Thursday, November 2, 2017

Coastal Division Implications: Miami preview

Virginia Tech heads to Miami for a big showdown against the Hurricanes.

By: Adam Pace
November 2, 2017

(Virginia Tech Athletics/Dave Knachel)
After Miami came back to beat Florida State and then came back to beat Georgia Tech, I told my Dad I guess the Hokies would have to do it the hard way this year. Miami currently sits in first place in the Coastal Division and first place overall in the ACC. Virginia Tech is just a game back and could jump to first place by beating the Hurricanes this weekend. Although this game has big implications for the ACC, it feels like a classic late 90's game for a Big East title. Miami rolls into this one undefeated and ranked number 10 in the playoff rankings, while the Hokies come in at 7-1 and sit at 13th in the playoff rankings. A lot is on the line this weekend not only with the ACC but in the national playoff picture as well. Let's break it down...

(Photo: athlonsports.com)
Miami 

The Hurricanes are entering their second year under head coach Mark Richt and really seem to be playing with some confidence. I personally have a ton of respect for Richt and thought he was dealt a bad hand during his time at Georgia. All this guy does is win and while he may have never got the big win that Georgia wanted, odds are it was coming at some point. Last year, Richt lead the Hurricanes to a 9-4 record with notable wins over Pittsburgh, N.C. State, and West Virginia. Miami did have a down point losing four in a row during the month of October last year but they haven't lost since, holding one of the longest winning streaks in the nation at 12 straight games. Even though they keep winning game after game, there are some weaknesses to this team.

On offense the Hurricanes are lead by redshirt junior, Malik Rosier. Rosier's stats are almost identical to Hokies quarterback Josh Jackson. Both have a little over 2,000 yards passing and both have 17 touchdowns to 4 interceptions. Rosier is just a little bit better of a runner than Jackson, as he has 211 yards rushing compared to Jackson's 193. It's easy to say that in this match-up, no one has the advantage at quarterback. However, Rosier is dealing with a little bit of a sore throwing shoulder. 

Miami does have an advantage at running back though. After losing starting running back Mark Walton, Miami turned to his back up Travis Homer. Homer hasn't let his team down either, running for 512 yards so far this season and adding five touchdowns to go along with it. But the good news for Tech, Homer seems to be cooling down. His last three games have looked like this....

Georgia Tech: 184 yards
Syracuse: 136 yards
North Carolina: 59 yards

The Hokies will still need to be sound in their assignments, but it seems that the tape is out on Homer now and teams are able to adjust and slow him down. Miami will need Homer to step up and take the pressure off of Rosier. If Miami can establish a good running game, they should put themselves in position to be able to win the game. But if they allow this defense of Virginia Tech to live in the back field like they did last year, the Hurricanes are in for a long night.

Defensively, Miami has a really good unit. They currently rank 28th in the nation and have a secondary that doesn't allow many passes to be completed. But if there is a weakness, it's third down defense. The Canes rank 118th in the nation, allowing teams to convert at a rate of 30.7%. Look for Miami to try to get after the Hokies on first and second down to try to set up third and long. While this defense is good, they have many short comings and will need to play a great game to slow down the Hokies.

(Photo: Virginia Tech Athletics/Dave Knachel)
Virginia Tech

Justin Fuente has had some great success at Virginia Tech so far but he is still missing a big time signature win. He was close last year against Clemson in the ACC championship game but came up just a little short. This is his chance and the teams chance to say they are the real deal and deserve some respect. 

On offense, the Hokies need to continue to protect the football. Tech has had zero turnovers during the last two games, while the defense has forced five. Just by the law of averages, Tech's defense should get a turnover Saturday. So it becomes even more important that the offense doesn't give it back. Tech will need to be able to run the football efficiently again this week to help avoid long third downs. From my observations, Tech has been able to really keep drives going this year when they have a successful second down. This prevents the offense from getting into third and long and makes the conversion rate higher. Also as I noted earlier, Miami is one of the worst teams in the nation at stopping teams on third down. All in all, it should be a very simple game plan for this offense. Protect the football, avoid long third downs, and score when the opportunity presents itself.

Defensively, I would give the Hokies a big advantage. Tech comes to this game very healthy and has the opportunity to show that they are better than they played against Clemson. This defense currently ranks 10th overall in the nation and holds the nation's best third down conversion rate against FBS schools. As I noted in the Duke review, the Hokies plan of attack this year is to make teams have to move the ball against this defense. So far, only two teams have had any real success, West Virginia and Clemson. I'm not sure if Miami is good enough on offense to be able to move the ball on a regular bases. If the Hokies defense can keep it low scoring, then they put themselves in a good position.

Predicition

These two teams are just about even. I would give the Hokies a little bit of an advantage due to their defense but all in all, there isn't much difference between the teams. This game is probably going to be a lower scoring defensive battle. For the Hokies to win this one, they will have to protect the ball, play sound defense, and have outstanding special teams play. At the beginning of the season I predicted the Hurricanes to win this one but now I think Tech has a great chance. This one will be close to the very end because just about every Miami game this year has been that way. But when it is all said and done, I believe Foster's group will have something to say about it. Give me the Hokies to win this one 24-20. Let's Go.......

Adam's season predictions: 7-1

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