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2021 Game day preview: Virginia Tech vs. Miami

2021 Game day preview: Virginia Tech vs. Miami

Duke Virginia Tech football

Virginia Tech football players celebrate after the Duke Virginia Tech football game in Blacksburg Va. Saturday November 13 2021. (Matt Gentry/The Roanoke Times via AP)

Here's what to look on Saturday night when Virginia Tech visits Miami...

Virginia Tech vs. Miami

  • Where: Hard Rock Stadium (65,326); Miami Gardens, FL
  • When: 7:30 p.m.; Saturday
  • TV: ACC Network
  • Records: Virginia Tech 5-5 (3-3 ACC); Miami 5-5 (5-5)
  • Last game: Virginia Tech 48-17 win over Duke, Miami 31-38 loss to Florida State
  • Series: Miami leads 23-15
  • Last meeting: Miami 25-24 W (11/14/20)
  • Line: Miami -8

Keep an eye on Virginia Tech wide receiver Tre Turner

Turner is so determined to play this week’s game he’s being driven by members of the training staff to Miami. The training staff has cleared him to play — he returned to the lineup last week after missing one game with an upper body injury — but he’s not cleared to fly. That 26 hour drive is a strong sign of his dedication to the program. He was also chosen to wear Frank Beamer’s No. 25 jersey for the game. He only had one catch last week against Duke for 29 yards, but that did kick start a strong offensive effort from the Hokies. With Turner accepting a Senior Bowl invite this week, it’s clear he’s looking to end his collegiate career on a high note.

Who has the edge?

(Miami) OFFENSE: The outlook for Miami was bleak when D'Eriq King went out with a season-ending shoulder surgery. Freshman backup Tyler Van Dyke has settled into the starting role and gone 4-3. The team rattled off three straight wins before last week’s loss to FSU and Van Dyke put up 1,140 yards (72.5% passing) with 10 touchdowns and one interception during that stretch. The Hurricanes problem on offense over the last month has been a near non-existent run game. Injuries hurt the team there as well with starter Cam’Ron Harris suffering a knee injury and Van Duke isn’t nearly the same type of dual-threat quarterback that King was. They are only averaging 3.8 yards per carry this season and in three of their last four games that averaged dipped well below three yards a carry. Miami can’t be taken lightly though as they rank among the top 20 teams in the country with 59 plays of 20-yards or more.

(Virginia Tech) DEFENSE: Virginia Tech held Duke to 343 yards and 4.5 yards per game last week. Many of those yards came in garbage time with the Hokies back ups in. It was the third straight week they held an opposing offense to less than 375 yards and 20 points while not allowing more than 200 passing yards. None of those opponents had as much talent on offense as Miami, but there’s only been one game on the schedule where Tech had a complete meltdown.

(Virginia Tech) SPECIAL TEAMS: Miami’s coverage on kick returns is a flashing red light for the Hurricanes. They are allowing 23.1 yards per return and they have given up a touchdown. If Keshawn King is healthy, he could give Tech a boost with a big return or two. Miami is better on punt returns, but Tayvion Robinson is still threat as he moved into No. 1 in the country with 32.9 punt return yards a game.

(Even) INTANGIBLES: Virginia Tech announced it had parted ways with coach Justin Fuente a day after Miami fired athletic director Blake James, the administrator who hired the football team’s current coach Manny Diaz. The Hokies move will have more of a direct impact on the game itself with defensive assistant J.C. Price taking over as interim coach. He was thrilled with the energy Tech had when they hit the practice field just hours after Fuente met with the team to tell them he was leaving, but it’s fair to wonder if the distractions will prove too hard to overcome this weekend. Miami has played hard for Diaz as the hot seat chatter has grown — there last six games have all been decided by one possession — but they might getting tired of all the uncertainty as well.

Niziolek’s prediction: Miami 33, Virginia Tech 14

Virginia Tech pulled together last week, but Duke is the worst team in the ACC by a wide margin. Miami won’t be that kind of push over and with Tech coming off an emotionally exhausting week it’s easy to envision the Hurricanes pulling away in the second half.

Keys to the game

Laundry cycle: The 12 penalties (for 106 yards) Virginia Tech were called for last week the most of the entire Justin Fuente-era. That was easy to overcome against a lowly team like Duke. The Hokies will have a distinct advantage if they are disciplined since Miami is one of the most penalized teams in the country this season (No. 116 out of 130) with 7.7 penalties game for 68.8 yard per game. 

First blood: Virginia Tech needs to keep Miami receiver Charleston Rambo in check. Rambo was one of the key performers through the team's three-game win streak with 24 catches for 438 yards and three touchdowns. That's an incredible high level of production for a receiver that was already playing well. He ranks fourth in the ACC in yards per game (95.5) and tied for third in catches (64). Tech's corners will welcome the challenge of trying to slow down one of the ACC's best. 

Laser focus: A common theme among Miami's losses this season has been allowing opposing offenses control the game running the ball. The Hurricanes haven't won a single game this season when the opposing team runs the ball more than 35 times. They have also allowed at least 140 yards on the ground in each of those losses. Tech has come out with a run-heavy approach plenty of times this season, but there have been some pretty uneven results (the Boston College loss in particular). The game could come down to the Tech's offensive line consistently winning the battle in the trenches. 

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