With their national title dreams seemingly dashed, the No. 14 Miami Hurricanes host Virginia Tech’s vaunted defense without top rusher Duke Johnson on Saturday night at Sun Life Stadium.
Johnson broke his right ankle late in the third quarter of the Canes 41-14 loss to Florida State a week ago, and Miami tumbled down the polls and BCS rankings. The sophomore reportedly underwent surgery earlier this week, but he is out for the rest of the season.
The injury stunts a stellar second year from Johnson, who is second in the ACC with 920 yards and six touchdowns. Sophomore Dallas Crawford should get the most of touches for the rest of the season. He’s tallied 294 yards and a team-high nine touchdowns on 67 carries.
Even with Johnson out, the Canes still have an excellent shot of running the table and re-matching Florida State in the ACC title game.
The Hokies balanced and bruising defense has lost two straight, but are still eighth in the country letting up 16.9 points per game. Senior defensive end J.R. Collins tops Tech with 5.0 sacks on the year, and is one of four pass rushers to notch more than four sacks this season. Corners Kendall Fuller and Brandon Facyson have combined for nine interceptions and the Hokies are No. 1 in the ACC with 17 picks.
Miami kept up with the Seminoles and was only down by seven at halftime, but was shutout in the final two quarters and senior quarterback Stephen Morris tossed two interceptions to deny the Canes any chance of a comeback.
Until last week, Morris’s tendency to throw picks hadn’t affected Miami’s run, but how he handles the Hokies secondary could be Saturday night’s biggest matchup. Morris is second in the ACC with 10 interceptions to 12 touchdowns with 1,655 passing yards.
The only ACC quarterback more prone to interceptions is Tech’s Logan Thomas. He’s third in the conference in total offensive yards (2,351), but Thomas has chucked six interceptions during the Hokies slide and has 12 on the year.
Miami sophomore defensive backs Rayshawn Jenkins and Tracy Howard could play a huge role if Thomas continues his carelessness with the ball. The pair has totaled six of the Canes 14 interceptions, good for No. 3 in the conference.
Betting Odds: Miami is favored by 6.5 points
Over/Under: 43.5 points
Time: 7 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Where To Watch Online: Watch ESPN
Prediction: Miami 20, Virginia Tech 17
Currently covering NBA, NFL, MLB, along with Real Madrid and Barcelona, focusing on trades, controversy, and injury updates. Joined IB Times in August 2012.