Hokies Travel to Miami to Face Their Old Rival

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Virginia Tech travels to South Florida to take on Miami in a big game on Saturday afternoon. The loser of this game will have two losses in the ACC, while the winner will still be a strong contender in the Coastal Division. It goes without saying that this is a big game for both teams.

It also goes without saying that this is a big game for both coaches. Al Golden is squarely on the hot seat, while the Frank Beamer era at Virginia Tech is coming to a close. Whether or not the end is after 2015 or 2016 is yet to be determined, but it’s safe to say that dropping to 3-4 would not help Beamer’s cause.

Miami is a 3-2 football team. They played Florida State tough last week, but were upset by Cincinnati the week before. Will they be able to right the ship against the Hokies, or will they go down with their third straight loss?

Are the Canes Going Streaking in a Bad Way?

I’ve read some stuff this week indicating that Miami usually falls apart after they lose to Florida State each year. I have no idea whether that’s accurate or not, so let’s look at the last six years (all FSU victories) and figure it out. The numbers include bowl appearances.

2014: 6-3 before FSU, 0-3 after FSU
2013: 7-0 before FSU, 2-3 after FSU
2012: 4-3 before FSU, 3-1 after FSU
2011: 5-4 before FSU, 1-1 after FSU
2010: 3-1 before FSU, 4-4 after FSU
Overall: 25-11 before FSU, 10-12 after FSU

Yes, there is something to the theory that Miami collapses after losing to Florida State. History says they are about to go on a losing streak. That especially holds true over the last two seasons. In 2013 and 2014, the Canes were a combined 13-3 before losing to Florida State, and went a combined 2-6 after losing to the Noles.

This year Miami was 3-1 before dropping a very close 29-24 game at Florida State last Saturday night. Does that mean the Hurricanes are about to fizzle into a tropical depression again? We’ll have a better idea after Saturday’s game.

The Miami Offense, Advanced Stats

Here’s how the Miami offense stacks up against the Virginia Tech defense. We’ll start with the offensive numbers…

Overall: #28
Passing: #34
Rushing: #56
Success Rate: #45
Explosive Plays: #25

Now, the Tech defense…

Overall: #30
Passing: #33
Rushing: #41
Success Rate: #19
Explosive Plays: #122

On paper, this is a great matchup. Tech has struggled stopping big plays this year, while Miami is one of the best teams in the country at creating explosive plays. The Hokies need to stop those big plays and force the Canes to drive the length of the field.

Brad Kaaya Takes the Reigns

Last year the Miami offense ran on the shoulders of Duke Johnson. With Johnson off to the NFL, true sophomore quarterback Brad Kaaya (6-4, 210, So.) is now the leader. Kaaya wasn’t asked to do much last season, particularly in Miami’s 30-6 stomping of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. However, he’s matured as a passer and he has great weapons around him. His 2015 season has been very impressive.

In five starts, Kaaya is 115-of-189 for 1,499 yards, with eight touchdowns and just one interception. He’s been an extremely efficient quarterback while throwing for almost 300 yards per game. He’s not much of a runner, so the Hokies will focus on shutting down Miami’s running back and making him uncomfortable in the pocket.

Kaaya has a number of talented playmakers on the outside, and the return of Stacy Coley from injury has given this group a boost. Keep your eye on these guys…

Stacy Coley (6-3, 187, Jr.): 9 catches, 150 yards, 1 TD. Coley is the ACC’s reigning Receiver of the Week. He was limited early in the season with a hamstring injury and has only played in three games. However, he injured his hip late in the Florida State game, and he might not be 100% against the Hokies.

Rashawn Scott (6-2, 203, r-Sr.): Scott leads the team with 29 catches for 415 yards and two touchdowns. He’s a bigger receiver with a lot of experience.

Herb Waters (6-2, 198, Sr.): Waters has 19 catches for 299 yards, and he’s another very experienced senior.

Tyre Brady (6-3, 205, So.) has seven catches for 99 yards and a touchdown, and he is another receiver the Hokies will have to keep an eye on.

Former Virginia Tech recruiting targets Braxton Berrios (5-9, 180, So.) and Lawrence Cager (6-5, 215, Fr.) round out this group of receivers. Berrios has only played in three games because of injury, and he has five catches. Cager has four receptions for 37 yards. Both will see action against the Hokies on Friday night.

Miami also involves their running backs and tight ends in the passing game. Chris Herndon (6-4, 259, So.), David Njoku (6-4, 244, r-Fr.) and Standish Dobard (6-4, 261, Jr.) are capable players who have combined for 18 receptions on the season.

On the whole, this Miami passing attack features more weapons than any other team the Hokies have faced or will face this season. The Hokies will likely be playing three freshmen in their nickel package, and those guys will be going up against a much bigger challenge than the NC State receivers provided last week.

