Game Preview: #19 UVA faces Miami in ACC Football clash

uva footballMy Twitter friend Ahmad Hawkins always tells us not to look at betting lines and FPI, but that said, Miami is favored tonight against #19 UVA? Seriously?

OK, I get it. Sorta, kinda.

Vegas and FPI are analytics-based, and the analytics would favor a Miami over a UVA.

A look at the Rivals recruiting rankings for the last four years tells you Miami had 40 four- or five-star kids on the roster, and Virginia has three, all of those from this year’s class, i.e. they are all true freshmen.

It’s such an embarrassment of riches that the ‘Canes have the #2 quarterback from the Class of 2016, Tate Martell, who transferred in from Ohio State, as their QB3.

Yeah, they got a lot of talent down there.

They’ve had a lot of talent for a lot of years, and they’re on, what, HeadCoach4 since they’ve been relevant?

Mark Richt was the most recent coach to flame out, going 7-9 in his last 16 after that 10-0 start in 2017 that had Miami, ever so briefly, at #2 in the national polls and in the CFP discussion.

Richt’s defensive coordinator, Manny Diaz, is the next man up, and his tenure hasn’t gotten off to the start that the folks in South Florida expected.

The ‘Canes (2-3, 0-2 ACC) haven’t beaten anybody, because you don’t count FCS Bethune-Cookman (a 63-0 Miami win on Sept. 14) and 3-3 Central Michigan (a 17-12 win on Sept. 21) as anybody.

Central Michigan lost 61-0 to Wisconsin. A week after pushing Miami to the final minutes, the Chippewas were pantsed by Western Michigan.

This Miami team, give them credit, strong on the defensive side, which is why the front office went with Diaz after Richt rode off into the sunset last winter.

UM is second in the ACC in total defense (256.5 yards per game), second in rushing defense (73.8 yards per game), third in pass-defense efficiency (109.8).

A little bit of that is two of your five games being against patsies: in their three games against Power 5s, losses to Florida, UNC and Virginia Tech, the Miami D has surrendered 343.3 yards per game, which would rank seventh in the ACC, though the rush D has still been solid in those, aside from the 147 yards that Tech gained in the 42-35 Hokies win last week.

The big issue for Miami has been on the offensive side, which, broken record there.

The ‘Canes are actually moving the ball pretty well, averaging 438.8 yards per game, fifth in the ACC, and in the Power 5 games, they’ve been a tick better, averaging 450.7 yards a game, including racking up 563 yards against Tech last weekend.

Miami also had five turnovers in the Tech loss, and leading to 21 Hokies points in a seven-point win.

Florida, in the opener, had a 7-3 edge in points off turnovers in what turned out to be a four-point, 24-20 win.

So, now maybe you see why the analytical models would suggest Miami, at home, sure, 2-3, 0-2 in the ACC, but they should be favored over a less-talent-laden, overachieving Virginia team.

Miami is let’s-figure-out-the-turnovers from being 4-1, and hey, give us another shot at UNC, we don’t lose that one nine times out of 10, we should be 5-0.

Virginia (4-1, 2-0 ACC) is just as stout defensively – third in the ACC in total defense (275.4 yards per game), third in rushing defense (91.4 yards per game), fourth in pass-defense efficiency (117.5).

The offense – anemic. Try 363.6 yards per game, 12th in the ACC. (Yikes!)

Virginia is last in the ACC in rushing (107.6 yards per game), and 10th in pass efficiency (135.5).

(What’s worse than yikes?)

And turnovers have also been an issue for the ‘Hoos, who have committed 11 of them, including five in the 35-20 loss to Notre Dame on Sept. 28, resulting in 28 Irish points.

(Whatever’s worse than yikes, to the infinity power.)

Take away the turnovers, and UVA is 5-0, with two ACC wins and a win at Top 10 Notre Dame.

Take away the turnovers, and Miami is 5-0, with two ACC wins, and a win over Top 10 Florida.

These are two pretty evenly-matched teams, is what I’m getting at here.

Two evenly-matched teams, it’s not out of sorts to have the home team favored.

It comes down to who you believe in more.

An underachieving team with loads of talent and tons of questions about its direction coming off a short week, or an overachieving team of three-star kids pissed off about blowing a chance to beat a CFP contender coming off a bye?

UVA takes this one, 24-13.

Preview by Chris Graham


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