1) Stay level headed
The Hurricanes were dealt a tough loss the last time they faced UVA. The Cavaliers made a memorable last game in the Orange Bowl a game Canes fans want to forget. The players that were there last year were embarrassed 48-0 last year and may be looking for revenge this year. Talk around the locker room this week has been about getting a big win this year to make up for last year's game. The team needs to stay focused on this year and stick to the game plan. Guys cannot try to do too much because that is where mistakes happen. The Canes need to play their game and not try to do too much in Charlottesville. An even keeled Canes team can get the job done but a team looking for revenge could hurt themselves more than the opponent.
2) Dominate the UVA Defensive Line
The Cavaliers run a 3-4 defense and while they are a big defensive line, they are one man short than what the Canes are used to seeing. While a new defensive front could pose a unique challenge for Miami's offensive linemen, they need to dominate in the trenches to spring running backs Graig Cooper and Javarris James to the second level. The Canes O-Line will also be challenged by the 3-4 in pass blocking as the Cavaliers will be blitzing linebackers from spots that Miami is not used to blocking. The Canes need to pick up these blitzes and give quarterbacks Robert Marve and Jacory Harris the time to make plays with their arms.
1) The Defense needs to dominate a lackluster Virginia offense.
The Cavaliers have the nation's 109th ranked scoring offense and has had several poor offensive performances this season. Virginia was only able to score 16 points on Richmond, 7 points vs. USC, 10 points vs. Connecticut, and 3 points vs. Duke. Miami should be able to stop Virginia's 104th ranked rushing offense and that will allow Miami's defensive line to key on the pass and pressure Virginia QB Marc Verica. The Canes defense should be looking to dominate Virginia after last year's embarrassment in the Orange Bowl and I expect them to take out their frustration from that loss in a dominating performance.
2) The Canes need to establish the running game
Miami has struggled running the ball in recent weeks and they need that to come to an end vs. Virginia. The Cavaliers allow almost 150 yards per game on the ground and there is no reason why Javarris James and Graig Cooper should not be able to have great games on Saturday. The Canes have talked all year about how good their offensive line can be, but that claim has not come to fruition to this point. It is time for Miami's offensive line to put together a solid performance and lead Miami back into the ACC Title hunt.
1) Win the turnover battle
Yes, this is a key to any game but especially when you bring together two teams who have been playing a lot of close games lately. Pretty much every game Miami has played since Texas A&M has been close and UVA has won four close games in a row. In close games, turnovers are huge. Neither team's quarterbacks have done a real good job of protecting the ball this year so limiting the mistakes on the offensive side of the ball will set up the defense and special teams on both sides. Miami did not turn the ball over against Wake Forest last week and despite not moving the ball real well throughout the game, they avoided the costly mistake and they were able to pull it off. Winning the turnover battle this week will give the Canes a much better chance of winning this game.
2) Establish the running game and stick to it
The Hurricanes have been hot and cold running the football this year but one of the reasons has to be because the limited opportunities the running backs have gotten at times. I'm convinced that if UM had stuck with the running game against North Carolina and Florida State more than they did in the second half of those games, the Canes would be 7-1 right now. Getting the running game going will be huge but just as important for Miami will be sticking with it. Graig Cooper's averaged five yards per carry this season and that's a solid number for a Division 1 running back. Baby J is expected to be fully healthy this week, finally, and that should give Miami even more reason to run the football. If the Canes get the ground game going and stick to it, their chances of winning go through the roof in this game. On the otherhand, if the running backs get 4 or 5 touches, like they did in the first half of the Florida State game for example, it's going to be an uphill battle all afternoon.