In Week 5, Virginia Football heads back on the road for another prime-time contest on national television. This one is Thursday night football under the lights in Miami against the Hurricanes. It will be the third straight year that Virginia has to head to Coral Gables as the coronavirus rescheduling last season sent the Hoos on the road once again. Let’s take a look at what we can expect from the Hurricanes.
Postseason: Cheez-It Bowl, 37-34 loss to Oklahoma State
The Hurricanes finished 8-3 last year, with a 7-2 record in the ACC. One of those losses came at Clemson, and one was a close loss to Oklahoma State in the Cheez-It Bowl. But the third loss was a 36 point drubbing, at home, against UNC. That’s really the only bad game they played all year.
Led by QB D’Eriq King, the Canes had a solid offense, though not as good as many expected. They ranked just 67th in rush offense, despite King rushing for over 500 yards. The passing game was better, ranking 29th nationally in both yards and efficiency. Miami’s rush numbers were impacted by very poor sack numbers, ranking 98th nationally in fewest sacks allowed (and 117th in TFLs allowed). While that only impacts the rush numbers, it’s truly a reflection on poor OL play in pass protection.
Defensively, things weren’t quite so rosy. The two DEs totaled 30 TFLs and 12.5 sacks. As a team, the Canes were 32nd in sacks and 4th in TFLs. But overall, the defense ranked just 67th in total defense, with roughly equal rankings between pass and rush defense. In truth, the defense was better than it seems. They were just inconsistent. They shut out Duke, held Virginia to 14, and limited Florida State to just 10 points. On the flip side, they gave up 42 to Clemson, 62 (!) to UNC, and 41 to NC State.
Was it COVID-related? Youth? Coaching? Who knows. But improvement will be necessary for the Hurricanes to reach their goals this season.
Key Returners: QB D’Eriq King, RB Cam’Ron Harris, WR Mike Harley, S Bubba Bolden, CB Al Blades
Key Departures: TE Brevin Jordan, DE Quincy Roche, DE Jaelen Phillips
Key New Faces: DE Deandre Johnson (Tenn), WR Charleston Rambo (Oklahoma)
Both national pre-season polls have Miami ranked around No. 15 in the nation, which is a bit higher than they finished last year. QB D’Eriq King is a Heisman candidate at QB, but he is coming off a torn ACL in the bowl game. The Canes open their season against Alabama in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game, and if King isn’t ready to go, then it’ll be redshirt freshman Tyler Van Dyke facing the defending national champs. That may not go well. How Miami’s defense handles Bama should provide some insights into how the team will fare overall this season.
King has most of his weapons back, including his top two RBs (Harris and Don Cheney), and pretty much all of his WRs. Losing Brevin Jordan hurts, but Miami always seems to have TEs in the wings and junior Will Mallory is up next. If King is healthy, this offense should be very good.
The defense will go as far as the secondary will take it. Bolden and Blades lead the way there, but it’s a young unit and they’re going to tested early with Bama and Michigan State (not to mention a very strong Appalachian State) as early games.
All-time Record vs. Miami: 7-11
Last meeting: 2020, Miami win 19-14
The Hoos and Canes have played every year since 2004, plus the CarQuest Bowl in 1996. The Canes lead the series 11-7, but it has been much more one-sided recently. Since 2015, Virginia has won just once. Most of these games have been close though, with the last three games being decided by a total of just 16 points.
The Canes get their third consecutive home game in this series, which is a big bonus to them. Getting a win on national TV against a big name opponent would be huge for Virginia, but it’ll be tough this year against a very good and very deep Miami team.