College Football Preview Week 4: Miami at Virginia Tech

Same bitter rivalry, different conference.  For years, the annual match up between the Miami Hurricanes and the Virginia Tech Hokies often determined the Big East Champion.  Now that Miami is back in the national spotlight, this Saturday’s game could very well determine who will represent the Coastal Division in this year’s ACC Championship Game.

In this week’s edition, College Footblog will analyze these two former Big East rivals and their match up this coming weekend.  We will look at the strengths of each team, we will break down the game and we will give our prediction for this very important match up.

Jacory Harris has taken Mark Whipple's offense and run so far in 2009.  (google images)

Jacory Harris has taken Mark Whipple's offense and run so far in 2009. (google images)

Miami

Strengths:  The strength of Miami, particularly on offense has to be the emergence of sophomore quarterback Jacory Harris.  After splitting time with now departed Robert Marve, who transferred to Purdue last spring, Harris has silenced all of the critics who questioned his ability to win games with his arm.

In two games this year against quality opponents, Harris has amassed 656 yards, while completing just under 70% of his passes.  He has taken to new offensive coordinator, Mark Whipple’s scheme, and he has really come into his own so far in 2009.

Miami’s other major strength is the two-headed monster they have at running back.  Graig Cooper and Javarris James were held someone in check in the ‘Canes’ opener at Florida State, but in two games, they have combined for 232 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, while averaging just over 4.7 yards per carry.

Virginia Tech

Strengths:  In a season that has not been full of offensive highlights, the play of freshman running back, Ryan Williams has been a constant for the Hokies.  While sharing the backfield with fellow freshman David Wilson, Williams has still managed to rush for 235 yards and five touchdowns, while averaging an astounding 8.1 yards per carry.

The other strength for Virginia Tech is their massive and experienced offensive line.  Anchored by seniors Sergio Renderand Ed Wang, the Hokies’ O-line is physical and athletic, and they are a big reason for the success Frank Beamer’s squad can control the clock with a solid running attack.

Ryan Williams could have his biggest test this weekend.  (google images)

Ryan Williams could have his biggest test this weekend. (google images)

VT Offense vs. Miami Defense

Look for Miami to stack the box in an effort to limit Williams and the VT running game to fewer big plays on the ground.  The Hurricanes’ defense managed to shut down a Georgia Tech’s more dominant ground game to less than 100 yards last Thursday.  That is the same Georgia Tech offense that broke 300 rushing yards in each of their first two games this season.

Much like the ‘Canes did to Georgia Tech, they will dare the quarterback to beat them through the air.  Va Tech quarterback, Tyrod Taylor has only managed to throw for 252 yards in the Hokies’ three games this season.  EDGE:  Miami

Miami Offense vs. VT Defense

As previously mentioned, the rise of Jacory Harris has surprised many in the college football world, but he has been the real deal.  He and the weapons around him are much more explosive and dynamic than the Alabama Crimson Tide offense that lit up Virginia Tech in week one for nearly 500 yards.

Miami’s balance on offense and the depth they have at running back and wide receiver will be a lot for Virginia Tech to handle.  EDGE:  Miami

Special Teams:  With a healthy Javarris James back in the rotation at running back, head coach Randy Shannon has been able to utilize Graig Cooper in the return game this season–and the results have been there.  Add the explosive Travis Benjamin to the mix, and the ‘Canes have some homerun threats in the return game.  As solid as the return game has been for Miami, junior kicker Matt Bosher has been a little shaky.

Virginia Tech has always been known for their special teams, and this year has been no different.  Davon Morgan and Ryan Williams have added some explosiveness to the return game, and the Hokies feature a senior kicker and punter.  Couple that with Frank Beamer’s uncanny ability to block kicks, and the VT special teams are always a threat.  SLIGHT EDGE:  Virginia Tech

Over the opening weeks of this college football season, Virginia Tech has shown the same consistency that they have shown in the last several years–solid running game and special teams, and Bud Foster is still one of the best defensive coordinators in all of college football.

Miami, on the other hand, has taken a major step forward in their quest to get back to the dominant days of the 80’s and 90’s.  With the emergence of Jacory Harris to compliment the talented running back tandem of Cooper and James, the Hurricanes once again have an explosive offense.  They have also shown with their dominance over Georgia Tech that they not only have the speed and athleticism on defense, but that they are also capable of playing with discipline.

Bud Foster will be able to slow down the Miami offense, but they will still get their yards and the biggest factor will likely be the Miami defense, stacking the line to slow down VT’s running game, and I just do not see Tyrod Taylor being able to win this one with his arm.  Prediction:  Miami wins 24-14

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