MIAMI – It's back to the gridiron for Miami (Fla.) after a week off following an unexpectedly narrow 17-12 victory at home over non-conference foe Central Michigan. The Hurricanes now begin a critical stretch in the ACC, beginning with a visit from long-time rival Virginia Tech, and the Hokies have something to prove after coming off an embarrassing 45-10 setback against Duke - their worst home loss in 45 years.
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Miami -14
"It's very hard to watch a team a week ago, and say, 'That's the team that's going to show up this Saturday,' because generally speaking, almost the opposite is more often true in college football," Hurricanes head coach Manny Diaz told reporters. "We expect to see their best effort on Saturday." Miami took the time off to work on a ground game that has not been nearly as productive as expected while the offensive line continues to be shuffled in hopes of finding the right combination to boost a running attack that managed just 51 yards on 34 carries (1.5 yards per carry) against Central Michigan last time out. The Hokies also have concerns with their push up front and they are trying to get back to the kind of team they've been known for over the years - tough and rugged. "(Head coach Justin Fuente) wants to find an identity, but we want to be known like what we say: Hard, smart, tough," Hokies offensive lineman Lecitus Smith told reporters. "We need to get that hard and that tough going. Even that smart part going as well. We want to be that team that people are like, 'OK, they're a smart football team. They're also tough up front.' We want to make them have to scheme us well during the week."
ABOUT VIRGINIA TECH (2-2, 0-2 ACC)
The Hokies offense ranks second in the ACC on third down, converting 48.3 percent of the time (28-of-58), but the unit is averaging just 363.5 yards per game - ranked 100th in the nation and second to last in the conference. The ground game is partly to blame, only producing 148.8 yards per game, although freshman Keshawn King totaled 119 yards against Furman and redshirt junior Deshawn McClease had 102 against Duke to give the team its first back-to-back 100-yard rushers since 2015. Bud Foster's defense (352.3 yards per game) gave up scores (six TDs, one field goal) on seven of Duke's final eight possessions last week.
ABOUT MIAMI (2-2, 0-1)
Redshirt freshman Jarren Williams continues to develop at the helm of the offense and he has yet to throw an interception in four games - the first Miami quarterback in the modern era to have zero picks in his first 100 college pass attempts. The Hurricanes struggled to put points on the board against Central Michigan but the return of receiver Mark Pope, who missed that game with a lower leg injury, gives Williams an explosive weapon and could help a unit that converted just one of its 10 third-down opportunities in that tight win. The Hurricanes have eight takeaways this season and they figure to unleash their ball-hawking prowess on a Hokies team sporting a minus-8 turnover margin (11 giveaways, 3 takeaways).
1. Miami leads the rivalry 22-14 with the Hurricanes winning four of the last five meetings, including a 38-14 triumph last season.
2. The Hokies have won 26 straight games when holding opponents to 21 points or fewer, while Miami has lost 21 of its last 22 games when held to 21 points or fewer.
3. The Hurricanes have played in three games decided by five points or fewer, winning just once (against Central Michigan).
PREDICTION: Miami 30, Virginia Tech 20