Who: Virginia Cavaliers (2-2, 0-2 ACC) vs. Miami Hurricanes (2-2, 0-0 ACC)
When: Thursday, September 30th at 7:30pm
Where: Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida
How to watch: ESPN
SI Sportsbook Odds: Miami -5.5
All-time series: Miami leads 11-7 and the Hurricanes have won five out of the last six meetings.
Last meeting: Miami defeated Virginia 19-14 on a rainy night at Hard Rock Stadium on October 25th, 2020. The Hurricanes, then ranked No. 11 in the country, took a 19-7 lead in the fourth quarter. Brennan Armstrong led UVA on a six-play, 94-yard drive, capped off by a 35-yard touchdown pass to Ra’Shaun Henry to cut the deficit to just five. The Hoos got the ball back with only 23 seconds remaining and a last-ditch lateral play resulted in a fumble to end the game as Virginia’s comeback effort fell short.
Miami this season
The Hurricanes had a rough stretch of three games to begin the season. No team had a tougher challenge in week one than Miami against No. 1 Alabama. As expected, the Crimson Tide defeated Miami in a lopsided 44-13 result that no one can really fault the Hurricanes for. The following week, Miami escaped with a 25-23 victory over a solid Appalachian State team on a late field goal. In week three, the Hurricanes welcomed Michigan State into Hard Rock Stadium and gave up 454 yards of total offense as they were blown out by the Spartans 38-17. Finally, Miami played an outmatched Central Connecticut State team in a tune-up home game last week and emerged with a convincing 69-0 win. The Canes set a program record for total offense with 739 total yards against Central Connecticut State.
Miami’s starting quarterback, D’Eriq King, came into the season as one of the top quarterbacks in the country after a 2020 season in which he recorded a 64.1% completion rate, the second-best season completion average in Miami program history. King has been solid again this season, but the redshirt senior suffered a shoulder injury which caused him to miss the game against Central Connecticut State. Miami went to freshman backups Tyler Van Dyke and Jake Garcia, who both played a significant amount of snaps last week. Van Dyke started the game and completed 10 of 11 passes for 270 yards and three touchdowns. Garcia was 11 of 14 for 147 passing yards and two touchdowns. Both quarterbacks played well against Central Connecticut State and it is unclear which of those players will start at quarterback if King is not able to play in the game against Virginia. Miami has yet to finalize King’s status for the game which remains questionable.
The game against Central Connecticut State was also an outlier in terms of Miami’s running game. After averaging only 105 rushing yards per game through the first three weeks of the season, the Hurricanes totaled 332 rushing yards against Central Connecticut State. Like Virginia, Miami has yet to establish a consistent ground game as the Canes head into ACC play.
Miami’s defensive numbers have not been very good to start the year. The Hurricanes are 11th in the ACC in scoring defense allowing 26.3 points per game, ninth in the ACC in total defense with 369.8 yards per game allowed, and 13th in the ACC in passing defense at 245.8 passing yards allowed per game. But the numbers do not tell the whole story, as the Hurricanes have faced some significant opposition through the first four weeks of the season. Miami’s defense features an array of strong and quick athletes, who are fast to the ball and good tacklers. It remains to be seen the level of defense Miami will play against ACC opponents.
By the Numbers
|By the Numbers||Virginia||Miami|
35.3 points per game
31.0 points per game
115.5 yards per game
159.0 yards per game
430.5 yards per game
296.0 yards per game
546.0 yards per game
455.0 yards per game
27.5 ppg allowed
26.25 ppg allowed
423.0 ypg allowed
369.8 ypg allowed
Miami Players to Watch
Quarterback D'Eriq King
With D’Eriq King’s status for the game yet to be determined, it goes without saying that the Miami quarterback situation will be an even more important aspect of the game than it normally would be. If King is able to make the start for the Hurricanes, it will be interesting to see how well he will play with that injured shoulder. If Miami goes with Tyler Van Dyke or Jake Garcia, look to see how the freshman quarterback performs against ACC competition for the first time. Regardless of who starts at quarterback for Miami, the Virginia defense should make it a priority to not let him settle into the game. The Cavaliers have delivered abysmal defensive performances in the last two weeks and the lack of a pass rush has been a significant aspect. UVA failed to record a single sack against Wake Forest and had just one sack against North Carolina.
Receiver Charleston Rambo
Rambo is off to a great start to the season with 26 receptions for 288 yards and a pair of touchdowns through the first four games of the season. His 72 receiving yards per game is seventh-best in the ACC. The redshirt junior tied a Miami single-game record with 12 receptions in the loss to Michigan State. The UVA secondary has struggled mightily to defend the passing game in the last two weeks, so containing Rambo will be a challenge that Virginia needs to confront head on.
Running Back Cam'Ron Harris
Cam Harris is a dynamic runner and a big-play threat every time each touches the ball out of the backfield. Up until last week, however, Miami had yet to establish a successful ground game. Harris has 272 rushing yards and three touchdowns on the season, but 100 of those yards and two of those touchdowns came in last week’s game against Central Connecticut State. As Miami looks to continue to improve its ground game, it will be pivotal that Virginia make substantial strides in its run defense, which has been horrendous in the last couple of weeks, giving up 203 rushing yards to Wake Forest and an astounding 392 rushing yards to North Carolina.
Three Keys to the Game for Virginia
1. Defense (we’ll keep saying it until we see improvement)
While stating that ‘defense’ is a key to the game is very general and obvious, the reality is that Virginia needs to improve every facet of its defensive unit if the Cavaliers are going to stand a chance in any game for the rest of the season. The Hoos are getting burnt on the long ball, have no pass rush putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks, and no answers to their opponents’ ground game, which makes it even more difficult for the UVA offense to play catch up while they’re sitting on the sidelines waiting to get the ball back. Virginia clearly is not going to fix every flaw in its defense in one week, but there just needs to be some marginal improvement and the Hoos will have a chance.
2. Protect Brennan Armstrong
The reason why the UVA defense needs to improve just a little to give Virginia a chance in these games is because of one Brennan Armstrong, who is in the midst of one of the best ever quarterback starts to a college football season. With that being said, Armstrong had been a little banged up since week two and getting sacked six times against Wake Forest certainly did not help. The Virginia offensive line needs to give Armstrong a clean pocket so that he can cook.
3. Establish a running game
Part of the reason why Armstrong was sacked so many times in the game against Wake Forest is because the Demon Deacons could afford to drop several players back into coverage as they did not have to respect Virginia’s running game. UVA is averaging only 115.5 rushing yards per game and the lack of a run game has begun to impact the passing game. I am not saying that Virginia needs to run the ball 50 times a game but the Hoos must make opposing defenses respect the UVA ground game to free up the Cavalier receivers.
What's at Stake
While both teams come into this game with a 2-2 overall record, Virginia desperately needs a win against a Coastal rival to avoid an 0-3 start to ACC play, while this is Miami’s first conference game of the season. The Hurricanes have a chance to regain control of its season after blowout losses to Alabama and Michigan State with a win to begin its ACC slate. The Cavaliers look to end a two-game losing streak and get themselves back into the race to defend their ACC Coastal crown. The Hoos will also look to defeat the Hurricanes in Miami for the first time since 2011.
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