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Film Preview: Virginia at Miami, 9/30

The ‘Canes host the Hoos on Thursday night on ESPN.

Wake Forest v Virginia Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images

The Virginia Cavaliers head to Hard Rock Stadium to face the Miami Hurricanes on Thursday, September 30th. The ‘Canes and Hoos are both 2-2 heading into the Thursday night game on ESPN. Kickoff is at 7:30pm in a showcase game for college football fans.

Miami has a 71.2% win expectancy per ESPN, While Odds Shark has Miami losing to UVA 35.8 to 31 and covering the point spread. The big question is: Can Miami score with UVA?!

The data

Miami is sitting at 31st overall in the country per Bill C’s SP+ metrics. The ‘Canes are also 35th on offense, 35th on defense, and 39th in kicking. Virginia is 58th per SP+ including 27th on offense, 81st on defense, and 119th in kicking.

When facing FBS programs, Miami is still ranked 113th overall on 3rd down defense at 48%, while UVA’s offense is 24th in the country at 49%. On offense, Miami is 95th in the nation at 36%, while UVA’s defense on 3rd downs is tied for 77th at 40%.

The UVA offense

The UVA offense has a modern “spread Wing-T” vibe to it. UVA offensive coordinator Robert Anae took Bronco Mendenhall’s desire to play bully ball and re-worked it to fit the Cavaliers talent level in the ACC Coastal. You can expect H-backs, a lot of different players in motion, and even a guy listed as “football player” on the roster.

In 2021, the Hoos have seven players with 4.5 or more yards per carry, and nine receivers with double-digit yards per catch. Five different players have thrown a pass through four games. However, UVA is led by quarterback Brennan Armstrong. Armstrong has scored 15 touchdowns (two rushing), thrown only three interceptions, and averaged 9.5 yards per attempt on 66.7% completion.

UVA WR Dontayvion Wicks is averaging 20.9 yards per catch on 22 receptions. That’s not some flash in the pan one big catch. Wicks has also hauled in four TD’s. Miami is going to absolutely have to figure out how to keep Armstrong from shaking the pass rush and bracket Wicks from burning Gurvan Hall on a deep ball.

Above- One thing about UVA’s offense is how easily Wake got to the QB. Manny Diaz is going to be excited to see how easily interior pressure worked against the Hoos.

Above- Those slow, delayed, safety blitzes? Armstrong sees those well and can scramble for big yardage. That will kill Miami who tackles poorly in space, and takes bad pursuit angles.

Above- You can make all the assumptions you want about why I put this play on here. Bubba Bolden and Gurvan Hall being dismantled for this dude’s NFL Draft highlight tape.

Above- Check out the highlights from UNC and UVA. UVA scored 39 points, threw for over 500 yards and four TD’s... and LOST by 20. Lashlee and Miami just haven’t shown that kind of firepower in ‘21.

The UVA defense

UVA’s defense is not what it normally is under Bronco Mendenhall. UVA has only five sacks through four games, and only two interceptions and a forced fumble. UVA, typically a hard hitting and sound defense, has been gashed by UNC and Wake Forest already in ‘21.

Against Wake Forest, the Hoos logged zero sacks, four tackles for loss, four PBU’s and only two hurries. UVA also didn’t force a turnover against the Wake offense.

UVA has been playing drop eight and bringing nearly no pressure. For a 3-4 that spells disaster. You have to at least show a five man pressure if not bring five as a base 3-4 team.

Above- Dropping 8 didn’t work. Sam Hartman had all day and used it to drop a dime.

Above- Rhett Lashlee... where is Stick?! It obviously will work against UVA’s coverage. I’ve written about Stick on SOTU a lot (click here to read more), it’s an Air Raid staple. Wake doesn’t run Stick, per se, but Miami can. Lashlee can get the H in space by running #1 vertical and the RB on an arrow to the flat.

Above- Cam Harris hasn’t flashed this level of breakaway speed since the UAB game to open the 2020 season. However, Miami needs to put in some adjustments to their inside zone run game. A wrapping tackle won’t hurt anything and can get more blockers at the point of attack.


Dave Clawson and Wake Forest slammed the door on UVA beating the Cavaliers 37-17 on Friday night. Clawson will be up for bigger jobs this off-season, and I wouldn’t mind him being on the short list for a certain possible opening this winter.

Miami has a short week to turn around and plan for UVA, their imaginative offense filled with different ball carriers, QB’s, trick plays, motions, and receivers. I think the ‘Canes can get pressure on Armstrong, but my concerns are:

1- Can Miami score more than 20 points against UVA?

2- Can Miami tackle the UVA skills who aren’t just fast, but also powerful?

3- Have the players quit on Manny Diaz, especially if D’Eriq King is out indefinitely?

Rumors are swirling right now but they’re just rumors. Coach Diaz can prove why he deserves one more year if Miami can beat UVA at home and start their Coastal run off right.

Prediction: Miami by 4.