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What advanced stats favor Virginia in the tough matchup at Miami?

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UVA needs to avoid the Miami DL and limit big plays early

Miami v Virginia
Virginia’s offense will have a tough time with Miami’s defense
Photo by Chet Strange/Getty Images

After earning bowl eligibility and getting walloped by Louisville, the Virginia Cavaliers face their toughest test of the year in Miami. The Hurricanes are the #2 ranked team in the country and are #3 in the playoff projection. What will UVA have to do to pull off the huge upset in Coral Gables?

The “U” has returned to prominence due to an outstanding defense, which ranks #10 in scoring, #4 in turnovers, and #2 in sacks. They are also in the top 25 in advanced metrics, such as S&P+, success rate, explosiveness, average field position and preventing teams from finishing drives. Miami’s defense is better against the pass (#29 in yards and #18 in S&P+) than they are against the run (#61 in yards and #59 in S&P+). However, running the ball is not one of Virginia’s strengths. The Hurricanes’ defensive line boasts a havoc rate that leads the country, so the Hoos will need to employ lots of screens and quick slants to mitigate Miami’s aggressive front line.

In order to stay in the game, UVA’s defense needs to stop big plays, especially in the first half. Miami’s offense does not employ an efficient passing or running game, but instead rely on big plays. The Hoos defense actually matches up well in that regard as shown in this chart:

UVA Defense vs Miami Offense 

Category UVA Defense Miami Offense Difference
Category UVA Defense Miami Offense Difference
Explosiveness 67 8 -59
Rushing Explosiveness 103 9 -94
Passing Explosiveness 57 23 -34
Success Rate 36 47 11
Rushing Success Rate 50 45 -5
Passing Success Rate 29 55 26

If UVA can limit the big plays and force 3rd downs, they could have an advantage there as well. Miami’s offense is #125 out of 129 schools in converting 3rd downs and the Cavaliers defense has a +28 advantage in the S&P+ ranking. The Hurricane’s offense is only #87 in scoring in the first half, which is 27 spots worse than UVA's defense. Virginia also commits fewer penalties than Miami and for less yards.

There is a certainly a possibility that the Hurricanes could come out flat in the first half, get a lot of penalties, fail to convert 3rd and longs, get overconfident due to the #2 ranking, and lose blood flow to their heads due to the turnover chain, etc. If it is a low scoring close game at half, anything can happen.