KICKOFF: Saturday, noon
SITE: Scott Stadium, Charlottesville, Va.
SERIES: Miami leads 5-2 (last meeting, 2009, 52-17 Miami)
RECORDS: Miami 5-2, 3-1; Virginia 3-4, 0-3
POLLS: Miami (22 AP, 22 USA Today)
KEYS TO THE GAME:
-- For Miami: Patience is the key on offense. The Hurricanes are much more effective running the football and getting it to their receivers, who then have the capability to make plays, instead of turning QB Jacory Harris loose for long ball after long ball. The defense should be able to get to Virginia QB Marc Verica, as the Cavaliers have given up 17 sacks.
-- For Virginia: Establish the run to keep the Hurricanes' potentially explosive offense off the field. Junior QB Jacory Harris has thrown 13 touchdowns and five interceptions in Miami's five victories. He's thrown five interceptions and one touchdown in the Hurricanes' two losses. If the Cavaliers can force him into a bad game, that would be their best chance of pulling the upset.
SCOUTING THE TEAMS:
-- Miami has developed a running game that is even more effective with TB Lamar Miller back from injury to spell starter Damien Berry. QB Jacory Harris has been more patient with only one interception the last two games, mostly because the offensive line has kept him protected. The Hurricanes are rushing for better than 202 yards a game in conference play and throwing for just over 220.
On the defensive side, the Hurricanes are second in the nation in tackles for loss (9.29 per game) and tied for second in sacks (3.57). They are limiting opponents to 302.71 yards per game in total offense, which leads the ACC and ranks 17th in the country. The big-play guy is LB Sean Spence, though DE/DT Allen Bailey is beginning to emerge as a force up front.
Virginia hopes to establish a running game against the Hurricanes in hopes of it opening up passing options for struggling senior QB Marc Verica. Senior RB Keith Payne has 10 rushing touchdowns for the Cavaliers this season, the most by a Virginia player since 2005. Verica rebounded from a three-interception performance against North Carolina by throwing two touchdowns and no picks in a win over Eastern Michigan.
The Cavaliers have been vulnerable against the run and the pass this season. But lately they've had major issues stopping opposing rushing attacks. Eastern Michigan racked up 290 yards on the ground against the Cavaliers. Virginia had problems with missed tackles before the Eastern Michigan game. But the Eagles exploited the Cavaliers' defense by blocking players to the ground, creating large seams for their runners.
Hurricanes: RB Damien Berry looks to move into even more exclusive territory after becoming only the fourth Miami player since 1975 to rush for more than 100 yards in four consecutive games. He will go for his fifth consecutive such game at Virginia, which would leave him one short of joining Willis McGahee and Edgerrin James as the school record-holder with six in a row. ... Six of the last seven meetings between Miami and Virginia have come since the Hurricanes began competing in the ACC in 2004. The first time the teams met was in 1996, when the Hurricanes beat Virginia 31-21 in the 1996 Carquest Bowl. That game was played on Miami's current home field, Sun Life Stadium (formerly Joe Robbie, formerly Pro Player, formerly Dolphin, formerly Dolphins, formerly Land Shark Stadium). ... Miami has an interesting streak going in NFL play. At least one former Hurricane has scored a touchdown in every NFL game played since Week 15 of the 2002 season, a span of 129 straight weeks. Willis McGahee (Baltimore) and Santana Moss (Washington) kept the streak going last weekend.
Cavaliers: Junior FB Terence Fells-Danzer was named the ACC Specialist of the Week. Fells-Danzer returned a kickoff 70 yards untouched for a touchdown in the Cavaliers' 48-21 win over Eastern Michigan. Fells-Danzer also had a three-yard touchdown catch in the game. ... Three Virginia starters were benched against Eastern Michigan for not attending class. C Anthony Mihota, DE Zane Parr and FS Corey Mosley all returned to the top of their positions on the depth chart this week. Mihota and Parr entered the game against Eastern Michigan. Mosley didn't play at all. ... Virginia is 12-22 against ranked teams the last 10 years, including 9-10 at Scott Stadium. ... RT Morgan Moses is the third freshman to start at offensive tackle in Virginia history. The others were D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Brad Butler. Butler's only start came in a bowl game. ... Virginia has eight plays this season that have covered at least 50 yards after recording only three all of 2009.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
-DE/DT Allen Bailey -- Bailey is starting to live up to his reputation as a playmaker after registering 3.5 sacks in the win over North Carolina. He now has 5.5 for the season. About one in every five of his tackles is a sack.
-LB Sean Spence -- It was Spence, appropriately enough, who forced the early fumble that not only cost North Carolina a touchdown but also woke up the Miami defense, Spence leads the Hurricanes in tackles with 59 stops, 10 of them for losses.
-RB Damien Berry -- Berry is a workhorse for the Hurricanes with 131 carries. No other running back has more than 40. He has made them good for 648 and has cracked the 100-yard mark rushing in four consecutive games.
-LT Landon Bradley -- The junior is expected to play in his first game since missing two contests because of hand surgery. It's yet to be determined if Bradley will play on the right or left side of the line this week.
-DE Cam Johnson -- The junior has six of the Cavaliers' nine sacks this season. He's third on the team with 36 tackles. The Cavaliers want to pressure Miami QB Jacory Harris because as he goes, so go the Hurricanes.
-CB Ras-I Dowling -- The senior standout has started just one game, and he's missed all of three contests this season with a knee injury. Virginia may need him at full strength as it tries to corral the Hurricanes' dangerous passing attack.