Well, it's Virginia Tech week again, and this season they play on Thursday night at Lane Stadium. Night game, rowdy environment, time to see if Miami can move past their prior issues in prime time and start to salvage the season or, continue their slow, painful march toward mediocrity. See, I can be dramatic too.
Miami and VaTech both come into this week 4-3 and 1-2 in the ACC, but because the Coastal likes to party, both teams still have a shot at getting to the conference title game just like everyone planned. Miami leads the all time series 18 to 13, but lost last season at Sun Life in a sloppy, rain soaked, frustrating affair. Miami will be coming off of a much needed bye week, while VT will be playing their second straight Thursday night game. The Hokies fell to Pitt but should be getting a few key pieces back healthy this week. Goodie. As weird as it is to write this, at least QB Logan Thomas has moved on and won't be adding on to his Hurricane heavy highlight reel.
Virginia Tech comes into this week with a defense ranked in the top 20, but has some issues on the offensive side of the ball. Shocking right? In last week's loss to Pitt, VT went 2-14 on third down conversions (a problem UM fans are quite familiar with) and only had 26 yards rushing on 22 carries. Tech should get a boost in the running game with freshman back Marshawn Williams looking like he should be well enough to give it a go, after missing last week due to an ankle issue. Miami's run stopping "issues" have been well documented, so they will have their hands full with the 224lb young'n.
Tech ranks 77th in the nation rushing the ball, at 152 yards a game. Williams is their leading rusher with 337 yards, at a 4 ypc average. Behind Williams was Shai McKenzi, who in five games has put up 269 yards at a 5 yards per carry clip, but he out for the season. Thus, VT has become a more pass friendly offense - but with Miami's inability to stop the run - one would think Williams and perhaps smaller back JC Coleman should see plenty of action early to see if Miami can stop them.
Michael Brewer has taken the QB spot left vacant by Cane Killer Logan Thomas, and has looked about the same. The Hokies passing attack is ranked 58th in the nation, averaging 240 yards a game, and Brewer has thrown 11 TDs. The problem is that he's also thrown 11 interceptions. The Texas Tech transfer has a QB rating of 119 on the season, going 162 for 265 (for a 61% completion percentage).
Brewer will be looking to throw to Isaiah Ford and Willie Byrn. Ford leads the team in receptions with 33; and yards with 424. Ford, who is also a freshman, had 8 catches for over 100 yards against GT earlier this season, and is averaging just over 13 yards a catch. He's dealing with a sprained ankle so may not be 100 percent, but will need to be held in check all the same. Byrn may seem familiar to you. He should after the way he killed Miami last season. All 5-10, 183 lbs of him. He hasn't scored yet this season and is getting about 7 yards per catch; but Miami seemed incapable of actually tackling him last year, so until they do he's a threat. In slightly more clear and present danger issues, VT has found themselves a TE. Bucky Hodges not only has a fantastic name but stands 6-6 240, and has been causing fits for defenses. You can compare him to whichever tall athletic TE you want, but so far this season he has had 20 catches for 289 yards and 4TDs. You are well within your rights to start fearing an Eric Ebron UNC performance from last year, because if left unchecked he can do just that to Miami.
Defensively Bud Foster is still doing his thing and cranking out top ranked defenses. This season the Hokies defense is ranked 20th overall - giving up 123 yards per game rushing and just 202 yards through the air. They will be without LB Chase Williams, who was second on the team in sacks and led the team in tackles. Former Atlantic High School Defensive tackle Luther Maddy is also going to be missing along the DL, after having surgery on his knee. There's still plenty to worry about along the defensive front even though there is a ton of production now missing. If Miami can take advantage and get a running game going early, QB Brad Kaaya will be able to pick his spots and not fall victim to whatever Bud Foster is cooking up with his secondary. Which leads me to: HOT DAMN KYLE FULLER IS OUT OF MY LIFE. His little brother is the starting CB to continue the tradition, but Kyle... Kyle is gone to the NFL, and is no longer my problem. Tech's defense is good but missing a lot of it's talent. But remember we all said the same thing about Louisville and that didn't turn out so well.
Miami looked as good as you can look when going against Cincy's terrible defense. Running at will and allowing Kaaya to let the game come to him; something they will need to replicate Thursday. It's going to be loud, but Miami has already been down that road - twice. Offensively, if Duke Johnson get's going it will keep the crowd out of the game, as well as put Miami in manageable down and distance situations, which will keep them from forcing things. It will also keep the Miami defense off of the field, so it's a win win. Maybe this is the game Stacy Coley gets back to doing Stacy Coley stuff; with a little extra time to prepare and get healthy, it will be interesting to see if there's any new looks that get him the ball. Miami will need to give Kaaya time though, and will be doing so the rest of the way without lineman Taylor Gadbois. KC McDermott is also out, so get use to Nick Linder and crew filling in. They have done well, but should have their biggest test this week.
Miami has a defense that may or may not show up Thursday. They haven't played well on the road so hopefully this is the week they buck that trend. Miami has done better against passing teams (which is what VT has become) but will need to shut down Williams early to force them into passing situations. Tech's QB Brewer has had multiple games with more than one interception so far this season, so it seems that forcing VT to throw is Miami's best chance at getting turnovers. That would be the best case scenario. Worst case is another seven yards per carry game that I just don't wanna think about. Flip a coin...because I'm all out of explanations.
Prediction: Miami 27 VT 17
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