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Virginia Tech at Miami

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The switch to the ACC for the Thursday night matchups provided a dud last week with Clemson blowing out Wake Forest. This week's matchup has the potential to be a gem with two former national powers looking for a path to the ACC Coastal title. This rivalry provided an exciting game last season with fourth quarter lead changes and the winning score in the final minute and as the line suggests, Virginia Tech and Miami could be in line for another tight game. Here is a look at the teams and the history in this series.

Matchup: Virginia Tech Hokies at Miami Hurricanes
Venue: Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida
Date: Thursday, November 1, 2012
Time/TV: 7:30 PM ET - ESPN
Line: Virginia Tech -1 ½, Over/Under 57½
Last Meeting: 2011, Virginia Tech (-7½) 38-35, at Virginia Tech

The ACC Coastal division is wide open with Duke currently leading the way at 3-2. Virginia Tech and Miami are certainly in the mix as North Carolina is not eligible for the postseason this year. While the Atlantic champion, likely Florida State or Clemson, will be a heavy favorite over the Coastal champion in the conference championship game, the Coastal champion has won four of the past five title games. The winner of this game could be in the driver's seat for the division title.

This is the first of two back-to-back Thursday night affairs for a Virginia Tech team that has lost three of the last four games to fall to 4-4. The Hokies are 2-2 in conference play and only once in the eight years that Virginia Tech has been in the ACC has the team lost more than two conference games. Virginia Tech has also never finished worst than second in the Coastal division. Frank Beamer has not had a five-loss team since 2003 and he has not led a team at .500 or below since 1992. The Hokies will be solid favorites the final two weeks of the season against Boston College and Virginia, but they host Florida State next week, making this is a pretty critical game.

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Expectations were pretty low for Miami this season with self-imposed and NCAA sanctions starting to grab hold of the once dominant program. Miami squeaked by Boston College in the opening week of the season and then was hammered by Kansas State, a loss that no longer looks so terrible. The Hurricanes are 3-2 in ACC play and 4-4 overall and while a few losses have been ugly, they have all come against highly regarded teams. Three of Miami's four losses have come against top 10 teams. Miami has lost three straight after starting the ACC season 3-0, but if they win Thursday, they have winnable road games to close the conference season, at Virginia, and at Duke.

The Hurricanes have posted solid offensive numbers led by a passing attack that is putting up 288 yards per game. Junior quarterback Stephen Morris has passed for 2,200 yards already this season, but he has completed just over 57 percent of his passes and only has 10 touchdowns against seven interceptions. Miami has not had a consistent rushing attack and part of that has been due to playing from behind in several games. The main issues for Miami have been on defense however. The 'Canes have allowed over 32 points per game on nearly 500 yards per game. Only one FBS opponent has been held to fewer than 32 points this season.

Virginia Tech is accustomed to featuring one of the top defenses in the nation, but this season the Hokies have very average numbers, allowing 370 yards per game including an alarming 167 yards per game on the ground. The numbers are far better than what Miami has done on defense, but the schedule has not been nearly as difficult. Virginia Tech is incredibly 0-4 away from home this season with the defense allowing 465 yards and 37 points per game in the non-home games. The Hokies have also lacked stable production on the ground with their leading rusher featuring just 338 yards on the season. Quarterback Logan Thomas is a duel-threat, but he has been turnover-prone and he is completing less than 54 percent of his passes and already with as many interceptions as he had all last season.

Thomas is a big, mobile quarterback and Miami had serious problems containing Collin Klein early in the year. Miami has been out-rushed in every game since the opening week, often by a significant margin, but this has been a team that can put together great scoring stretches, delivering wild runs to win against Georgia Tech and N.C. State earlier this season. The home team has won four of the last five meetings in this series, but Virginia Tech has owned the recent ATS history, including covering in the last five trips to Miami. Both teams have battled injuries on the offensive line and in the backfield which seems to be the root of many of the problems for both offenses.

Line Movement: Virginia Tech opened as a two-point road favorite. The line did briefly climb to -2 ½, but has since dropped to -1 ½. The total has elevated slightly from 57 to 57 ½.

Last Meeting: Last season in Blacksburg, Virginia Tech led most of the way after opening with a 14-0 lead. A touchdown seconds before halftime kept the margin at 14 points and that lead was cut to 10 entering a wild fourth quarter. The teams traded touchdowns in the first three minutes of the final quarter and Miami got within three a few minutes later. The Hurricanes broke a big run from now Miami Dolphin Lamar Miller to take the lead with less than three minutes to go. Logan Thomas and the Hokies had the last laugh with a 19-yard run to clinch the win with under a minute to go. Both teams had big days on offense, combining for over 1,000 total yards and Thomas had one of his best overall games. The star running backs for both teams are now in the NFL and former Miami quarterback Jacory Harris started for the Hurricanes.

Series History: This rivalry has moved from the Big East to the ACC, but Virginia Tech has dominated the recent meetings. Miami won seven straight in this series from the 1981 Peach Bowl to 1994, while Virginia Tech is 12-5 S/U since then, including winning S/U in each of the last three seasons and in seven of the last nine. The Hokies are also 17-7 ATS since 1981 in this series including covering in nine of the last 11, although Miami covered as an underdog last season.

Virginia Tech Historical Trends: Virginia Tech is 0-3 S/U and ATS in road games this season and 0-4 S/U & ATS in non-home games. That goes against a great recent run as a road performer for the Hokies, going 32-6 S/U and 28-10 ATS from 2004 through 2011. Since 1994, Virginia Tech is 40-23 ATS as a road favorite including going 21-8 ATS since 2004. The Hokies have been less successful as a very slight favorite, going just 17-14-1 ATS as a favorite of three or less, though still going 10-4-1 ATS in situations as a slight road favorite.

Miami, FL Historical Trends: It is no secret that the Miami program has hit hard times in the last decade or so. Miami is just 25-40 ATS at home since 2002. Miami is 5-2 as a home underdog in that span, however, including going 2-0 ATS in the home underdog role this season. Miami is still 49-20 S/U since 2002 at home, as this is still a team that does not often lose at home, rather often failing to live up to expectations as favorites.

There are two additional games Thursday night this week:

Eastern Michigan at Ohio 6:00 PM ET
Line:
Ohio -17, Over/Under 57

The perfect start for Ohio was showing signs of decay with a couple of narrow wins against light competition, but last week the Bobcats were not able to dig out of an early hole, losing to Miami, Ohio. The Bobcats now are in a tough four-way race for the MAC East title and the schedule after this week will get more difficult. Ohio was held to a season-low 20 points last week and there will be opportunities to get back on track against an Eastern Michigan team that has allowed almost 38 points per game. This is a second straight road game for the Eagles and the short week will also present a challenging set-up. Statistically, Ohio has been a far better team on both sides of the ball, but the Bobcats have failed to cover in four straight games and the dreams of a perfect season have been dashed.

Middle Tennessee State at Western Kentucky 9:15 PM ET
Line:
Western Kentucky -9, Over/Under 54

Western Kentucky bounced back from its first conference loss by sneaking by Florida International last week, but it was clearly a flat performance. The Hilltoppers will need help to get back in the Sun Belt race, as this is a team that needs a few more wins to ensure a bowl bid after being left out af 7-5 last season. Middle Tennessee State could also make a postseason run after going just 2-10 last year. The Blue Raiders have won three road games this season, but Western Kentucky has been the vastly superior defensive team in this matchup. The Hilltoppers are 7-1 ATS on the season, as these teams went to overtime last season with Middle Tennessee State losing despite a sizable yardage advantage.

  
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