Virginia Tech Hokies @ Miami Hurricanes
3:30 PM ET, Sun Life Stadium, Miami, FL
Laying the scene
Neither team has a shot at the BCS National Championship and neither team has lived up the preseason expectations, but with the top three teams in the BCS on bye, the SEC title game set and the Big East...well, never mind, the game of the week for Week 12 came down to Miami/VTech and Ohio State/Iowa. The 'Canes and Hokies showdown gets the nod as both teams are fighting for a Coastal Division title and thus a spot in the ACC Championship Game and a BCS bowl game, while Iowa is essentially out of the Big Ten/Rose Bowl race and Ohio State's only shot at another trip to Pasadena is probably a Wisconsin loss.
The Hokies control their destiny. They have the inside path to the ACC Coastal title, even if they lose this game. At 6-0 in the ACC after last weekend's win over North Carolina, and Miami at 5-2 in the conference, the Hokies need only win one more game. It doesn't matter if it comes this week against Miami or next week against Virginia. Win one, and they're off to face whoever comes out on top of the ACC Atlantic race.
Miami needs to win this game to stay in the hunt. This is their final conference game of the season and if they win they'll finish 6-2 in the ACC. A win here would leave them rooting for a Cavaliers upset of the Hokies the following week, which would bring both teams to 6-2 with Miami holding the head-to-head tiebreaker.
These teams have had some classic battles in the past and this one could be more of the same.
What Virginia Tech has to do to win
Rattle the true freshman quarterback. This time last year, Miami quarterback Stephen Morris was playing high school football against 15, 16, 17, 18 year old kids. He's facing men these days and has had some success doing so, leading Miami to two wins in his two starts. Much of that has been due to the presence of the Miami running game led by a stable of talented backs that keeps fresh legs in the game at all times. The first step to rattling Morris will be to stop the run, forcing Miami into third and longs so Morris has to make a play. The next step will be to bring the heat. Virginia Tech averages 2.6 sacks a game. If they can get to Morris early, they'll be on their way to a successful afternoon.
Offensively, the Hokies have several players capable of moving the ball on the ground. Darren Evans is the leading rusher with 605 yards, but David Wilson and Ryan Williams are both effective weapons as well. If that wasn't enough, Tyrod Taylor is a threat to run with the ball, too, and is the Hokies' second leading rusher at this point in the season. He's dangerous outside of the pocket as he could take off with the ball to pick up a first down or more, or could throw the ball downfield for a big gain. If they can establish their running game and get Miami to bite on a few play action passes to break off a big play, they'll be in good shape. Taylor's emergence as a passer over the last couple of years has brought his game to new levels, making him a tough player to defend.
What Miami has to do to win
Continue to play defense. Miami is ranked 19th in total offense and 17th in scoring offense. They're third in pass defense and second in pass efficiency defense. Virginia Tech likes to run the ball, though, and teams have been able to move the ball on the ground against the Hurricanes' 77th ranked rushing defense. Georgia Tech rushed for 308 yards using the triple option led by backup quarterback Tevin Washington last weekend and Florida State rushed for 298 yards in their win over Miami on October 9. For the amount of speed the 'Canes have on defense and the talent they have on the front seven, they should be ranked among the top teams against the run, not 77th.
Offensively, the key is what Miami has done the past two games as Stephen Morris has assumed the starting quarterback position, run the football. Last week, Lamar Miller, Damien Berry, Mike James and Graig Cooper scored rushing touchdowns. The week before, Miller and James each added a score on the ground. Morris has been impressive under center, nearly leading the 'Canes to a comeback win over Virginia, tossing the game winning touchdown pass to Leonard Hankerson against Maryland and throwing for over 200 yards in both of his collegiate starts (18/30 286 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT vs. MD, 10/18 230 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT vs. GTech), but it's the success of the running game that has made his transition to the starting lineup a smooth and productive one.
In Week 2, I picked Ohio State to beat Miami by virtue of the Buckeyes' home field advantage at the 'Shoe. I'm not sure Miami would have won that game had it been played in Miami, but the Buckeyes nevertheless came out on top. This week, I'm giving Miami the edge by virtue of their home field advantage. Sun Life Stadium isn't exactly the Orange Bowl, or anything remotely close to it for that matter, but 'Canes fans should come out in force to support their team with an ACC title shot on the line.
The decider in this one will be the running games. Whichever team is able to move the ball on the ground to control the clock and the tempo of the game will come out on top. Virginia Tech is ranked 19th nationally, averaging 208.5 yards rushing per game, but the 'Canes have been on a tear of late running the ball. The 'Canes rank 32nd in the nation in rushing offense (185.8 yards per game), but have rushed for 218 and 277 yards in their last two games against Maryland and Georgia Tech, respectively. With Jacory Harris still sidelined after suffering a concussion against Virginia on October 30, the 'Canes will continue to take pressure off of Stephen Morris by pounding the rock against the Hokies' 65th ranked rushing defense. - Danny Hobrock
Danny is a sports journalist primarily covering college football and professional baseball. His work for Xtra Point Football has garnered national attention and is critically acclaimed. Danny is the former editor of a political and current events website and the editor of our college football content.
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