Quarterbacks Advantage: Miami
Despite some obvious miscues against the Demon Deacon defense, UM sophomore sensation Jacory Harris threw for his second highest total of the year (330 yards) and tied for his season-high in touchdowns (3). Virginia is lead on offense by senior Jameel Sewell, the same signal caller who shredded the Canes in a 2007 Cavalier rout at the Orange Bowl finale, 48-0.
Running Backs Advantage: Miami
Junior Damien Berry continued his strong season against Wake Forest, rushing for a touchdown in his fourth straight game. While Virginia’s two-pronged attack of seniors Rashawn Jackson and Mikell Simpson have combined for over 800 all-purpose yards this season, the Canes’ deep backfield hopes to return to form against a defense which has allowed over 150 rushing yards per game.
Wide Receiver/Tight End Advantage: Miami
With perhaps the deepest corps of wideouts in the country, the Hurricanes enjoyed an explosive day against the Demon Deacons. Junior Leonard Hankerson has compiled over 250 yards in his past three games, while sophomore Aldarius Johnson enjoyed his best game of the year as well. After a strong start for the Cavaliers, sophomore receiver Kris Burd has been held to only five catches over his last three games.
Offensive Line: Advantage: Miami
Even with its roller-coaster ride of a season, the Hurricane offensive line has still managed to pave the way for over 1,000 yards of rushing offense on the season for a banged up backfield. Despite its vastly inconsistent play, the Canes line, lead by senior left tackle Jason Fox, has allowed for less sacks of its quarterback and more holes for its running backs than its Cavalier counterpart.
Defensive Line: Advantage: Miami
After a mediocre performance against Wake Forest, the Hurricane defensive line has still managed to do a decent job of containing the run over its past few games, despite countless injuries. Where the Canes have struggled is getting pressure on the quarterback, recording only 16 sacks so far this season, seven of them by junior Allen Bailey. Senior nose tackle Nate Collins has been a stud on defense, but the Cavs have still allowed nearly four yards per rush on the season.
Linebackers: Advantage: Virginia
With injuries to sophomores Sean Spence and Jordan Futch, the UM linebacking corps has become a weak spot. If it wasn’t for the all-world play of redshirt junior Colin McCarthy, the Canes would be in serious trouble. On the flipside, the Cavs have benefited from the play of redshirt freshman Steve Greer and senior Darren Childs, both of whom find themselves in the Top 15 in tackles this season in the ACC.
Secondary: Advantage: Virginia
Despite the Cavaliers’ losing record, the secondary in Charlottesville has not been the problem. The Cavs have only allowed four touchdowns through the air, holding opposing quarterbacks to an average of 175 pass yards per game while led by junior all-ACC second-team cornerback Ras-I Dowling. While sophomore Brandon Harris has enjoyed a breakout year, the Canes secondary has still allowed an average of over 220 opponent passing yards per game and 11 touchdowns, while managing only four interceptions.
Special Teams: Advantage: Virginia
Sophomore return man Chase Minnifield has been a sparkplug for the Cavaliers, ranking in the ACC’s Top 10 for both punt returns and kick returns. While Miami’s return game has been less than stellar, junior Matt Bosher has helped special teams to the tune of a 42.3 punt average and 9-for-11 on field goals on the season. Virginia, however, has the man to match Bosher, sophomore Robert Randolph, who is 13-for-14 on the year and leads the ACC in field goal percentage.
Coaching: Advantage: Virginia
Now in his ninth year at the helm of the Cavaliers, two-time ACC Coach of the Year Al Groh has managed to succeed at Virginia despite a seemingly lesser level of collective talent across the board. Head Coach Randy Shannon, in his third year at Miami, still has a lot to prove; after a fantastic start to the season, the Hurricanes’ efforts (and gameplans) against both Clemson and Wake Forest have been less than inspiring in back-to-back efforts.
Camron Ghorbi may be contacted email@example.com.