Not quite FSU but...
While this year VT drops to third on the fan interest meter, our Coastal Division BFF's are every bit as important as our Florida foes if Miami wants to be in the mix for an ACC Championship. Going back to the Big East days, Virginia Tech has been an annual throw down (starting in 1992). The rivalry goes back to 1953, but it's unclear if VT noticed until 1995 - when they finally stopped a 12 game losing streak that spanned 164 years* and 2 bowl games. It's been a pretty even match up since then overall, with VT taking 3 out of the last 5. Virginia Tech (and their blue collar workman-like style of play) actually took over the role of national power house that Miami was suppose to be - amassing 4 ACC Championships in the past decade. So while the in state hate isn't quite as rampant (due to not as much competition for local recruits, and there isn't as many tools walking around South Florida in
dog killer jerseys), this rivalry is every bit as important. There has been 11 meetings with both teams in the top 25 and 4 with both in the top 10. The bottom line is we both represent the Coastal division so to get to the ACCCG we gotta through them.
Looking at the drive summaries and majority of the stats from last year's game you would think VT won. But as any fan who made it through the J12 years knows, turnovers will kill ya. We won the game oddly enough by playing "Beamer ball" - winning the turnover battle and good special teams play (even though we gave up 185 kick-off return yards). The defense gave up 400+ yards and our offense didn't have one of its spectacular games, but it was one of its more balanced performances. The defense bent, bent some more, but then created or capitalized on a turnover. While Logan Thomas wasn't exactly on lockdown he was only responsible for 1 TD that came on a 70 run. Compare that to the 5 he put up the year prior and i say they did an ok job. No one else really got going on offense for VT beside Thomas; he spread the ball out to 4 different receivers (all getting about 50 yards a piece) and he ran the ball for 136 yds. Miami's D did put in some work on him though, causing 6 pass breakups, 2 INTs, 1 sack, and recovering 1 fumble. On Offense Duke Johnson went over 100 yards rushing on 10 carries; most of his yardage coming on a 65yd run. He also left a good first impression on our VT friends with 2 kick returns that went for 118 yards. Stephen Morris had a good game throwing for 170 yards, 2 TDs and zero INTs - not one of his sexier stat lines but for once this season Miami never trailed, so he wasn't required to drop back 50 times.
Players to watch
QB Logan Thomas :The VT QB will need to thank UM at some point when he's being drafted to the NFL in the first round. The last two prior meetings he was responsible for 695 all purpose yards and 6 TDs. Miami has had issues with big running QBs, and he is the model of that standing 6'6", 260lbs. He set a VT record in 2011 for total offense; then broke it in 2012 - running and passing (he's proved to be a pain in the ass in both areas). Logan Thomas is gonna put up numbers, but if Miami can at least make it difficult for him by taking away untouched runs up the middle and avoid a ton of missed assignments in the secondary, they should be ok.
DB Antone Exum: (note: he's coming off ACL/LCL surgery he had in February - so in the event he doesn't play he may be less interesting to watch). Reports at the time of writing has him making good progress and shooting to make it for their season opener. Chances are that won't happen, but they don't play UM until November. Why bother bring up a player with a shredded knee? Exum is a 6'1" 225lb senior CB; and had 4 pass breakups last season against UM, part of his 16 over the course of the season. He had 48 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, and 5 int's on his way to being named to the Second team ALL ACC, as well as the ALL ACC Coaches Second team. This year (knee and all) he was named to the Thorpe (top DB) and Nagurski (top def player) watch lists. A healthy top tier CB will always impact a game - whether it's on the field or in the game plan, so lets all hope for a healthy full recovery - just on November 10th!
WR/ST Demitri Knowles: Sophomore Demitri Knowles tried his best in last year's game to outshine Duke in the return game, putting up 145 yards and giving VT consistently good field position. Listed for now as first string WR, he didn't change the world as a receiver last season with only 240 yards receiving on 19 catches. He did make an impact as a returner with a average of 28.3 yards per kick (12th-best in the country). He ended his season with 595 kick return yards and 2 touch downs. So whether it's him as the returner or just at WR, he has shown he can make plays. The defense needs all the help it can get, so the longer the field VT has to travel - the better.
RB Duke Johnson: Duke Johnson... important. Glad you read this far for outta the box insight like this huh? It's more him as starting running back. The running game has to keep the offense balanced to keep the VT defense honest. A long drive that takes time off the clock will keep the defense fresh and well... going off last year... off the field. Quick strike indicates points, so if Duke is running off 70 yard TDs great - but the drive extending 3rd and 5 runs will play a huge role as well. He had a 100 yard game against VT last season (most of which came on a long run).
DT Olsen Pierre: Logan Thomas has been known to turn the ball over a few times so a good push up the middle will help his bad decision-making process along nicely. Also keeping the inside running lanes clogged will keep Thomas (and whatever RB that isn't busy getting arrested for assault) from gashing us up the middle. He had a sack on Thomas last year. Hopefully he enjoyed it and wants more.
This game is the last of the sexy games. Playing at home with potential wins over Florida and Florida State may have a TON of hype leading up to it if Miami takes care of the non-marquee games prior. Add in winnable games after, and you have a full blown sellout night game, Game Day visiting implications with this game. It's following FSU week and in the back end of the schedule, so the team will be beat up. Hopefully we go into it with no major injuries. The rivers will be running red if we go in 0 and 2 in the rivalry games, but a win vs VT will be huge in the quest for our first ACC championship game. Hopefully playing at home (2 years in a row due to the ACC adding in new teams and re-setting the schedule) will make up for any hangover after FSU. It's an ACC Coastal battle so they better. If Miami wins the turnover battle and gets anything from the defense they should come out ahead, VT have suffered some losses in key positions so will be reliant upon Thomas who has been turnover prone.