College Football Picks: Virginia vs. Miami 9/30/21

by | Sep 28, 2021 | cfb

Virginia Cavaliers (2-2 SU, 2-2 ATS) vs. Miami Hurricanes (2-2 SU, 1-3 ATS)
When: Thursday, September 30, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, Fla.
TV: ESPN
Point Spread: UVA +4/MIA -4 (GTBets)
Total: O/U 62

Outlook

The bloom is off the rose in Charlottesville, as Virginia has seen a 2-0 start exposed as the work of getting to face William and Mary and Illinois in the opening weeks of the season. The Cavaliers are now 0-2 in the ACC and not looking like they can do anything but throw the football. But against Wake Forest, they couldn’t even do that all that well, as they managed to turn 400 passing yards into a mere 17 points in another loss to a middling Demon Deacons team.

Things are unlikely to get better for Virginia, as they next face a Miami team that was supposed to sit second in the Coastal Division to North Carolina and has won five straight against the Cavaliers in Miami. Of course, the Hurricanes are having problems of their own at the moment, as they had their commitment to football called out by Kirk Herbstreit on ESPN and haven’t put together consecutive good performances in 2021. They finally looked like they should in blasting Central Connecticut State, but they weren’t even close to competitive against Alabama or Michigan State and barely survived against Appalachian State. The Hurricanes’ biggest problem has been shooting themselves in the foot: they’re plus-2 in turnovers in their two victories and minus-6 in their two defeats.

How the Public is Betting the Virginia/Miami Game

The public has backed Miami with 63 percent of tickets, but not enough money has come in on one side or the other to push the line in one direction. Both line and total have held firm from their opening.

Injury Concerns

Virginia: Running back Wayne Taulapapa (concussion) is questionable. Cornerback Josh Hayes (leg), linebacker Chico Bennett Jr. (Achilles), wide receiver Nathaniel Bell III (knee), and wide receiver Lavel Davis Jr. (knee) are out.

Miami: Running back Jaylan Knighton (suspension) is probable. Quarterback D’Eriq King (shoulder) is day-to-day, while offensive lineman Jalen Rivers (knee), running back Donald Chaney Jr. (leg), and safety Avante Williams (discipline) are out.

When Virginia Has the Ball

Virtually everything the Cavaliers are trying to do runs through Brennan Armstrong, and when a team sets out to stop him, that can be a royal problem for Virginia. The Cavaliers ran 86 offensive plays against Wake Forest, and Armstrong either carried the ball or put it in the air on 76 of them, leading to virtually nothing on the ground for the Cavaliers and a lot of long passes out of necessity. Wake Forest kept Virginia from doing anything because the Cavaliers constantly had to work themselves out of holes on their drives, as they consistently found themselves needing to chew up yardage through the air but forced to go only a few yards at a time. Outside of two drives in the third quarter, it never worked, and until Virginia displays a better commitment to the ground game, this is going to keep happening. Armstrong has Dontayvion Wicks available as a reliable target, but the Cavaliers can’t keep forcing themselves into third-and-long situations. If Miami is able to force Virginia to go long on a consistent basis, the Cavaliers will either be putting the game in the hands of their defense or hoping Armstrong can make a play when he has to come up with something. After back-to-back 20-point defeats, neither possibility is appealing.

When Miami Has the Ball

Miami hasn’t committed to the ground game either, and with Cam’ron Harris looking middling at best and D’Eriq King questionable at best on the ground, it’s easy to see why. Miami just doesn’t trust its ground game at the moment, and for the time being, the Hurricanes are going to try everything possible to win the game through the air.

So far, it hasn’t worked. Michigan State outmuscled Miami and cruised to a 38-17 win, and although there was plenty of room to run against Central Connecticut State, that was always going to be a cakewalk game for the Hurricanes. Miami needs to run the ball with Virginia’s run defense looking so weak, and that’s especially true if King can’t go. If Tyler Van Dyke or Jake Garcia have to start this game, a running game would go a long way toward helping them build confidence.

More importantly, Miami cannot turn the ball over. King has hurt his team’s cause with some ill-timed turnovers, and the Hurricanes cannot give an offense that can be as explosive as Virginia’s extra chances. Miami needs to follow the Wake Forest strategy: extend drives on the ground and keep Virginia’s offense on the sidelines.

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Betting Trends

Miami might have won the last five matchups in south Florida, but the Hurricanes haven’t exactly been a strong cover bet, as they’ve only covered the number on one occasion in the past six. In fact, the underdog is 14-3 ATS in the teams’ past 17 matchups and considering this has been a division game since 2005, that’s saying something. Whether it’s against Virginia or not, Miami has just been a rotten bet at home for the past season-plus, as the Canes have covered just once in seven games at Hard Rock Stadium. The Cavaliers have stepped up their play in ACC play, as four of their past six league games have been covers (the last two, however, were not), but they really struggle when they’re expected to lose on the road, covering in just two of their past eight as a road dog. At the same time, Virginia has been a poor bet away from home, covering the number in just three of their past ten games on the road. The under has been a reliable play here; it’s hit in six of seven meetings between the two.

Weather Report

Warm and wet in October is one of the main reasons that my wife got us out of south Florida. It’s not going to be all that pleasant for this game, as partly sunny skies will give way to showers during this Thursday night contest. Temperatures will sit at 86, not ideal for football.

Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread

Virginia is a mess right now on defense, which makes Miami’s situation the one I want to back. The Hurricanes are the better team and should be able to get a win here. The Hurricanes haven’t looked all that impressive against three FBS opponents, but the Cavaliers aren’t stopping anyone and appear to have no end in sight. This looks like another one where Virginia’s defense can’t get the job done, and Miami keeps itself rolling after finally getting on the same page against Central Connecticut State. This match will be a lot closer, but the Hurricanes should earn the cover. I will take Miami.