No. 3 Canes Focused On Virginia: What To Watch

The Hurricanes Look To Avoid Let Down After Two Emotional Primetime Wins At The Rock

PHOTO: MIAMI HURRICANES

Miami Gardens, FL — Slighted by the CFP Committee for a third week in a row, the No. 3 Miami Hurricanes (9-0, 6-0 ACC) welcome the Virginia Cavaliers (6-4 3-3 ACC) to Hard Rock Stadium. The Canes already have a date with No. 2 Clemson in the ACC Championship Game, due to Virginia Tech’s loss to Georgia Tech last week. Miami still has two ACC Coastal opponents left meaning the buzz work around Coral Gables this week is focus.

“I just don’t think it really matters because you still have to beat Virginia,” Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said. “The solo attention of our football team is trying to find a way to improve off of how we played last week, and we’re really not thinking past Virginia.”

With superior talent, coaching, and evidence from the past two weeks, the Canes should breeze through Virginia and Pittsburgh. But there is a chance Miami could play down to their opponent [insert North Carolina game]. Miami head coach Mark Richt’s task is to keep this group focused on the next two weeks and not so focused on pats on the back.

What’s At Stake

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Before Saturday’s statement win over then-ranked No. 3 Notre Dame, Miami had no margin for error. However, due to losses by Georgia, Washington, and Ohio State already with two bad losses, Miami could drop one of the next two games and still get into the CFP with a win over Clemson.

Committee Chair Kirby Hocutt stated that Miami’s lack of quality wins on the road contributed to the Canes ranking behind one-loss Clemson. He also said Clemson’s loss gets a pass due to quarterback Kelly Bryant’s injury, not playing the full game.

However, no one is talking about how Miami had to restart their season due to Hurricane Irma. After the Canes beat Bethune-Cookman, Miami was idle for three weeks and displaced from their homes. Therefore, the Canes should get a pass for the non-convincing wins over sub-par opponents.

Not competing at a high level for three weeks takes a toll on 19 to 22-year-old players. While all other teams were getting into their groove going into October, the Canes were trying to get back into football shape.

Miami On Offense

The Hurricanes’ offense has broken out 34.5 points and 401.4 yards per game over the past two weeks, they’ve found their groove.

Recommitted to the run game with running backs Travis Homer, true freshman DeeJay Dallas, and the running ability of quarterback Malik Rosier, the Canes ran the ball 76 times for 447 yards over the past two weeks.

PHOTO: MIKE MOSRIE

Rosier does need to work on his accuracy, however, going just 42-84, with six touchdowns and four interceptions in his last three games. The Virginia defense yields only 180 yards through the air and gets after the quarterback with 24 sacks thus far.

The running back corps will get their touches early and often in Saturday’s matchup. The Cavaliers give up 178.9 yards on the ground in gashes.

Homer had his first 100-yard game against the Fighting Irish, since taking over the running back duties full-time, after Mark Walton’s season-ending injury.

Dallas will get a significant workload as well, he’s cemented a critical role in the offense and is Miami’s gadget player as rolled out their wildcat package against Notre Dame.

PHOTO: MIAMI HURRICANES

Miami has done all it needs to do to impress the CFP Committee, jumping four spots in two consecutive weeks. Most noteworthy, the Canes do not have to blow anyone out or run up the score they just have to win, and they’re in. Expect the Hurricanes offense to be vanilla against Virginia; the Canes don’t want to show too much as a showdown with Clemson is looming.

Miami on Defense

PHOTO: MIAMI HURRICANES

Diaz is nominated for The Broyles Award, the best assistant coach in college football. Due to the popularity of the Turnover Chain and the dominance of the Miami defense, he has a great chance to win. The Canes have accumulated 16 turnovers over the past four weeks.

Junior defensive back Jaquan Johnson is one of four defensive semifinalists named for the Walter Camp Award. The dynamic playmaker is the emotional leader of the Canes defense. Johnson is going into Saturday’s matchup with a chip on his shoulder.

“We’re going to play pissed off regardless,” said Johnson. “That’s how we play, that’s our standard, that’s how we compete.”

PHOTO: MIAMI HURRICANES

Miami’s defense will make light work of the Cavaliers offense. They predominately use short passing attempts to gain first downs and have little to no run game, ranked 116th in the nation.

Diaz isn’t taking the bait.

“Virginia prevents you from ever being comfortable defensively because they’re always presenting you with a different personnel group, a different formation, a different pre-snap motion, a shift, so it’s a team you absolutely have to pay attention to, you have to make sure your focused and locked in because you can get beat before the snap,” said Diaz.

Prediction: The Canes are a 19.5 point favorite at The Rock. Too many points given that Miami won’t get too exotic on offense or defense due to the ACC Championship game against Clemson. But the Canes will win convincingly.

Miami 31 – Virginia 17