Saturday night the Canes take on the Virginia Cavaliers in Charlottesville. With Virginia sitting 4-6 overall, Miami stands between the Hoos and reaching bowl eligibility. For Miami, this contest means more than just shedding its loss to rival Florida State. Fans, myself included, yearn to see this team continue to improve. Losing to another Coastal Division adversary, especially one that's frustrated Miami so often throughout the years, is taking a step back. Both squads have their motives, neither more significant than the other, and this has the makings for a great match-up.
After flying high atop the Coastal Division in the early stretch of the season, the Cavaliers have regressed back into the bottom half of the ACC Standings. Virginia began with such promise, despite close losses to non-conference opponents UCLA Bruins and BYU Cougars. The Cavs knocked off Louisville and Pittsburgh on its way to beginning the season 4-2 overall and 2-0 in the ACC. That was until they stalled and ultimately crumbled losing four-straight to Duke, North Carolina, Georgia Tech and Florida State. The Hurricanes are Virginia's last home game of the season before heading to face in-state rival Virginia Tech.
At the quarterback position, Greyson Lambert and Matt Johns combines to make something not quite as good as either. If you're familiar with Mike London you're accustomed to seeing at least two quarterbacks over the course of a game. (Albeit this season the quarterback changes have not been as frequent.) Hell, even David Watford saw playing time two weeks ago at Florida State. Fortunately for Miami's defense these quarterbacks differ little in style, although Watford made a poor try at running the wildcat against FSU. Mike London, for what it's worth, asserted his backing of Greyson Lambert post-FSU and will get the nod to start on Saturday. Standing at 6'5" and weighing 235, Lambert is a large quarterback that can withstand a pass rush. Turnovers (22) have played a key role in UVA's losses. Greyson Lambert accounts for the lion's share with nine interceptions and three fumbles. On a positive note, Lambert on 20 of 35 passing for 220 yards had a career-high three passing touchdowns in his loss to FSU.
Senior running back Kevin Parks leads the charge for the Virginia rushing attack. With an average of 66.9 yards a game and totaling four touchdowns, Kevin Parks' statistics display how woeful the Hoos have been in this department. Handling the run and placing the game in the hands of the UVA quarterbacks has fared well for the Cavaliers' previous opponents, expect Miami to plan to do the same.
Virginia's defense does a great job of keeping them in games. Against FSU, the UVA defense got pressure and forced three turnovers. A good portion of the 34 points given up to the Seminoles can be attributed to poor play by the Cavalier offense.
The Virginia defense ranks 15th against the run. They didn't fare well against the Georgia Tech option attack, but to be fair neither did the 'Canes. Duke Johnson, as always, will be a force to be reckoned with and the return of Gus Edwards adds much needed depth among the backs. Joe Yearby spells Johnson mostly, but a healthy Edwards is vital to giving our talented runners time to rest.
Virginia comes in ranked 69th in passing yards allowed with an average of 222.9 per game. With FSU in the rear-view mirror and Brad Kaaya showing how lethal his accuracy can be it'll be interesting to see if James Coley leans more on the quarterback.
In Virginia's six losses, four games had a result of eight points or less (against Florida State (-14) and Georgia Tech (-25) are the outliers). Both offenses have problems scoring in the second half. Look for the ‘Canes to want to start fast. Putting the Hoos on the ropes and forcing Greyson Lambert to make plays is pivotal to achieving victory. When Virginia struggles to run the ball its offense is out of sync. The Cavaliers had trouble finding success against poor defensive units such as Duke and North Carolina. To showcase how far the Miami defense has come along they must prove it against a very manageable Cavalier offense.
Prediction: 31-17 Miami. This prediction weighs heavily on the effectiveness of the Hurricanes' defense.
*Injury Report HERE.
StatMilk comparison found HERE.
Winsipedia on Virginia-Miami HERE.
ESPN2 • Joe Tessitore, PxP • Brock Huard, Analyst • Shannon Spake, 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