On Saturday, Miami and Virginia Tech will face off in a de facto elimination game under the lights in Coral Gables.
Both teams have been pleasant surprises, as Virginia Tech has impressed under Justin Fuente, and sit at 7-1, with their only loss being at the hands of Clemson, who currently sits at #4 in the College Football Playoff rankings. The Hokies are currently ranked at #13 in the CFP Rankings. Miami comes into Saturday’s matchup undefeated at 7-0, but have yet to provide a serious marquee win, and sit at #10 in the CFP rankings.
Both teams have second year head coaches and first year starting quarterbacks. Josh Jackson (above) of Virginia Tech and Malik Rosier (featured) of Miami have both put together strong, and similar seasons. Both quarterbacks have thrown for 17 touchdowns and only four interceptions. Rozier is just ahead in passing yards with 2,071, compared to Jackson’s 2,032. Jackson, however, has the edge in completion percentage (62% to 56%).
Both guys can get it done on the ground as well. Rozier has rushed for 211 yards and two scores. Jackson has gained 193 yards with his legs and also has a pair of scores to his credit.
Rozier has been lauded for his performance under pressure, leading game winning or sealing drives in the fourth quarter each of the last four weeks.
Rozier also has the better weapons.
The Hurricanes’ depth at wide receiver this season has made a huge difference. They clearly missed Ahmmon Richards from a year ago, and the development of Braxton Berrios in his senior season has been a pleasant surprise. Throw in Chris Herndon and Jeff Thomas, the ‘Canes have four solid options on the outside. The running game has stepped up big time in the absence of Mark Walton, who is out for the year.
Travis Homer has been averaging 6.4 yards per carry on the year. While he didn’t have a huge day against North Carolina last week, he added 57 yards through the air.
For Jackson, he has Cam Phillips… and that’s pretty much it. Even though Phillips will probably be the best skill position player for either side, there’s nobody really behind him outside Sean Savoy. The Hokies have a “running back by committee” approach, with Travon McMillian, Deshawn McClease and Coleman Fox getting the bulk of the carries.
This has the making of a slug it out type contest, with both defenses being stingy, and both offense being good, but not great.
Virginia Tech’s defense only allows 284 yards per game, which is good for 9th in the country. Outside of a 31-point performance, VT hasn’t allowed over 24 points in a game all year. That Clemson game is sandwiched in between a shutout of Old Dominion and dominating defensive games against Boston College (10 points allowed), North Carolina (seven points allowed) and Duke (three points allowed).
Tremaine Edmunds has evolved into one of the best tacklers in the nation, with 68 tackles on the season. His brother, Terrell has two interceptions on the season.
While Virginia Tech doesn’t get after the quarterback too often, they still have the 14th ranked pass defense in the country.
For Miami, the defense is still strong, but employs more of a “bend but don’t break” mantra. They haven’t allowed 30 points in a game since they blew out Toledo 52-30. The defense has gotten key stops or turnovers all year long, which, in turn, has helped make things easier on Malik Rosier and Co.
The Hurricanes have the 52nd ranked defense, allowing 377 ypg. The weakness is on the ground, where they have the 82nd ranked rush defense, as opposed to the 35th ranked pass defense. The secondary, led by Michael Jackson’s four interceptions, has forced turnovers, and thus, the “turnover chain” has been handed off to many ‘Canes on the defensive side of the ball. Miami has their swagger back.
The front seven has done a great job of getting the quarterback, registering 23 sacks through seven games. Senior defensive end Trent Harris paces the club in sacks with four.
With both teams looking for that one signature win, this becomes an elimination game for both teams. The committee wouldn’t even blink at a two loss Virginia Tech team with only one top 25 win, which came in their first game, even if “it” hits the fan in the last month.
Miami is also without a big win, and a loss would be their first of the year. However, a home loss to Virginia Tech could still do them in, even with Notre Dame coming up next weekend.
The winner of this game would likely represent the Coastal division in the ACC Championship game. Could the committee leave out a 1-loss Miami or 1-loss Virginia Tech if either wins the ACC? That could remain to be seen, but there’s a lot of football left to be played.
However, for this game, Miami should come out on top. The defense will force a turnover late, sealing a close and exciting victory for the Hurricanes. Malik Rosier does it again in the 4th quarter with a big time throw late in the ballgame to put Miami up for good.
Virginia Tech 19, Miami 23.
Cover Photo via Florida Football Insiders
Other Media via Sporting News