Hurricanes Lunchtime List: Top 5 Things to Watch vs. Virginia


Every day (well, every weekday), we’ll bring you a Hurricanes top five list at lunchtime. It’s something to look forward to.

Mondays: Answers to Top 5 Game Preview from Friday
Tuesdays: Top 5 ACC Teams
Wednesdays: Unique Top 5 List
Thursdays: Unique Top 5 List
Fridays: Top 5 to Watch for Upcoming Game

(Note: Things will be a little different this week due to the Thursday game. Today’s lunchtime list is a top 5 preview of tonight’s game against Virginia, and Friday will be the answers to the top 5 preview. Monday will be a unique top 5 list.)

5. Can Miami play well enough to garner a top-25 ranking? Even if Miami ends up winning Thursday night, their three losses will hurt them, and a lot of people will judge the early-season Hurricanes who struggled to stop anybody and everybody from running the ball and lost three of its first five games. But the Canes received six points in the latest AP Poll, and three wins in a row could get them a little closer to the top 25. Miami fell out of the top 25 after last year’s loss to Virginia in Charlottesville and has not returned since.

4. Michael Rocco at QB for Virginia. The sophomore Rocco has split time with freshman David Watford this season, and while Watford will see the field on special plays,  there will be no two-quarterback system Thursday night. Head coach Mike London noted Rocco’s experience as one of the factors that led to the decision to name him the starter for the entire game. He also said that he does not want to thrust Watford into the spotlight just yet before he’s ready, fearing his confidence could be shaken. He believes that’s what happened to former Cavs QB Anthony Martinez in 2003 when he took over for an injured Matt Schaub against South Carolina. London, an assistant at the time, didn’t think Martinez regained confidence after struggling in the game.

3. Sean Spence. Spence has is having a special season according to head coach Al Golden. Last week he was a big part of Miami’s dominance of the Georgia Tech triple option. He’s the soul of this Canes defense and the nation will get its first taste of the Miami Northwestern product this year. Spence was suspended for the opener when Miami lost to Maryland in primetime. Another big performance, and we’ll start hearing Spence’s name mentioned on end-of-year award watch lists. The linebackers corps will be tasked with stopping Cavaliers backs Perry Jones and Kevin Parks, who have combined for 962 yards and 9 touchdowns this year. Clifton Richardson has added 258 yards and a couple of scores for the Cavs. Miami will transition from stopping the triple option, to stopping the more traditional running game…but the lessons learned preparing for and playing against the GTech offense (no ‘freelancing’) need to carry over.

2. Virginia LBs vs. Lamar Miller. Everything starts up front along the line of scrimmage, but keep your eye on how the Virginia linebackers fare against Miller. Middle linebacker Steve Greer and weakside linebacker LaRoy Reynolds are the guys to watch in a linebackers corps that has received praise from head coach Mike London. The Virginia defense has gotten better against the run since North Carolina put 222 rushing yards on them earlier in the season. They held Southern Miss (currently 20th in rushing offense) to 61 yards on the ground, and held Idaho and NC State to fewer than 115 yards each. The latter rank 99th and 118th in rushing offense, respectively, however. Georgia Tech put 272 yards on the Hoos. Miller has not reached the 100-yard plateau in either of the last two contests after doing so in the first five games, although he was just 7 yards shy last weekend.

1. Jacory Harris and the WRs. The defense needs to continue to play at the level they played against Georgia Tech, but if Harris is efficient, productive, and continues to protect the football, Miami will have (and has had) an opportunity to win every game they play. Tommy Streeter, Travis Benjamin, Allen Hurns, and Phillip Dorsett are an underrated bunch who, like Spence, have an opportunity to make a name for themselves on national television. If they play like they did against UNC, at some point during the broadcast somebody’s going to mention the Miami receivers corps.