The Virginia Cavaliers and the Miami Hurricanes find themselves on the opposite ends of the ACC Coastal Division as they prepare to square off against one another on Friday night. While the Cavaliers (4-1, 2-0 ACC) will be looking to hang on to their lead in the division, the Hurricanes (2-3, 0-2) hope to pick up their first conference win of 2019.
Virginia hasn't played since its 35-20 loss in South Bend to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Before that game, the Cavaliers had won their first four games of the season.
Miami, on the other hand, has struggled after many expected them to be among the favorites in the Coastal Division. The Hurricanes' latest loss came in heartbreaking fashion against the Virginia Tech Hokies. After the Canes fought their way back to tie the game with 3:16 left, the Hokies scored a game-winning touchdown with 1:03 left in regulation to secure the win. Now, the Hurricanes will try to avoid going 0-3 in the ACC.
Miami leads the all-time series 9-7 over Virginia. However, the Cavaliers defeated the Hurricanes 16-13 last season in Charlottesville.
Virginia at Miami
Kickoff: Friday, Oct. 11 at 8 p.m.
Spread: Miami -1.5
When Virginia Has the Ball
The Hurricanes' defense, which has taken a step back from last season, will have its hands full trying to contain dual-threat quarterback Bryce Perkins. In five games, Perkins has thrown for 1,177 yards with eight touchdowns and six interceptions. He also is second on the Cavaliers in rushing with 164 yards and two touchdowns.
Virginia Tech was able to rush for 153 yards on Miami's defense, so expect Virginia head coach Bronco Mendenhall to try to establish the rushing attack with Wayne Taulapapa on the road.
Through the air, Joe Reed and Hasise Dubois have both been critical to the Cavaliers' success. Combined, Reed and Dubois have recorded 57 catches for 656 yards and six touchdowns. Miami's secondary has been a weakness defensively, so that is another area Virginia could try to exploit
When Miami Has the Ball
Jarren Williams has been dealing with a sore shoulder dating back to Miami's close win against Central Michigan. He's still not completely over the injury, meaning N'Kosi Perry will get the start against Virginia.
Starting Perry might not be such a bad thing for the Hurricanes. After all, Perry came into Saturday's game after Williams' three first-half interceptions, and he threw for 422 yards, four touchdowns and one interception in relief.
Regardless of who is at quarterback, the biggest key will be protection. Against Virginia Tech, both quarterbacks were uncomfortable and pressured before they wanted to throw the football. Miami's offensive line will also need to establish a running game to take pressure off of the signal-caller.
Both Virginia and Miami are defensive-minded teams with defensive-minded head coaches. The Cavaliers are more of a physical team that loves to grind it out, while the Hurricanes love to show their speed and athleticism to score points and slow offenses down.
Miami head coach Manny Diaz should be encouraged by the way his team performed in the second half against Virginia Tech. Down 28-0, his team could have easily quit, but his players were persistent and got back into it before losing the game late in regulation.
As for Friday's game, expect it to be close. The Hurricanes are desperate for a win to salvage their season. But Virginia will come into this contest well-rested, while Miami is playing on a short week. The Cavaliers have the advantage of being the more prepared team.
Prediction: Virginia 30, Miami 27
— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post and is a reporter for Pro Player Insiders. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.