The Miami Hurricanes hope to stay undefeated in November with a road date against the Virginia Cavaliers on Saturday. The Cavaliers snapped a six-game losing streak with a win over NC State last week, and need to win their final three games to become bowl eligible. The Canes can secure a berth in the ACC Championship Game with a win over UVA and a win at Duke next week.
"I think we"re expecting the University of Virginia team that played last week," UM coach Al Golden said Tuesday. "Clearly they had some turnover ratio issues, which had led to some mistakes earlier in the year. But they clearly got that cleaned up in the bye week and looked different last week in terms of how they're operating."
When the Canes have the ball: Virginia Tech has one of the worst scoring defenses in the ACC, giving up more than 40 points in three games this season. All that changed against NC State last week, when the 'Hoos forced five turnovers and held the Wolfpack too 6 points.
Miami QB Stephen Morris looked much better against Virginia Tech last week after a string of subpar performances leading up to that game, throwing for 170 yards and two touchdowns. The bye week before Virginia Tech gave Morris time to heel his sprained left ankle, a factor which also helped freshman RB recover from a toe injury.
Johnson leads the Canes 755 yards from scrimmage and seven touchdowns, with an additional kick return score. He and fellow RB Mike James have accounted for 40% of the Canes' offensive yardage this season, and Golden will ride them against a UVA defense allowing 134 rushing yards a game.
When the Cavaliers have the ball: UVA is averaging 412 yards and 23 points per game on offense. Virginia uses two quarterbacks nearly equally, junior Michael Rocco and sophomore Alabama transfer Phillip Sims. Both have completion percentages in the upper 50s, and have combined for 2,400 yards, 16 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions.
Miami's defense will be short-handed. Safety Deon Bush is out, while linebacker Denzel Perryman is doubtful with an ankle injury. Replacing Bush will be either Kacy Rodgers or Vaughn Telemaque, while Perryman may give way to Gionni Paul.
Even in victory, Miami gave up 421 yards to Virginia Tech last week. The banged-up unit has executed a bend-don't break style that has allowed the team to win a number of close games, but one that frustrates fans nonetheless.
Who has the edge? Miami's offense and special teams will have to step up, because Virginia will gain yards on Miami's defense. Even so, a healthy Morris and Johnson should be able to help the Canes keep pace.
The pick: Miami 27-Virginia 21
Coverage is on ABC beginning at noon.