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Matchup of the Week: Virginia Tech Edition

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After two straight losses, the Canes will look to rebound with a road win over Coastal rival Virginia Tech.

North Carolina v Miami Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

SIGH..........another MOTW post written after a loss. This one didn’t hurt as much emotionally as the FSU loss, but the game versus UNC felt dull, boring, and sad to be completely honest. The bad news: the loss essentially moves the Canes out of the Coastal Division front-running. The good news: they do play in the Coastal, so who knows what will happen.

Let’s get to the true meaning of this post. The Canes (4-2, 1-2 ACC) are set to face Virginia Tech (4-2, 2-1) tonight at 7 p.m. tonight on the road on ESPN. This Thursday night, primetime game has become a staple in the Miami-VT rivalry and never disappoints.

Tech is coming off their second loss of the season - first ACC loss - at Syracuse, which puts them ahead of the Canes in the Coastal thus far. So this game is pivotal in helping decide Miami’s postseason future. They will need help, but it all starts with Thursday night.

Let’s take a look at the previous matchup between these two teams:

Although Tech kept it close, the game felt like Miami was in control for the most part.

Side note: After watching these highlights, wow...I LOVE this new defense, and boy do I (certainly Kaaya) miss Herb Waters and Rashawn Scott.

Jerod Evans vs. Front Seven

In his first season as the VT starting QB, Evans seems like the QB they’ve been searching for since the graduation of Logan Thomas. Like Thomas, Evans (6’4” 235 lbs.) is a big, physical QB with a rocket for an arm and is also a gifted runner when given the chance. Even in different offenses, their similarities are not to be overlooked.

Evans has had a great season so far for the Hokies, throwing for 1,352 yards, 17 touchdowns to just two interceptions. He has also rushed for 319 yards and two touchdowns. He has thrown for 200+ yards in every game this season but one, UNC, which VT won 34-3 in the middle of Hurricane Matthew. When Evans goes, so does the VT offense, and he has great help from All-ACC receiver Isaiah Ford, who already has 459 receiving yards and five touchdowns on 32 catches.

Stout defense and sensational play will be needed out of the front seven for two reasons: 1) keep the VT offense off the field and 2) the Miami offense has been (is?) dumpster juice, but we’ll touch on the offense later. Miami has also been PLAGUED with injuries this season, some unavoidable (broken hands, knee injuries, etc.), and they will be even thinner heading to Virginia. DE Chad Thomas broke his hand against FSU and was hurt again against UNC. He did make the trip, but is listed as ‘questionable.’ DT Gerald Willis and DE’s Demetrius Jackson and Scott Patchan are listed as ‘OUT,’ so with Thomas’ health in question, look to see an EXTREMELY heavy dose of Trent Harris and Joe Jackson. We can certainly pray for continued health on starting tackles RJ McIntosh and Kendrick Norton, as they have been key to Miami’s defensive success. The talent is still there, but the depth continues to take a hit.

The young and new-school Bermuda Triangle of Shaquille Quarterman, Michael Pinkney and Zach McCloud continue to show why the three freshman are the best options Miami has to offer. Despite being a freshman, Quarterman’s play was seemingly expected, but Pinkney has honestly been the biggest surprise on this defense and is having an All-ACC-caliber season, IMO. They will need to impose their will on Evans and the run game and make VT one-dimensional on offense. This trio will be SPECIAL in years to come.

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This isn’t necessarily a season-defining game for the Canes, but it certainly should be treated as one. A third consecutive loss would essentially eliminate (haven’t done the math) Miami from Coastal contention, and would fall to 1-3 in their brutal October stretch.

On the flip side, Miami could come out and play with a chip on their shoulder, win and thrust their name back into the Coastal conversation and in the national rankings. This will all be predicated on Miami’s offense. Kaaya & co. has STRUGGLED mightily in their previous two games, albeit against good competition. Make no mistake, FSU and UNC are good football teams, and have been good longer than Miami has. Certainly winnable games, but hindsight is 20/20. And although the hype surrounding the program was great, what were your HONEST AND REALISTIC expectations of the team? Not once did I think this team was going undefeated or anything close, but anyone can see Miami is close.

BREAKING: the sky is not, I repeat, IS NOT falling. The Canes are still in great position at 4-2 to finish strong and get a great bowl game. Who would’ve thought at any point in the season that it would be the offense people would be worrying about? Miami held both FSU and UNC to 20 points, and that’s not easy to do. It comes down to the offense, their play and adjustments they make against a reputable, but vulnerable VT defense. Kaaya will need to play shard and play his brand of football. Richt will need to try something new to get points on the board consistently, and on a short week, it’s not too certain you’ll see too many new wrinkles.

This will be a brand new atmosphere for this new team, but if they play like Canes play, they should come home with a victory.

Canes 27-VT 21

GO CANES!!!