Virginia at Miami Hurricanes: Game Matchups


Coming off two emotional big wins the Miami Hurricanes take on Virginia in a noon kickoff on Saturday. Many are questioning how the Hurricanes will handle their high rankings and a potential let down game.

The Miami Hurricanes defeated Virginia Tech and Notre Dame the last two weeks by a combined 69-18. There was a lot of hype going into those games. Both games were ABC primetime games and last Saturday featured the ESPN Gameday crew on Miami’s campus for the first time.

The Hurricanes have moved up seven spots in the College Football Playoff rankings the past two weeks. Many of the National pundits are wondering how the Miami will handle their success.

Virginia enters the game 6-4. They have lost three of their last four after a 5-1 start. Their 38-21 loss to Louisville last week clinched the ACC Coastal Division title for Miami.

With the Coastal Division clinched, the Miami Hurricanes can now continue to focus on bigger goals. The Hurricanes know if they win out they will appear in the College Football Playoff.

Virginia has struggled on offense. They average 364.8 yards per game. That’s 12th in the ACC. Miami is fourth in the ACC at 451.3 yards per game. The Miami Hurricanes are fifth in the ACC in total defense allowing 355.8 yards per game. The Cavaliers are just behind Miami allowing 359.1 yards per game.

Virginia has two of the best players in the ACC on defense. Linebacker Micah Kiser has 104 tackles, eight tackles for loss, five sacks, four passes defended and two fumble recoveries. Safety Quin Blanding has 95 tackles, three tackles for loss, three interceptions, one INT return for a touchdown and two passes defended.

Kiser and Blanding are the ACC’s top two tacklers. Blanding’s partner at safety Juan Thornhill is third in the ACC with ten passes broken up.

Virginia’s strength on Defense has been against the pass. They are third in the ACC allowing 180.2 yards per game. They can be run on. UVA is 11th in the conference allowing 178.9 yards per game on the ground.

Miami averages a yard per game more running the football than Virginia allows at 179.9 yards per game. The Hurricanes were able to establish the run against Notre Dame. Miami threw just five passes in the second half in the victory against the Fighting Irish.

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The Hurricanes have had their poor games running the football in the Richt era. Miami’s worst game on the ground this year came at North Carolina. The Tar Heels have the worst run defense in the ACC. After running for only 59 yards against the Tar Heels, Miami has averaged 228 yards per game and 5.92 yards per carry the last two weeks.

Virginia has similar issues on offense than they do on defense. Quarterback Kurt Benkert makes their offense run. He has thrown for 2,492 yards, 21 touchdowns, and seven interceptions. He relies heavily on wide receiver Olamide Zaccheaus. Zacchaeus has 70 receptions for 727 yards and four touchdowns.

UVA has by far the worst run offense in the ACC. They average 112.6 per game and 3.5 yards per carry on the ground. Florida State averages 130.1 yards and 3.8 yards per carry.

The running game should be the key. If Miami can continue to run the ball and stop the run this game shouldn’t be close. If the last two weeks are any indication, Malik Rosier, Travis Homer and DeeJay Dallas should all continue to have big games on the ground.

The Miami defense has forced four turnovers in four straight games. The Hurricanes are the first FBS team to do so since 2004. It’s going to be hard to duplicate that. Benkert has done a good job of taking care of the ball this season. The Cavaliers have turned the ball over 12 times this season.

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If the Cavaliers continue to struggle running the football, Miami Defensive Coordinator Manny Diaz will likely blitz and use stunts to try and get to Benkert. Virginia has had trouble at times protecting the quarterback. They rank 79th in the country allowing 2.1 sacks per game.