Check out our best plays in this week’s Fab Five:
Miami at Virginia Tech
When and Where: Saturday, Nov. 17, Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, Va., 3:30 p.m. EST.
Its 26-year bowl streak in grave jeopardy and needing wins in its final two games to extend that run, Virginia Tech tries to take the first step Saturday when it tries to right itself against Miami in a contest of struggling teams.
Hurricanes also fighting to become bowl eligible
Miami (5-5, 2-4 ACC Coastal) is sixth in the Coastal Division, ahead of only North Carolina, and needs a victory in either this game or its season finale against Pittsburgh to extend its streak of bowl appearances to six games.
The Hurricanes are looking to avoid their first five-game losing streak in a single season since a six-game skid to cap a 3-8 season in 1977 under Lou Saban. Miami’s skid hit four after a 27-21 loss at Georgia Tech last Saturday, failing to fully stop the triple option as the Yellow Jackets rolled up 231 rushing yards.
Turnovers have also been a huge problem during this slump. Miami lost three fumbles against Georgia Tech and has committed 10 turnovers in the four defeats. The Hurricanes have only a plus-1 turnover margin this year, a far cry from last season when they made the “Turnover Chain” a fad and were a plus-13. In their last 13 games, the ‘Canes have a minus-2 margin with 26 giveaways.
Despite the struggles, a bowl berth is still a motivating factor for the Hurricanes, who want to send their senior class out on a positive note.
“Bowl games are sometimes a bridge to the following year. We saw that with the West Virginia game after the ‘16 season and how that spring boarded us into the ‘17 season,” Hurricanes defensive coordinator Manny Diaz told the Sun-Sentinel. “But right now the reward, the goal is go play your best game. Our best game is out there and go find a way to put it together. Offense, defense, special teams. Go play a game like we should play because we’re running out of at-bats to do it. What a great weekend to do it up in Blacksburg.”
N’Kosi Perry completed 14 of 23 passes for 165 yards but had one of those three lost fumbles. The redshirt freshman has 11 TD passes but none in the last three games. Travis Homer was held to a season low-tying 30 yards against Georgia Tech but still leads Miami with 732 rushing yards.
Hokies run defense in tatters after demolition by Pitt
Virginia Tech (4-5, 3-3 Coastal) knows full well what Miami experienced against Georgia Tech but on a much larger scale as the Yellow Jackets rolled up 465 rushing yards while trying just one pass.
That triggered a three-game malaise in which the Hokies have conceded a staggering 1,176 yards and 16 rushing touchdowns while giving up 7.2 yards per carry. Pittsburgh churned out 492 yards while averaging 13.7 yards per attempt in last weekend’s 52-22 rout of Virginia Tech, getting scoring runs of 73, 31, and 97 yards in addition to a 78-yard touchdown pass.
The losses to Georgia Tech and Pitt mark two of the three worst defensive rushing performances under long-time defensive coordinator Bud Foster, who had entered the season needing to replace seven of their 10 top tacklers from 2017. The dismissal of pass rusher Trevor Hill in mid-season has not helped matters, but the players know there are no excuses at this point.
“Everyone’s been saying we’re young since January,” senior defensive tackle Ricky Walker told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “That’s not an excuse. Guys have to step up, next-man mentality. There’s a reason why guys are being recruited to Virginia Tech. Coaches believe in them. We believe in them. It’s, what, Week 10? There’s no freshmen no more. You’re sophomores. So we have to just play like it.”
Offensively, Ryan Willis has done all he can and carries a six-game streak of multiple touchdown passes into this contest. He has thrown for 1,770 yards and 16 TD passes with just four interceptions, with Damon Hazleton — who has 40 catches for 687 yards and eight scores — emerging as his top option.
Eric Kumah, who has 34 receptions for 437 yards and five TDs, is coming off his best game of the season with six catches for 80 yards and a pair of scores versus Pitt.
@EricKumah_11 registered his first two-TD catch performance on Saturday. Here's a look at both of them!
— Virginia Tech Football (@VT_Football) November 14, 2018
Since Virginia Tech had its games against East Carolina canceled due to a hurricane, it can still schedule a 12th game Dec. 1 to help its chances of becoming bowl eligible.
Virginia Tech is:
- 0-5 ATS in its last five games.
- 0-6 ATS in its last six games after allowing more than 200 rushing yards in the previous game.
- 1-6 ATS in its last seven games following a straight up loss.
- The over is 4-1 in its last five games after allowing more than 450 yards in its previous game.
- 5-2 ATS in its last seven games vs. sub-.500 teams.
- 5-2 ATS in its last seven games vs. Virginia Tech.
- The favorite is 4-0 ATS in the last four games between the teams.
- No trends of note.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
There is no real good option here with the struggles of both teams, but with Miami having a pair of quality running backs in Homer and DeeJay Dallas, the struggles Virginia Tech has endured in run defense are likely to continue.
During the week, the Hokies had the sound of a team that had not solved the problems that have plagued them over the past three games. Miami has averaged 190.7 rushing yards on the season and has not fallen off too much in that category during its losing streak with 184.5 per game.
This game has the feel of a sloppy offensive contest, with Willis again keeping Virginia Tech in the game only to have its run defense give it away. With the one-score spread, the Hokies are the pick.
Prediction: Pick: Miami -5.5
Full-Game Total Pick
The teams have cleared 51.5 points just twice in the last five games, but they did reach 50 on one occasion. In the last game at Virginia Tech, the Hokies rolled to a 37-16 victory. In the last five games between the teams at Lane Stadium, the winning team has scored at least 30 points, and the struggling defenses in this one — even with Miami’s strong pass defense — make that trend likely to reach six.
Prediction: Pick: OVER 51.5 points
Full-Game Prop Bet
The Hokies have been around this mark in each of their last five games, scoring in a narrow range between 21 and 28 points, but the hedge here is Miami’s pass defense is enough to keep them below a fourth score while piling up the points through its ground game.
Prediction: Pick: Virginia Tech UNDER 22.5 points
Half-Time Side Pick
The Hurricanes have not led in any of their ACC road games this season and are a net minus-12 during their four-game skid. Virginia Tech finally came undone in a first half last weekend against Pittsburgh, but home pride says Fuente’s team is within three points or better through two quarters.
Prediction: Pick: Virginia Tech +3.5
Half-Time Total Bet
This will be a close one, but it is very hard to trust Virginia Tech’s defense to get stops consistently, and there have been 33 or more points in the first half of three of the last five games. Additionally, Miami has had four of its last six contests feature 27 or more first-half points.
Prediction: Pick: OVER 27 points
Half-Time Prop Prediction
Taking the Hokies at home to get two touchdowns in this game feels like the better play than counting on Miami to get a third score, especially since the pick for the first-half spread is Virginia Tech.
Prediction: Pick: Virginia Tech OVER 12.5