SITE: Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens, Fla.
SERIES: Miami leads 17-10 (last meeting, 2009, Virginia Tech 31-7)
RECORDS: Virginia Tech 8-2, 6-0; Miami 7-3, 5-2
POLLS: Virginia Tech (14 AP, 15 USA Today); Miami (24 AP, 21 USA Today)
KEYS TO THE GAME:
-- For Virginia Tech: Stop Miami's running game. Tech would love to put some pressure on Miami freshman QB Stephen Morris to make plays. The rivalry's recent history also indicates there will be at least one big play in the kicking game.
-- For Miami: Keep Tech QB Tyrod Taylor under control. The last time the Hurricanes faced a threat like Taylor, who can run or pass, they lost to Ohio State and Terrelle Pryor in the second game of the season. Miami's offensive line needs to keep the pressure off QB Stephen Morris, who has yet to face a defense the caliber of Tech's.
SCOUTING THE TEAMS:
-- Virginia Tech's offensive line has gotten better and better as the season has progressed, allowing the Hokies to establish their power running game and still make big plays in the air. TBs Darren Evans and Ryan Williams combined for 173 yards on 29 carries at North Carolina. QB Tyrod Taylor didn't always throw accurately, but he did average more than 19 yards in 13 completions.
The Hokies are coming off one of their better performances at North Carolina, permitting just three points after giving up a touchdown on the opening drive. While they are still vulnerable to a good running game, few teams do damage down the field in the air, and the defense has acquired a knack for taking the ball away at the right time.
Miami has cranked up its ground game in recent weeks and is up to 185.8 yards per game rushing for the year, good for fourth in the conference. The Hurricanes have topped the 200-yard mark in four of their last five games with 224 against Duke, 225 against North Carolina, 179 against Virginia, 218 against Maryland, and 277 against Georgia Tech. QB Stephen Morris has been very effective in his two starts, going 28 of 48 passing for two touchdowns. Both of his interceptions came against Maryland in his first start.
Miami is second in the ACC and 19th in the country in total defense, giving up only 314.3 ypg. The Hurricanes are third in tackles-for-loss (8.40 per game) with LB Sean Spence (1.25), DE/DT Allen Bailey (1.10), and LB Colin McCarthy (1.0) leading the way. Bailey also has seven sacks to lead the Hurricanes. After struggling with only 14 picks the last two years combined, the Hurricanes have 16 this season, tied for sixth in the country.
Hokies: CB Jayron Hosley was named ACC Defensive Back of the Week after notching two interceptions at North Carolina. Hosley has seven interceptions on the year, tied for the FBS lead nationally. ... The Hokies are trying to keep their remarkable record of November success going since joining the ACC in 2004. They are 22-2 in the 11th month with both losses to Miami, in 2005 and 2008. ... Virginia Tech has won at least eight games in the last 13 seasons and needs two more victories to stretch its string of 10-win seasons to seven. The Hokies face Virginia in their regular-season finale. ... The visiting team has won three of the last six meetings and four of the last nine games in the Virginia Tech-Miami series. ... The Hokies are 44-10 in ACC games since joining the conference in 2004. ... QB Tyrod Taylor, already the leading rusher in Virginia Tech history, will take over the school record for most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback with his next score. He is tied with Bob Schweicker with 21. Schweicker (1962-64) and Taylor also are tied for most 100-yard rushing games by a quarterback with six.
Hurricanes: Miami dominated the series against Virginia Tech in the early going, winning the first 12 meetings. But then the Hokies won the next five, including an overtime win in 1998. Over the last 10 meetings, the teams are 5-5 against each other. ... Miami coach Randy Shannon is 1-2 against Virginia Tech. Coach Frank Beamer is 10-9 against Miami. ... Both teams like to run the football. Miami is averaging 185.8 yards per game rushing and is holding foes to 166.4. Tech is running for 208.5 yards per game and is limiting opponents to 155.1. They are Nos. 1 and 2 (Miami 147.9, Tech 188.0) in pass defense in the ACC. ... Senior WR Leonard Hankerson will set a Miami season record with his next touchdown catch. He currently has 11, matching Michael Irvin's output in 1986. ... Senior TB Graig Cooper is in third place in Miami career listings in all-purpose yardage with 3,741 yards rushing, receiving, and returning. He trails only Santana Moss (4,394) and Ottis Anderson (4,265).
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
-QB Tyrod Taylor -- Facing the most efficient pass defense in the ACC, Taylor must be more accurate than he's been the last two weeks, when he's hit just 28 of 53. Ball security, a strength of his this year, will have to stay that way against an aggressive defense.
-C Beau Warren -- The offensive line's leader will have to make good calls at the scrimmage line to keep the Miami front four at bay. He'll also have to battle with perhaps the Hurricanes' top pro prospect, DT Allen Bailey.
-DE Steven Friday -- As his 5.5 sacks and 17 quarterback hurries show, Friday has more than adequately replaced Jason Worilds. If he can make his way around Orlando Franklin or Seantrel Henderson and get to Morris, it could lead to a bad decision and potentially a game-changing play.
-WR Leonard Hankerson -- Hankerson definitely has become the go-to guy for the Hurricanes with 51 receptions for 879 yards. He ranks second and first, respectively, in the ACC in those categories, and is far ahead in touchdown catches with 11. He is currently tied for the school record in single-season touchdown catches with Michael Irvin.
-LB Sean Spence -- Spence has the quickness and tackling ability to play the role of "spy" in the defense, concentrating on keeping Taylor contained. He leads Miami in tackles with 82 stops, 13.5 of them for losses.
-DT Micanor Regis -- Regis has very quietly had an outstanding season up front. Six of his 28 tackles have been for losses, three of them sacks, and he has an interception to go along with them.