the 5 ACC games they have played so far. In those four games they did not top the hundred yard mark, they only averaged 58.5 yards a game. That being said, how bad is Alabama, am I right? #GoACC. When they do run it, RB Trey Edmunds gets the bulk of the carries. He averages 3.6YPC and has 5 TDS. He has 447 net rushing yards this season, but rushed for a season high 132 against Alabama week one. The other way VT tries to run the ball is with QB Logan Thomas. Miami fans are already well aware of his ability to run straight down the middle of the field untouched. UM has had its issues with mobile QBs, and Thomas has 121 carries (just four less than Edmunds). I for one had my fill of big athletic QBs converting third and long with their feet last week. Miami needs to keep Thomas and VT one dimensional.

Passing is where VT can hurt Miami. VT ranks 65th in the nation with 231 passing yards a game. QB Logan Thomas is the key to that passing game. His numbers are very similar to Stephen Morris - down to the interceptions. Thomas has a 55% completion percentage with 11 TDs and 12 INTs. He's thrown for just over 2000 yards, spreading the love between four main receivers. Demitri Knowles is one of his favorites and is one of three WRs with over 400 receiving yards. The 6'4 DJ Coles doesn't have the same amount of catches or yards as the others, but does have 5TDs coming from just 16 catches. While not as talented man for man as FSU's WRs, they as a group pose all the same issues.

Miami: If during the preseason you told me that Miami would be going into VT with Duke Johnson out for the season, you would see a grown man cry, and would not be able to convince me a run game would be possible. Luckily with what Dallas Crawford has done this season, you only need to pass me the Kleenex, because I'm confident that he and the offensive line will be able to keep the run game afloat in Johnson's absence. With that said, you don't just replace Duke. Production wise he accounted for 174 all purpose yards a game. He's been the identity of Miami since the day he stepped on campus, so it will be interesting to see how the team responds with him out for the year. Miami fan or not, if you enjoy football you want number eight on the field. According to his mother he had surgery earlier this week and is doing well, but will not be on the sideline this Saturday. Get well Duke, see you next year.

With Duke out, Dallas moves to lead back and behind him is the one good thing that will come from all this - Eduardo Clements. OT getting increased carries is something we can all feel good about. Coming off neck surgery last season, it wasn't clear if he would pad up again, let alone carry the ball in an important ACC matchup. He's had some mop up duty carries and a handful of runs during undecided games. It will be between him and freshman Gus Edwards competing for Dallas' relief back up. The coaching staff has leaned toward the senior more in the few times the situation has come up this year. Regardless of who runs it, UM has to be able to run it to be able to win this game. VT has a talented defense so it will take a balanced attack to keep them on their heels.

Stephen Morris has to step up if Miami wants to make it to a potential ACCCG. We all watched him make perfect NFL caliber throws in the first half against FSU. The we watched him force things in the second half and turn the ball over. Yes, the situation was getting out of hand and it forced him into having to throw to keep up, but that won't be the last time that happens. VT has a secondary just as capable of creating turnovers, so Morris needs to be on point. Getting in sync with Stacy Coley as a deep threat, and finding any sort of rhythm with Herb Waters is a must if Morris wants to be able to move the ball. Tech is talented enough to focus in on (and shut down) Morris' favorite WR Allen Hurns if there isn't a threat of anyone else catching the ball.

Miami's defense did ok against FSU's offense until they didn't. If you watched the game you understand what I mean. The same basic threats apply this week as well. VT can spread the ball around to multiple receivers, and has a QB that can move the chains by running. The run game isn't as big an issue and VT is more turnover prone, so Miami will need to take advantage of both to win. The DE's will need to create more pressure this week, but keep Thomas in front of them. The few times UM got pressure last week, bad angles allowed Winston to rush for positive yards.

Players to watch for: Virginia Tech it's Demitri Knowles. Last season he killed UM on special teams with145 return yards, constantly putting VT in good field position. This year he has stepped up as one of VT's main WRs, but is still a threat on special teams. On defense it's Kendall Fuller. He has 5INts on the year, including a 3INT game against Duke. Morris will have to be accurate, because Fuller puts himself where the ball is. To go along with his interceptions, he has 6PBUs and 11 passes defended.

Players to watch for: Miami: it falls on Stephen Morris. Miami needs to run - yes. It will be interesting to see how Dallas does as the number one, but it will not matter if Morris continues to go 50/50 with his touchdowns and interceptions. Morris hasn't put together a "great"  game yet this season, and will need to if Miami is going to move the ball against an elite defense. On Defense it's Rashawn Jenkins. The secondary was tested last week, and will be again Saturday. Jenkins is used to starting at safety in place of Deon Bush who had been recovering from preseason surgery. This week he moves over to the other safety spot to make room for a starting Deon Bush. Hopefully, this move will shore up the weakest spot in the secondary. Tyriq Mcord will need to step up and bounce back after a very quiet game against FSU. He gets limited snaps as a pass rusher, but will need to get back to making them count.

Should you worry? Yup... Duke Johnson had 200 yards last year against VT, and he ain't walking through that door. Finding out this offense's Dukeless identity will need to be a quick process.

Logan Thomas has plenty of faults but is capable of winning a game on his own. He's had some of his better games against UM, putting up 695 all purpose yards and 6TDs; but has turned the ball over - something that UM cannot rely on him doing.

Prediction : UM 17 VT 14

INJURY REPORT

Out:

Phillip Dorsett-Lower Extremity

Danny Isidora-Lower Extremity

Surgery/Out for the season:

Randy Johnson-Lower Extremity :(

Hunter Knighton-Upper Extremity

WAYS TO WATCH & LISTEN

November 9, 2013 • 7 p.m. ET • Miami Gardens, Fla. • Sun Life Stadium (74,916) 
Series History: Miami leads series 18-12 ... 11-5 at home vs. Hokies ... UM is 9-12 vs. VT in conference play. 
ESPN • Brad Nessler, Play-by-Play • Todd Blackledge, Analyst • Holly Rowe, Sideline Reporter 
WQAM 560 AM • Joe Zagacki, PXP • Don Bailey Jr., Analyst • Josh Darrow, Sideline Reporter 
RADIO CARACOL 1260 AM • Roly Martin, PXP • Pepe Campos, Analyst • Joe Martinez, Analyst 
WVUM 90.5 FM • Chris Wittyngham • Alex Schwartz • SATELLITE RADIO • Sirius 134 • XM 193
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