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What to watch for when the Miami Hurricanes host the Virginia Tech Hokies in a Thursday night tussle

By David Hill
|  Thursday, Nov 1, 2012  |  Updated 5:13 PM EDT
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The Miami Hurricanes try to snap a two-game losing streak on Thursday night at Sun Life Stadium when they host ACC Coastal division rivals Virginia Tech. For the first time in 12 years, neither team is ranked coming into the matchup, but both can bolster their slim chances at an ACC Championship Game berth with a win.

"We haven't beaten them in a long time and they're a great team, very well coached," said UM QB Stephen Morris, "It'll be a great opportunity for us to play, especially on Thursday night. But it doesn't matter what their record is, doesn't matter what our record is. It's still an ACC Coastal game."

Last season the Canes lost a heart-breaker in Blacksburg, as the Hokies scored a go-ahead touchdown in the final minutes to beat Miami. UM has not beaten Virginia Tech since 2008.

"We know this division has gone through Blacksburg, and we've never won the division," Miami coach Al Golden said this week. "So clearly, if you want to have an opportunity, you have to beat Virginia Tech."

When the Canes have the ball: The Canes offense has sputtered since the schedule got tougher in October. Miami has scored just 37 points in its last three games combined, after averaging 35 points a game over the first five games of the season.

Morris says the left ankle injury he sustained at the end of the North Carolina game on October 13 is no longer an issue. He was noticeably less swift in Miami's last game against FSU the next week. Morris' agility will come into play, as the Hokies have recorded five sacks in each of the last two games. Freshman RB Duke Johnson also used the bye week to get healthy, as he had been slowed down by a foot injury.

Virginia Tech is 61st in FBS in scoring defense, giving up 29 points a game on 399 yards. DLs James Gayle and Jack Tyler have combined for 6 sacks and 15 tackles for loss. Though they lost to 10th-ranked Clemson 38-17 two weeks ago, the Hokies still held the Tigers to just 295 yards on offense, its lowest output of the season.

When the Hokies have the ball: Virginia Tech QB Logan Thomas burned the Canes last year, completing 23 for 25 passes for 310 yards and adding 38 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. He has been less efficient this season, completing 54% of his passes with 10 interceptions.

But the Hokies ground game is once again stout, averaging 4.3 yards a carry. Freshman J.C. Coleman has been a pleasant surprise, averaging 6.0 yards a carry with two touchdowns.

The Canes are near the bottom of FBS in team defense, giving up 499 yards a game, but they have managed to keep games closer than they would normally appear thanks to their red zone efficiency (FSU was held to four field goals on their seven scoring drives two weeks ago). That trend will have to continue for the Canes to win.

Who has the edge? Virginia Tech is a slight favorite, but the extra week off to get healthy could give Miami an advantage.

The pick: Miami 27-Virginia Tech 21

Coverage is on ESPN beginning at 7:30pm.

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