Miami-Florida (5-4) at Virginia (3-6)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, Nov. 10, 12 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Scott Stadium (61,500) -- Charlottesville, Virginia. Television: ABC. Home Record: Miami 3-2, UVA 2-3. Away Record: Miami 2-2, UVA 1-3. Neutral Record: Miami 0-0, UVA 0-0. Conference Record: Miami 4-2, UVA 1-4. Series Record: Miami-Florida leads, 5-4.
GAME NOTES: Needing one more victory in their final three games to become bowl eligible, the Miami-Florida Hurricanes will visit Scott Stadium in Charlottesville for an ACC clash with the Virginia Cavaliers on Saturday afternoon.
Despite some recent struggles, Miami enters the weekend atop the ACC Coastal Division with a 4-2 league mark. The Hurricanes snapped a three-game slide with a 30-12 triumph over Virginia Tech last Thursday night. It marked the first game all season that Miami did not trail at any point.
Virginia is coming off a much-needed 33-6 win at NC State. The victory snapped a six-game losing streak and preventing the Cavaliers' first seven-game slide since 1981. Following this tilt, they'll stay in Charlottesville to host North Carolina next Thursday before wrapping up the regular season at Virginia Tech the following week.
Miami holds a 5-4 lead in the head-to-head series with UVA, although the Cavs have won the last two meetings.
The Hurricanes offense went largely M.I.A. during their three-game skid. And while they showed some improvement in the win over Virginia Tech, it wasn't exactly an offensive onslaught. Two of their touchdowns were set up by a blocked punt and a long kick return. Miami was out-gained 421-347, and gained a mere three yards in the third quarter. In addition, the offense converted only 1-of-12 third downs. Still, the 'Canes came out with a win and confidence should be high entering this tilt. Expect coach Al Golden to continue riding senior running back Mike James and freshman Duke Johnson, who have combined for 1,032 of the team's 1,171 rushing yards and 15 of Miami's 29 touchdowns this season.
Through nine games, Miami has forced 18 turnovers, which is three more than the team managed in all of the 2011 campaign. Those takeaways have, at times, helped mask what has been a rather porous defense. The 'Canes enter the weekend ranked 119th out of 120 FBS teams in run defense (246.2 ypg) and 110th in sacks (1.11 per game). No team in the ACC has yielded more yards from scrimmage than Miami this season. Last week, Miami notched a fumble recovery and intercepted Hokies quarterback Logan Thomas twice. The defense also buckled down inside the red zone, as Virginia Tech made four trips inside the 20-yard line and came away with only a couple of field goals.
Virginia turned in a complete game on both sides of the ball at NC State. The Cavaliers rolled up 23 first downs and 446 yards of offense, as they won the time-of-possession battle by nearly 14 minutes. Phillip Sims ran for a touchdown and threw for another, completing 8-of-10 passes for 115 yards before giving way to backup Michael Rocco. Kevin Parks ran for 115 yards and a TD on 25 carries, while Perry Jones added 67 yards on 11 carries. Jones is the fourth Cavalier in school history and 12th player in ACC history with both 1,000 career rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards. He and Parks have combined to spearhead the ACC's fourth-leading rushing attack this season.
While the UVA offense put forth a solid effort against NC State, most of the credit belongs to the defense. After all, the Cavs forced five turnovers (three INTs, two fumble recoveries) and came away with six sacks. They held the Wolfpack to 19 yards rushing and even notched a safety. It was the best defensive performance in nearly two months for a defense that entered the contest ranked dead-last in the nation in turnover margin. Still, Virginia has made strides of late. The Cavs have given up 122 combined rushing yards over the past three games (Maryland, Wake Forest, NC State), an average of just 40.7 yards per game and 1.3 yards per carry.
It hasn't been a picture-perfect season for the Hurricanes, but a Coastal Division title would certainly help overshadow their shortcomings. Look for Miami to snap its two-game slide in the series and become bowl eligible with a win this weekend.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Miami-Florida 31, Virginia 17
11/07 11:17:37 ET