But should the Hokies slip just once before their trip to Miami, the two teams once again could be playing for the division title on Nov. 20.
Coach Randy Shannon acknowledged that the Hurricanes have talked about the various scenarios as they began preparing for a home game against Maryland.
"Everybody now has to play each other," he said. "We play one of the teams, and we've got to play some other teams down the road. So a lot of things can happen in this game.
"That's the one thing always great about college football is that a lot of different things can happen in your conference. You just have to make sure you take care of your business each week, and the guys know that this game is vital to our success and what we need to get done."
In addition to the Terrapins, the Hurricanes have a conference game at Georgia Tech before facing the Hokies.
The Hokies take on Georgia Tech at home in a Thursday night affair, then are at North Carolina before playing at Miami. They also have a home game against Virginia after playing the Hurricanes.
But the key question is how the Hurricanes, who likely will be without starting quarterback Jacory Harris against the Terps, will react following their 24-19 loss at Virginia. That game left the Hurricanes in "shell shock," senior cornerback Ryan Hill said.
"But coming back and looking at film and making corrections," Hill said. "on Sunday I think the guys really came together and said, 'You know what, we can still do this.'
"Obviously, we're going to need some help from Georgia Tech or North Carolina, but we have our spirits high, and we know what we have to do. We've got to win ballgames."
--For the second time in three games, Miami is facing a quarterback who doesn't turn over the ball much. Maryland freshman QB Danny O'Brien has thrown only three interceptions in 167 attempts this season. Earlier, North Carolina's T.J. Yates came to Miami having thrown only one interception, and the Hurricanes picked him off twice.
--The Hurricanes need a win to get back to .500 in ACC play under coach Randy Shannon, who is in his fourth season. With a 3-2 conference record this season, they are 14-15 in four years under Shannon. The Hurricanes were expected to dominate their division, much like Florida State ruled over the ACC when it joined in 1991, but the Hurricanes are only 28-25 in conference games since beginning ACC play in 2004.
--Miami and Maryland compete in different divisions and have played only once since the Hurricanes joined the ACC.
SERIES HISTORY: Maryland leads 8-7 (last meeting, 2006, 14-13 Maryland).
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Miami's offense will have a much different look if freshman Stephen Morris starts at quarterback in place of an injured Jacory Harris. No doubt much of what the Hurricanes like to do will be scaled back. That could put more of a workload on TBs Damien Berry (690 yards rushing), Lamar Miller (252) and Mike James (243). Senior Graig Cooper also could get more carries.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Miami ranks second in the nation in tackles for loss (8.75 per game) but is giving up a very un-Miami-like 179.8 ypg to opposing rushers in ACC games. The Hurricanes are second in the ACC in pass defense, yielding only 165.0 ypg in conference play. The Hurricanes have 15 interceptions on the year after having only 13 in the last two years combined.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's not going to be a Stephen Morris game. Make sure we understand that. It's going to be a game up front, the guys up front and our running backs and our experience has to do a great job. Stephen just has to manage the offense and do the things asked of him." -- Coach Randy Shannon, on the responsibility on freshman Stephen Morris if he has to start against Maryland.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Maryland at Miami, Nov. 6 -- Maryland is one of the surprises of the season, having already qualified for the postseason with a 6-2 record. The schedule is suspect, but the Terrapins also are 3-1 in league play and in contention in the Atlantic Division. The Terps dismantled Wake Forest 62-14 in their last outing while the Hurricanes were falling at Virginia.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Avoid turnovers. In their three losses, the Hurricanes have thrown 10 of their 16 interceptions for the season. It works the other way, too, with Miami coming up with 14 turnovers (10 interceptions) in their three ACC wins.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
-QB Stephen Morris -- Morris, a true freshman who lost his redshirt when Jacory Harris was injured against Virginia, showed potential in rallying the Hurricanes to a near-comeback win in the fourth quarter at Virginia. How will he perform if called on for a starting role?
-WR Leonard Hankerson -- Hankerson is Miami's leading receiver (44 catches, 681 yards, nine touchdowns), but he had a key drop early at Virginia. That's the kind of mistake he has to avoid, especially if Morris is making his first start behind center. A drop or two early could shake up Morris.
-S Vaughn Telemaque -- Telemaque shares the team lead with CB Ryan Hill. They have three each. Telemaque also has recovered two fumbles, including one in the end zone against North Carolina that turned that game in Miami's favor.
--QB Jacory Harris (concussion) is questionable after taking the big hit in the loss at Virginia. His status won't be determined until just before game time, but his availability does seem unlikely.
--QB A.J. Highsmith (hand, wrist) will play only in an extreme emergency. The plan now is to request an injury waiver for Highsmith for a medical redshirt and then move him to the secondary, where he would have three years eligibility if the NCAA approves the request.