Here's why Clay Ferraro believes Hurricanes will outlast Hokies
These 5 points will likely give Miami edge in Saturday night's ACC battle
PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – If you're just interested in a prediction for Saturday night's Miami-Virginia Tech game, I'm going with 23-20 Hurricanes. There, I saved you a lot of scrolling.
If you want some analysis, there are some reasons why I think this game sets up well for Miami.
For those who don't know, I'm a Virginia Tech graduate and follow both the 'Canes and Hokies very closely. These are two very similar, evenly matched teams. But I do think a few things play into Miami's favor.
1. Virginia Tech struggles with mobile quarterbacks
I don't need to remind 'Canes fans of 2016. Brad Kaaya was battered to the tune of eight sacks and seemed hopeless in the pocket. That's what Bud Foster defenses do against immobile QBs: they pin their ears back and go.
Malik Rosier isn't exactly Lamar Jackson. He's not going to end up on any highlight reels outrunning defenders, but he runs well enough to pose some major problems for Tech.
Foster's defenses load up to stop traditional running games. However, their aggressiveness can be exploited by running QBs. In Virginia Tech's lone loss, Clemson's Kelly Bryant led the Tigers with 94 yards rushing. Just last week, Daniel Jones broke loose for a couple big plays for Duke.
Rosier gives Miami's offense an element it didn't have with Kaaya and will need to beat Tech.
2. Virginia Tech gives up big plays
Again, Tech's defense is very aggressive. The Hokies will blitz like crazy and bring "one more than you can block." The problem with this is it gives offenses chances to hit big plays down the field against one-on-one coverage.
The 'Canes are one of the best big-play offenses in the country. Freshman Jeff Thomas has emerged as a true deep threat and any one of Miami's other wide receivers can beat one-on-one coverage if Rosier has the time to find them. The offensive line will need to give Rosier time, but if it does, the opportunities will be there.
3. Virginia Tech is inefficient running the ball
On the other side of the ball, the one area the 'Canes have struggled with this season is the running game. That's not a big problem against the Hokies.
Tech struggles running the football and quarterback Josh Jackson, who has shown great poise for a freshman, is not nearly the running threat that Jerod Evans was a year ago. If the 'Canes can force Tech into third-and-long by stopping the run, it could be a long night for Tech's offense.
4. Virginia Tech is young and inexperienced on offense
The Hokies boast one of the best receivers in the country in Cam Phillips. Outside of Phillips, however, Virginia Tech relies on a lot of freshmen.
Sean Savoy has emerged as a true threat in his first year on campus and Tech's young receivers and Jackson have proven they can make plays against less talented defenses. However, this will be a much different test in what will be the most hostile environment Tech has faced all year.
5. Big advantage to Miami in the kicking game
I expect this game to be close and I expect it to come down to a field goal. That heavily favors Miami. Michael Badgley has become one of the most reliable kickers in the country and has consistently come through when the 'Canes need him.
Joey Slye, on the other hand, has struggled for Virginia Tech this season and has regressed in his senior year.
Add it all up, and I'm taking the 'Canes. And at the risk of getting too cliché, I expect whichever team wins the turnover battle to also win the game.
All things being equal, I think Miami's advantage in the kicking game and in making explosive plays will make all the difference.
Saturday's game at Hard Rock Stadium airs at 8 p.m. on Local 10.
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