Miami at Virginia Tech has always had an electric atmosphere. A sold-out Lane Stadium, most of the time at night, rocking to "Enter Sandman" as the Hokies came out of the tunnel and sending boos that would echo off the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains as the Hurricanes took the field.
This year, the electricity will be hard to find. Miami comes in at 2-3 and Virginia Tech currently sits at 2-4, making this the first time that these two programs have both had losing records coming into the game. The last win for either team was on Sept. 17 when the Hokies beat FCS Wofford, and each side is riding a three-game losing streak entering the weekend.
Miami leads the all-time series 24-15 and has won four of the last five.
Miami at Virginia Tech
When Miami Has the Ball
Despite the loss to North Carolina last Saturday, there was one major positive development for Miami: Tyler Van Dyke was sensational for the first time this year. Two weeks after finding himself on the bench in the second half of the embarrassing Middle Tennessee rout, the Hurricanes' quarterback threw for 496 yards and three touchdowns while nearly orchestrating a late-game comeback.
The Canes need that Van Dyke to show up in Blacksburg this Saturday. Veteran tight end Will Mallory had the best game of his career and was among seven Miami players with multiple receptions versus Carolina. The frustrating part was that against the ACC's worst run defense, the Hurricanes could only manage 42 yards on the ground. The holes were not there and the running backs failed to maximize the opportunities that they were given.
But they'll have another opportunity to get the ground game going against a Hokie defense that allowed a whopping 326 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns to Pitt last week. The injury to defensive end TyJuan Garbutt didn't help, but that could not be used as an excuse two weeks earlier when West Virginia ran for 218 yards. The only team that has thrown the ball well against the Hokies has been North Carolina, but if they can't at least slow down the run, it really doesn't matter.
When Virginia Tech Has the Ball
Coming into the fall, there were questions surrounding most aspects of the Virginia Tech offense and so far this season the answers have not been good. The Hokies rank 111th in total offense, with the rushing attack ranked 110th and the passing game only slightly better at 94th. Making matters worse is that they are also tied for last in the ACC in turnover margin (minus-4) due in large part to quarterback Grant Wells' seven interceptions.
On top of everything, Virginia Tech is 116th in average yards per passing attempt, so the Hokies haven't made big plays in the passing game and they have turned it over. Yuck. If this unit is going to make any improvement, the running backs are going to have to lead the way. Keshawn King missed the Pitt game with an ankle injury and Malachi Thomas got his first taste of action on the season, rushing for 84 yards on 15 carries. That duo, with help from Jalen Holston, can give the offense a lift if they have holes to run through.
The Miami defense has been a bit of an enigma this season. The run defense is third in the ACC and 21st in the nation, allowing just a hair over 100 yards per game. The Hurricanes also boast a respectable 59 percent completion rate allowed. But when they get beat in pass coverage, boy do they get beat. And it happened again on Saturday as Drake Maye and J.J. Jones hooked up on a 74-yard pass play to open the scoring. Only Charlotte is worse than Miami's 10.3 yards allowed per pass attempt.
Both offensively and defensively, Miami has glaring holes. The running game has been gradually getting worse as the season has gone on, Van Dyke was in a funk for the first four games, and the defense can't stop the big pass play. The problem for Virginia Tech is that it doesn't have the ability to exploit those weaknesses. The Hokies have done a terrible job stopping the run over their three most recent games and they don't have the outside weapons (nor the quarterback) to effectively stretch the field. Add in the possibility that last year's Van Dyke may be coming out of hibernation, and it all adds up to a Hurricanes road victory.
Prediction: Miami 35, Virginia Tech 20
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– Written by Jon Kinne, who has been part of the Athlon Contributor Network for three years, focusing on the ACC and Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.
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