Week 7: Miami Game Preview
Virginia Tech is coming off its best offensive performance of the season last week. Grant Wells easily had his best game so far in the maroon and orange. It is certainly something to build from. Miami, after starting 2-0, has lost 3 straight to Texas A&M, Middle Tennessee, and North Carolina. Under first year head coach, Mario Cristobal, the Hurricanes have struggled to find an identity and have had inconsistent quarterback play from Tyler Van Dyke. As usual, Miami was propped up in the preseason by national media outlets as a playoff contender. As usual, they have done nothing but be mediocre at best. This seems like a great opportunity for the Hokies to steal a win from their schedule. After going over some Miami game film, here are some things I saw from them and what Virginia Tech can take advantage of.
Miami Offense: Scheme - Spread
Miami runs a spread no huddle offense that uses 11 personnel on almost every play (1 back, 1 tight end, 3 wide receivers). All of their run plays are zone blocking schemes and split zone schemes similar to what we have seen against WVU and UNC. They use pre-snap jet motion on almost every play for the sake of misdirection to fool the linebackers. They do not run the jet sweep often from this look, but they do run it a couple times a game to keep the defense honest. They run the ball on first down almost every time and they run the same run pass option with a back side slant route many times throughout each game. To be honest, this Miami offense seems pretty predictable. As a result, they have struggled to run the ball over the last few games.
What this offense does have going is its talent. They have 3 good running backs led by Henry Parrish Jr., and athletic wide receivers. The most notable of which is Keyshawn Smith. The problems this offense has had are an inconsistent offensive line and turnovers. Tyler Van Dyke, the quarterback, is a game manager at best. He was benched at half time of the Middle Tennessee game after throwing 2 costly interceptions that dug Miami a hole that they ultimately could not get out of. After a bye week, Van Dyke started against UNC. He threw for over 400 yards in that game. However, he threw a horrible interception on the would-be game winning drive. He is accurate on short passes where he can pick apart a zone defense. He struggles when throwing downfield. What really gets to him the most are linebacker blitzes up the middle. When the blitz is coming right at Van Dyke, he either gets skittish and throws a bad ball or he freezes and gets sacked. I believe that the Hokies' defense will be most successful when playing man to man in order to force Van Dyke to make throws into small windows. That is something he has struggled with. Also, as said before, Virginia Tech needs to bring the heat. Tyler Van Dyke will turn the ball over eventually if he is seeing consistent pressure up the middle.
Miami Defense: Scheme - 4-3
The strength of this Miami defense is its front 7. They do not have to blitz much because their defensive line is good at getting to the QB with just a 4 man rush. They run mostly man coverage, but they mix up the safety looks. They will often line up with 2 high safeties and run a cover 2 man. Additionally, they will start with 2 high safeties and then roll 1 to the middle and 1 to a low zone known as a "robber 1" coverage. The secondary of this defense is a real weakness. They consistently have miscommunications that lead to blown coverages and big plays. The corners and safeties are rarely on the same page. But they make up for it by being bad at tackling! The offenses that have been the most successful against Miami are the ones that use spread formations and force Miami to go to their 4-2-5 (nickel) defense. They are much more comfortable in their base 4-3. But by spreading them out, Miami has to put and extra defensive back on the field, which is their weakest position group. Virginia Tech needs to do exactly that to Miami. Dial up some deep shots and test this defensive backfield's communication. Also throw some quick screens to test their tackling and to slow down and aggressive front 7. That should be a good formula for moving the ball on Saturday. Virginia Tech showed some great signs of improvement last week against a pretty good Pitt defense. This is a great opportunity to do even more. Miami's defense has struggled this season. The Hokies need to take advantage of that.
Miami Special Teams:
There really is not anything of great significance about this unit for Miami. All of their special teams units are solid all around. I will say that the previously mentioned Keyshawn Smith is their kick returner. He has not retuned one to the house yet. However, he has some blazing speed and can usually return the ball to around the 30 yard line. Look for Virginia Tech to find ways to avoid kicking to him. He may not have returned one for a touchdown yet, but it is only a matter of time.
Both of these teams enter this game on 3 game losing streaks. Both showed some signs of improvement last week. Both programs are being lead by new head coaches. This game is a battle for a program building victory. I believe that this game will be exactly that for Virginia Tech. The Hokies match up well against the Hurricanes. Virginia Tech's style of play is the exact type that I think it will take to beat Miami. We finally saw the offense take a step forward last week. And I do not envision them taking a step back at home against an even worse opponent. Miami has not been able to get out of their own way this season. Busted coverages, missed tackles, and turnovers are a great recipe for a road loss. Virginia Tech will defeat Miami by the score of
Virginia Tech 35
All statistics via espn.com