Running Game has Dropped Off Without Duke Johnson

Without Duke Johnson, the Miami running game hasn’t ben as effective or as consistent this season. The loss of many experienced players on the offensive line hasn’t helped either.

LT Trevor Darling (6-5, 316, So.): 1st year starter
LG Alex Gall (6-5, 312, Jr.): 1st year starter
C Nick Linder (6-3, 302, So.): 1st full year as starter
RG Daniel Isidora (6-4, 325, Jr.): 2nd year starter
RT Sunny Odogwu (6-8, 318, r-So.): 1st year starter

Three players are starting for the first time, while another started four games last season. Only Daniel Isidora had a full season as a starter under his belt before 2015. With that much inexperience up front, as well as the loss of Duke Johnson, it’s easy to see why Miami’s running game has been inconsistent. Here are their game-by-game numbers…

Bethune-Cookman: 195 yards
Florida Atlantic: 223 yards
Nebraska: 132 yards
Cincinnati: 146
Florida State: 20

The Canes put up big numbers against Bethune-Cookman and Florida Atlantic, but stalled against Nebraska and Cincinnati. The Florida State numbers are an outlier. In reality, Miami is a middle of the pack team when it comes to running the football.

Here’s a look at their top rushers…

Joe Yearby (5-9, 202, So.): 72 carries, 457 yards, 6.3 ypc, 4 TDs
Mark Walton (5-10, 195, Fr.): 47 carries, 187 yards, 4.0 ypc, 5 TDs

It’s imperative that Virginia Tech slow down Miami’s running game. If the Canes are balanced, then this game will get out of hand. Making them one dimensional is the key to winning the game on Saturday afternoon.

Standout Statistics

Miami’s offensive line might not be quite as good as it was a year ago, but nevertheless they are keeping opposing defenses out of the backfield. Through five games, the Canes have allowed only 14 tackles for loss and six sacks. They are second nationally in tackles for loss allowed per game (2.8).

Over the last two games, the Virginia Tech defense has recorded 18 tackles for loss and eight sacks. Something has to give. If the Hokies can get into the backfield consistently, they can wreck the timing of the Miami offense.

The Miami Defense, Advanced Stats

Let’s compare the Miami defense with the Tech offense. First, the Miami defense…

Overall: #62
Passing: #93
Rushing: #99
Success Rate: #104
Explosive Plays: #66

Now, the VT offense…

Overall: #62
Passing: #42
Rushing: #87
Success Rate: #92
Explosive Plays: #65

This is a great matchup as well. Miami’s defense is ranked #62, and Tech’s offense is ranked #62; it doesn’t get closer than that.

Miami’s Defense is Having Trouble Stopping Everybody

The Hokies will face a 3-4, odd front defense on Saturday. Check out the size of Miami’s players in the front seven…

DE Chad Thomas (6-5, 275, So.)
NT Calvin Heurtelou (6-3, 315, Sr.)
DT Courtel Jenkins (6-1, 311, So.)
OLB Trent Harris (6-2, 245, So.)
ILB Raphael Kirby (6-1, 238, Sr.)
ILB Tyriq McCord (6-3, 241, Sr.) or Jermaine Grace (6-1, 221, Jr.)
OLB Al-Quadin Muhammad (6-4, 256, r-So.)

Miami can present a number of different alignments, and the Tech offensive line has to be mentally strong in this game. They’ll also have to be physically strong to move those Miami defenders.

Of course, defense hasn’t been Miami’s strong suit this year, as you saw in the advanced stats. They start four sophomores in the front seven, and there are also three freshmen in the two-deep. That type of inexperience usually doesn’t lead to consistent play.

Here’s how the defense has performed in each game…

Bethune-Cookman: 53 rushing yards, 26 passing yards, 76 total yards
Florida Atlantic: 223 rushing yards, 166 passing yards, 389 total yards
Nebraska: 153 rushing yards, 309 passing yards, 462 total yards
Cincinnati: 167 rushing yards, 279 passing yards, 446 total yards
Florida State: 248 rushing yards, 291 passing yards, 539 total yards

Throwing out the Bethune-Cookman game, Miami is allowing 197.75 rushing yards, 261.25 passing yards and 459 total yards per game. Even Florida Atlantic, with a quarterback who could barely throw the football, totaled nearly 400 yards of total offense.

The numbers indicate that this is not a good Miami defense. On paper, the Tech offense should be able to move the football and put up some points.

Special Teams

Miami has some very capable players on special teams.

PK Michael Badgley (5-10, 185, So.): 13-of-16, long of 48. Badgley is nearly automatic from inside 50 yards (13-of-14).

P Justin Vogel (6-4, 210, Jr.): 46.4 yards per punt.

Corn Elder (5-10, 183, Jr.): 14.2 yards per punt return, 1 TD

The Canes are allowing 19.2 yards per return on six punt returns, so perhaps this is the week that Greg Stroman gets on track (Hey Greg…run forward!).

