The college football season may still be weeks away, but Telegraph reporter Coley Harvey is here to start getting you ready. As teams across the ACC prepare for the ACC Kickoff in Greensboro, N.C. on July 25-26, they can’t help but turn their attention toward the fall. With the conference as competitive as it has ever been, the ACC schedule boasts several key matchups this year that could help determine its eventual champion. Here is game No. 10 on our countdown:
No. 6 — Virginia Tech at Miami
Date: Nov. 20
Where: Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens, Fla.
Can Jacory Harris lead the "U" back to dominance this season? Mark Nov. 20 on your calendars. Photo Credit: ajc.com
Last meeting: Virginia Tech ran away with an easy 31-7 home win over Miami the last time the teams faced one another. But in fairness to the Hurricanes, it was their third consecutive game against a ranked opponent, and their third straight conference game to open an arduous 2009 campaign. As was the case often last season, Hokies running back Ryan Williams was the key figure in the contest, rushing for 150 yards and a pair of touchdowns against a surprisingly beleaguered Miami defense. The week before, the Hurricanes had held Georgia Tech’s often prolific run-based option offense to just 228 yards.
Recent history: The Hurricanes have a 17-10 advantage in the all-time series, but the Hokies have won three of the last four meetings. Of those recent matchups, the 2007 game is most indicative of where the teams have progressed against one another lately. That year, the Hokies pummeled Miami for a 44-14 win.
What’s at stake: For Miami, the ACC season hangs fully in the balance with this game. The last one of the regular season for the Hurricanes, it likely will be their final opportunity to prove they are worthy candidates to represent the Coastal Division in the conference championship. Expected to be somewhere atop a very competitive and balanced division throughout the year, Miami will have to buckle its defense down in this game. It also will have to see its productive offense regularly trade scores with Virginia Tech’s strong unit. While the Hokies have a potential trap game waiting the following week with their rivalry finale against Virginia, this game with Miami could give them enough validation to take home the Coastal crown before even stepping on the field with the Cavaliers.
Subplots: This game comes at what may be the toughest stretch of games for both teams. Following a “bye” the week of Oct. 30, the Hokies go through a veritable Coastal Division gauntlet, taking on Georgia Tech at home before traveling to North Carolina and then on to Miami. After Virginia Tech’s defensive line has to play two quick, aggressive-blocking offensive lines in back-to-back weeks, it will be interesting to see how well it is able to respond, physically, to Miami’s hulking unit. The road to Nov. 20 isn’t much easier for the Hurricanes. Their “bye” is way back on Sept. 18, and comes before they have to deal with the likes of Pittsburgh, Clemson, Florida State, North Carolina, an upstart Maryland team and reigning Coastal Division champion Georgia Tech. One week after facing the Yellow Jackets in Atlanta, they’ll have to refocus for Virginia Tech. In a battle of attrition, watch for how well both teams hold up in this late-season showdown.