Virginia Cavaliers (3-5, 4-3 ATS) at No. 17 Miami Hurricanes (6-2, 4-3 ATS)
Land Shark Stadium Miami, F.L. Saturday November 7th, 12:00PM Eastern
By Jay Horne of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Virginia +13.5/Miami -13.5
The no. 17 Miami Hurricanes about let their hopes for an ACC Title slip away last week. The Hurricanes trailed Wake Forest 27-14 in the 4th quarter, but quarterback Jacory Harris rallied the offense from behind to come back and steal the victory 28-27. The win kept the Hurricanes alive in the ACC Championship race and kept them from dropping two straight dating back to the overtime loss against Clemson two weeks ago. Miami now returns home as they will host the 3-5 Virginia Cavaliers. The Cavaliers have dropped 2 straight games from Georgia Tech and Duke as they hold a 2-2 record in conference play. Each of the 2 conference wins by the Cavaliers was achieved on the road and they will be going for a 3rd victory when they travel to Miami. The ACC has been wide open this year and the Hurricanes will surely get the attention entering the contest, but this could easily turn into another surprise outcome.
The Cavaliers main problems have come from an offense that has been stuck in neutral all season. Virginia is the only team in the ACC to not have at least one player over 300 yards receiver or rushing. The Cavaliers rank a horrendous 116th in total offense averaging just 277 yards per game and are only averaging 21 points per game. The problem is Miami has had no trouble finding the end zone this year and a dangerous explosive passing game. The Cavaliers would expectedly have to find a way to score some points. However, Virginia has not scored over 20 points in a single conference game this season which leads to believe if they are to find away to win it will have to come from their defense.
The Cavaliers pass defense ranks 19th in the country holding opponents to 175 yards per game. The secondary will be huge against the Miami passing game. If those guys can play well, they could easily turn this game into a surprisingly low scoring affair. The offense can then look for quarterback Jameel Sewell to try and direct the Cavaliers in some way down the field. Sewell is completing just 53% on the year with 6 scores and 6 picks. However if Sewell can make just a few plays it will give the Cavaliers a chance to jump on Miami early similar to the way Wake Forest did last week. The Cavaliers likely do not have the offense to come from behind, but could they hold the Hurricanes off if they could jump out front is the big question?
Hurricanes QB Jacory Harris may have 11 interceptions to his resume this season, but he has played much better than the numbers may indicate. Harris orchestrated comeback efforts over Florida State, Oklahoma, and as recently as Wake Forest a week ago. The Miami star does not get rattled very easily and he has thrown 16 touchdowns and is completing a solid 62% on the year. The question will be if the Hurricanes wide outs can get open against the Cavaliers secondary. Harris can deliver the ball, but he will need guys like speedsters Travis Benjamin and Leonard Hankerson.
The Cavaliers passing defense has not given up many big plays this season meaning the Miami wide outs may have to work on some shorter routes before exploring down field options. If they can complete passes underneath the coverage early, they will be able to work down field with effectiveness later. Look for Benjamin to be the primary recipient for those deep targets with some top-notch speed. Of course Miami is a balanced offense as well despite popular perception. Tailbacks Javarris James and Greg Cooper bring different running styles to the table. Cooper has great moves while James has been the most consistent threat. Both guys are averaging 5 yards per carry and they too will help move the chains early before they attempt to exploit the secondary down field.
Jay’s Pick - Everyone will likely be on the Hurricanes in this one, but they have been too shaky in recent weeks. If you break it down on paper, Virginia should not be able to hang, but they will find a way. Cavaliers +13.5.