The Virginia Tech Hokies return to action this weekend as they host the No. 9 Miami Hurricanes in Blacksburg.
The Hokies (4-3) have lost two of their last three games, including last week’s embarrassing 38-35 loss to the Liberty Flames.
Meanwhile, the Hurricanes come to Blacksburg as the ACC’s No. 3 team and a 6-1 record. Miami was almost upset by N.C. State last week until a fourth-quarter rally saved the day for the ‘Canes.
The Hokies enter this weekend’s game in a similar position to last year. Tech was obliterated by Duke one week before and went down to Miami in quarterback Hendon Hooker’s first career start and took down the Hurricanes 42-35. The Hokies bounced back from that loss to have a decent season and it all started with Miami.
Can history repeat itself?
When: Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020
Time: Noon ET
Where: Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, Va.
Odds: Virginia Tech is a two-point favorite, per Odds Shark
This rivalry actually dates back all the way to 1953. Many fans only remember the Hurricanes and Hokies becoming rivals once both were in the Big East in the early 90s. The ‘Canes hold a 22-15 series lead over the Hokies and won the first 10 meetings between the schools.
It wasn’t until 1995 that Virginia Tech picked up its first victory over Miami. The Hokies would go on to win the next five meetings between the two schools. Throughout the 90s in the latter stages of the Big East, Miami and Virginia Tech was the game in the Big East.
Both schools came to the ACC in 2004 and the Hokies hold a 9-7 lead over the Hurricanes as ACC foes.
Virginia Tech jumped out to a big lead last year and Miami came storming back, but the Hokies held on late for a much-needed win.
When Miami has the ball
Miami is 6-1 on the season which surprises no one. A big reason for that success is quarterback D’Eriq King. King, a graduate transfer from Houston, finally gives the Hurricanes stability at quarterback, something they’ve lacked for years.
In last week’s comeback win over N.C. State, King was fantastic. He completed 31 of 41 passes for 430 yards and five touchdowns. He also led the ‘Canes with 105 rushing yards. That game was his best performance with Miami.
King did struggle in the loss to Clemson and a win over Pittsburgh. The theme there is both teams are known for playing strong defense. That isn’t the Bud Foster-less Hokies in 2020.
Virginia Tech has struggled with dual-threat passers. In just the last two weeks, we’ve seen that at times with Malik Cunningham and Malik Willis. While Cunningham hurt the Hokies more with his arm in the second half, Willis delivered as a passer and a runner. King can also do both.
The Hurricanes have weapons on offense. Running back Cam’Ron Harris is Miami’s top rusher and he possesses great vision and can be tough to bring down. Is this the week Virginia Tech tackles better?
Mike Harley is Miami’s leading receiver with 35 receptions for 497 yards and five touchdowns. The player to watch is tight end Brevin Jordan. A future NFL starter, Jordan has caught 18 passes and three touchdowns this season.
When Virginia Tech has the ball
Hooker was phenomenal in each of the last two weeks. The junior from Greensboro was a perfect 10 of 10 with 183 yards and three rushing touchdowns two weeks ago. In the loss to Liberty, Hooker completed 20 of 27 passes for 217 yards and three touchdowns, while rushing for 156 yards and a touchdown.
In his first career start at Miami in 2019, Hooker passed for 184 yards and three touchdowns, while rushing for 76 yards and another score in the Virginia Tech win.
The big question for the Hokies is will running back Khalil Herbert and tight end James Mitchell be back?
Herbert injured his hamstring on the opening kickoff last week and did not receive one carry on offense. It really hurt Tech’s ground game. Mitchell is Virginia Tech’s best receiver and his absence hurt the Hokies in both the running game and the short-to-intermediate passing game. Their status for Saturday remains unknown.
Raheem Blackshear can fill in admirably for Herbert. However, the Hokies must find more ways to isolate Blackshear in space against linebackers and safeties. Blackshear can do a little bit of everything and it’s about time offensive coordinator Brad Cornelsen became more creative with him.
This could the biggest test for Virginia Tech’s talented offensive line.
Wide receiver Tre Turner has had his best game in each of the last three weeks. The hope is Turner is finally healthy and turning the corner for his breakout performance of 2020. The Hokies desperately need him to make more plays down the field.
This game is really a toss up. On one hand, you have no faith in picking the Hokies. Anytime you think they are turning a corner, performances like Wake Forest and Liberty happen. It’s a reality check of where this program actually is these days.
On the other hand, how good is Miami? King is good. There are good players all throughout the roster, yet this team almost lost to the same N.C. State team Virginia Tech destroyed. And it was Bailey Hockman under center for the Wolfpack. Hockman could not move the ball against Tech’s struggling defense.
There is part of me that believes the Hokies will come out fired up. Can they withstand that for four quarters or will they get punched in the mouth and wilt? That’s the key.
I expect a high-scoring affair and while I think Miami is the better overall team, something tells me the Hokies are going to surprise folks this week.
Virginia Tech 41, Miami 38