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Three things to watch: Virginia

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Can Miami take advantage of Virginia’s subpar defense?

NCAA Football: Virginia at Miami
Miami Hurricanes cornerback Al Blades Jr. (7) back flips after Miami defeated Virginia in 2019 at Hard Rock Stadium.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Hurricanes will be in search of their second straight victory over Virginia when they take on the Cavaliers tonight at Hard Rock Stadium at 8pm.

Miami (4-1, 3-1) has not lost to Virginia (1-3, 1-3) at home since 2011. The Hurricanes are a 14-point favorite according to Bovada.com entering tonight’s game.

Here are three things to watch for in tonight’s game as Miami looks for its fifth win of the season.

Who is actually going to play for Virginia?

Virginia arguably has the most injury issues in key places of any team that Miami has played thus far this season.

Starting quarterback Brennan Armstrong has been in the concussion protocol since he last played on October 3rd against Clemson. His status for today’s game is unknown.

The Cavaliers have been working with three different options behind Armstrong and it is unclear who will start today for Virginia if Armstrong is not medically cleared.

Miami must be prepared to take advantage of any backup quarterback that Virginia is forced to play today.

Miami had a good defensive plan for Pittsburgh backup quarterback Joey Yellen last week but Yellen still wound up passing for 277 yards and a touchdown, albeit on 46 attempts.

Virginia is ranked No.28 in total offense this season while Pittsburgh is ranked No.49. The Cavaliers have enough offensive ability to give Miami problems if the Hurricanes aren’t prepared, particularly if Armstrong is cleared to play.

On the defensive side of the ball, defensive backs Joey Blount, Brenton Nelson and Devante Cross all suffered injuries in last week’s loss to Wake Forest. It is uncertain who—if any—in that trio will play today.

Might this finally be the week that Miami’s wide receivers can get going against reserve defensive backs? If Virginia has multiple defense backs sidelined and Miami still struggles to pass the ball downfield, it might officially be time to start worrying.

Can Cam Harris get it going again?

Cam’ron Harris rushed for 268 yards and three touchdowns combined in Miami’s first two games.

Since then, he has rushed for just 70 yards and two touchdowns (both against Florida State).

Getting Harris going again gives Miami an extra option on offense that must be respected by an opposing defense.

Miami’s offensive line has been overwhelmed these past two games by quality defensive line units from Clemson and Pittsburgh.

Against a less talented unit up front today, let’s see if Harris can get things going again and make Miami’s running attack more than just D’Eriq King scrambling or keeping the ball on designed runs.

Virginia’s lackluster defense

Virginia has struggled on defense this season, particularly in its three losses.

The Cavaliers are allowing just under 35 points per game (62nd of 77 teams in the NCAA) and 277 passing yards per game (No. 56 of 77) as well.

In their three losses, the Cavaliers have allowed 38, 40, and 41 points, respectively.

That bodes well for a Miami offense that has been less effective in the last two weeks than it was in the first three games of the season.

If Miami is able to score five touchdowns (essentially what UVA averages giving up per game), it is difficult to imagine a scenario that ends in the Hurricanes losing tonight’s game.

Miami has only given up 35 or more points to the Cavaliers twice in the teams’ history—in 2012 in a 41-40 loss and in the infamous 2007 48-0 thrashing that was the final home game in Orange Bowl stadium history.

I don’t envision this Hurricane defense allowing Virginia, which is averaging 26.3 points per game through four games, to score 30+ points tonight. Thirty should be the magic number for the Hurricanes to get their fifth win.