Will Miami show up with a sense of urgency on Thursday night?
The Miami Hurricanes (2-2, 0-0) will begin ACC play on Thursday night at Hard Rock Stadium when they host Virginia (2-2, 0-2) at 7:30 p.m. in a game that will be broadcast on ESPN.
The Hurricanes are coming off a 69-0 victory over Central Connecticut State but are looking to put a disappointing non-conference slate behind them. As of Wednesday morning, Miami was listed as a 6-point favorite by DraftKings.
Keep reading for three things to watch during Thursday night’s ACC opener.
Virginia always seems to play Miami tough
Cavaliers head coach Bronco Mendenhall has not had a whole lot of success in the win/loss column against the Hurricanes in his career but always seems to have Virginia ready to play Miami.
Mendenhall is 1-4 in his time as Virginia’s head coach against Miami with the lone win coming in 2018 in one of the worst Hurricane performances of the Mark Richt era. Virginia was also in a position to upset Miami late in the 2017 season (when the Hurricanes were unbeaten) but Miami stormed back to earn a come-from-behind victory.
Manny Diaz is 2-0 as a head coach against Virginia but both wins have come by one score. Both wins were preserved with late defensive stands and both wins were extremely low scoring (17-9 in 2019 and 19-14 in 2020).
The Cavaliers have struggled mightily in ACC play this season as they have suffered two 20 point losses in their only ACC games. Quarterback Brennan Armstrong is a weapon offensively as he is averaging over 400 yards passing per game this season.
— StateOfTheU.com (@TheStateOfTheU) September 28, 2021
Despite their early ACC struggles, I am fully expecting Virginia to be prepared to play this game and to play Miami tough. Mendenhall always has the Cavaliers ready to play the Hurricanes.
Additionally, this is as close to a must-win situation for Virginia as really is possible. If the Cavaliers go to 0-3 in ACC play, they have no shot at winning the ACC Coastal. Miami will get UVA’s best shot on Thursday night.
Miami’s quarterback situation
Rumors. Deleted tweets. Vague statements from Manny Diaz in press conferences. What exactly is going on with the health of Miami quarterback D’Eriq King?
It seems like Miami should either know more than it does, or is intentionally not sharing what it knows about King’s health. And to me, that’s fine. I am all for the gamesmanship of not letting your opponent know who is starting and for keeping a player’s health situation as private as possible.
King is officially listed as questionable this week to play against Virginia.
— Sun Sentinel Sports (@Sentinel_Sports) September 28, 2021
I would not be surprised if any of Miami’s three quarterbacks started on Thursday night against Virginia. That said, I think the least likely to start would be King and the most likely to start would be Tyler Van Dyke. If King is out, I think Miami would likely play both Van Dyke and Jake Garcia again as it did against CCSU last week.
This would be our first look at Van Dyke and/or Garcia against a power five defense in a non-blowout situation. And while Virginia’s defense has been terrible this season (No. 100 in FBS total defense), it will present these freshman quarterbacks with a new challenge in leading the Hurricane offense.
Miami’s sense of urgency
Considering the first four games of this season and many of the other factors in play, this has to be the biggest game of the Manny Diaz era thus far, right?
Diaz is 16-12 in his first 28 games at Miami. That includes an 11-6 mark in ACC play and an 0-4 record against power five non-conference opponents. Obviously not great.
But I am speaking more about the situation Miami finds itself in this season with a loss to Virginia. Losing to Virginia would put Miami at 2-3 overall and 0-1 in the ACC heading into a 15-day early October layoff before a trip to Chapel Hill to play North Carolina.
There’s so many things that can go wrong for a Miami team coming off a loss during that timespan. The team could lose focus, the locker room could fracture, and in general, it’s hard to keep a team working hard when so many of the things it hoped to achieve no longer seem within reach.
That’s why it is so important that the Hurricanes come out with a sense of urgency on Thursday night and defeat Virginia. While 3-2 and 1-0 in the ACC is obviously not a significantly better record, it allows for a much more positive mindset heading into the long break.
It’s much easier to sell the dream of winning the ACC Coastal to Hurricane players if they are 1-0 rather than 0-1. This is a game Miami must win because of its superior talent and because of what Virginia is this season.
A loss leaves Miami in a very interesting place heading into October.