FACTS & STATS: Site: Sun Life Stadium (74,916) -- Miami Gardens, Florida. Television: ESPNU. Home Record: Virginia 2-5, Miami 5-1. Away Record: Virginia 0-3, Miami 2-2. Neutral Record: Virginia 0-0, Miami 0-0. Conference Record: Virginia 0-6, Miami 3-3. Series Record: Series is tied, 5-5.
GAME NOTES: Losers of three straight, the Miami Hurricanes try to get back on track this weekend as they host the Virginia Cavaliers in ACC action at Sun Life Stadium.
The Hurricanes had run off seven straight wins to begin the 2013 campaign, reaching as high as seventh in the national rankings, but a 41-14 blowout loss at Florida State began a huge downward spiral for the once-mighty University of Miami. The 'Canes followed up the loss to FSU with a 42-24 setback versus Virginia Tech and then took an unexpected tumble against Duke (48-30) so now the team is just 3-3 in conference play.
As for the Cavaliers, they too began the season with some measure of promise, defeating BYU in the opener, 19-16, but after that it was all downhill. In fact, Virginia has won only one game since, a 49-0 decision over VMI at home back on Sept. 21. Since that win, the Cavs have dropped seven in a row. The latest setback being a 45-14 defeat at the hands of North Carolina on the road on Nov. 9.
Virginia is not only winless in three tries on the road, but the team is also void of any success in ACC action after six tries.
The series between these teams is knotted at five games apiece. While the squads have earned a split of the four contests played in Miami over the years, Virginia has actually taken three straight meetings overall.
The Virginia offense has been dreadful this season, except for running back Kevin Parks who has started all 10 games and produced 796 yards and 10 touchdowns on 184 carries. Beyond Parks there is very little for the Cavaliers fans to cheer about since the so-called passing attack has more interceptions (13) than touchdowns (eight). The biggest culprit there is David Watford who has converted a solid 58.3 percent of his attempts for close to 200 ypg, but still there are just too many mistakes to overcome on a regular basis.
Because of Watford's efforts, Virginia has a pass efficiency rating of 98.81, which is 120th in the country at the moment.
On the other side of the ball, Virginia is surrendering a hefty 33.8 ppg, a number that would be even worse if not for the fact that the squad held VMI scoreless in the third week of the campaign. If nothing else, Anthony Harris has given fans a reason to cheer in Charlottesville this season with his seven interceptions. Third on the unit in total tackles with 74, Harris has one of the team's three blocked kicks as well.
Unfortunately for the Cavs, the stats indicate that, outside of Harris, there is just one other interception for the defense and that has been a big problem when it comes to turnover margin.
Eli Harold, the only Cavalier with two forced fumbles and a pair of recoveries, also leads the program with 11.0 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks over 10 starts.
Against Duke, a football team that had been the doormat in the ACC for many years, Miami opened up a 10-0 lead in the first quarter but the Hurricanes ended up being held scoreless in the final frame while the Blue Devils were posting 17 points en route to what might not be seen as an upset win anymore. Stephen Morris managed to throw for 379 yards, but only two of his 30 completions ended up crossing the goal line. Herb Waters, who caught nine balls for 116 yards, was the recipient of both TDs for the Miami offense.
Defensively, the 'Canes just couldn't get a handle on Brandon Connette who not only ran 11 times for 37 yards and four touchdowns, he also converted 5-of-9 passes for 81 yards and another score. Miami had three players with double- digit stops, yet there was just one sack on the day for the entire unit as Duke ran 76 offensive plays.
Miami has compiled 26 sacks in 10 games, but there isn't a single player with more than 3.5 which is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand the lack of an overwhelming leader in that department means offenses don't have to focus heavily on just one individual, yet that also means any number of 'Canes can come flying over the line and take out the quarterback.
Morris is converting better than 59 percent of his pass attempts, en route to 235.8 ypg, but his 16 TDs are tempered by 11 INTs. Waters and Allen Hurns both have five TD catches to their credit, while Dallas Crawford has turned his 96 rushing attempts into 446 yards and 10 scores.
Even though Virginia isn't going anywhere this season, the team can still play the role of spoiler. However, this is the perfect opportunity for the Hurricanes to get back on track and take aim at the postseason.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Miami-Florida 35, Virginia 13
Saturday, November 23, 12 p.m. (et).