Final Thoughts

Trivia: when is the last time Virginia Tech won back-to-back ACC games?  The answer is 2013 when Tech beat Georgia Tech, UNC and Pitt in three consecutive games. Saturday will be a little over two years since that 2013 Pitt game, so we’re certainly due.

I don’t know how to pick this game. It’s hard to know which Virginia Tech team is going to show up on a week to week basis, and you can say the exact same thing for Miami. Both of these teams are very capable of beating the other. If one team’s “good” version shows up and the other team’s “bad” version shows up, we could even have a blowout on our hands.

I don’t have a particularly good record lately. I picked Tech to barely get by Purdue, and the Hokies blew them out. I had Tech by 16 over ECU, and they lost. I picked a close win over Pitt, and it turned out to be a close loss. Then I picked NC State by a touchdown, and the Hokies won by 15. Who the heck knows what’s going to happen at this point?

Fortunately I have a Magic 8 Ball app on my phone, which naturally knows everything. I asked it “Will Virginia Tech beat Miami?” It answered: “Ask Again Later.” So much for that experiment.

In all seriousness, I think Miami has a few more playmakers on offense at receiver than Virginia Tech. The Tech defense has improved quite a bit over the last two weeks, but this will be a tougher challenge than Pitt and NC State. The offense is going to have to play a consistent football game. I’m going to pick Miami in a close one and hope that my recent streak of being way off continues.

Prediction: Miami 24, Virginia Tech 20

Will Stewart’s Take: Why in the world are you reading this part? Six games in, and you haven’t figured out yet that I have no clue how to predict games? I picked a victory over Ohio State (admittedly picking with my heart); Tech lost. Never mind Furman. I picked a narrow victory over Purdue; VT romped by 27. I picked a comfortable win over ECU; Tech lost. I picked a win over Pitt; Tech lost. I picked a loss to NC State; Tech won.

Excluding the easy Furman pick, I’ve been out-and-out wrong four out of five times, and the other game wasn’t nearly as close as I thought it would be. I’ve aced some picks in the recent past (I correctly predicted 35-10 for the 2013 Alabama game, and I predicted that UCLA would blow the Hokies out in the 2012 Sun Bowl), but this is not my year.

So who knows? To compound the Hokies’ inconsistency, we have their opponent, Miami, who in the last two years has unexpectedly laid down for the Hokies (42-24 in Miami in 2013) and unexpectedly blown Tech out in Blacksburg (30-6 last year). I thought the Hokies were up-and-down, until I met Miami.

By the way, I really like this rivalry, though I miss the old Orange Bowl for games. Miami rarely had good crowds there, either, but at least even the small crowds made some noise. The Hokies and Canes have played some great games in Miami.

It should be a good game, but I have very little idea what’s going to happen. Nothing would surprise me.

So I’m sticking with the plan I laid out in a recent Monday Thoughts article, which included a loss at Miami. Sorry, folks, but hey, at least I’ve been picking them wrong all year, right?

Will’s Prediction: Miami 31, Virginia Tech 20

(I’m telling you, I write my section without reading Chris’ prediction first! You’d never know it. It’s creepy how similar our prediction thoughts were.)

Who will win the Virginia Tech-Miami game?

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12 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. There is nobody out there, probably including the coaches, that has any idea what VT will do in this (or any) game this year.
    That said, I believe Miami found a weak spot last year and isolated our MLB and he was outmatched every time. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a lot of their running backs matched up with AM again this year. Hopefully he learned his lesson…but I’m not sure that even of he did, that he could do anything about it.
    I hope I’m wrong but I see their playmakers making plays and winning 35-13.

  2. I picked a close win by Miami because I have a feeling we are going to have a QB condundrum on our hands: playing a (probably) rusty and questionably battle-ready Brewer or playing a dinged up crutch Motley. Despite the QB issues I think the running game, defense, and ST will keep it close, but not enough.

    But then again, I am riding the Coleman-Stewart Express of wrong picks this year!

  3. The offense should be able to amass 450+ yds of offense and score 24+ points, the D and/or special teams should contribute a TD because, well they are Miami. I think VT scores north of 30 in this one.

  4. Hmmm 2012 Sun bowl? more like the 2013 sun bowl, and yes, Virginia tech on that day go soundly whiped in that game by a more determined UCLA team (was close until 4th Q romp)

  5. CC, your Magic 8 Ball does know what it’s doing! No prediction until it’s determined if either Brewer is back or Motley has really recovered from his foot injury.

  6. No Sun , No Fun . I had to pick against VT , which I have twice this year. And was right. Wet Day in Miami , I look for VT to lose. Great article , thank You Two.

  7. Q: Will Stewart’s Take: Why in the world are you reading this part?
    A: I was desperately hoping you’d pick Miami, given your track record!

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