College Football UK TV Preview Week 5 – TNF Special

Virginia Cavaliers (2-2) @ Miami Hurricanes (2-2) – Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida

Friday 1st October – 12.30am (UK)

Miami 5 point favourites at the time of writing

We’ve got an ACC Coastal clash to kick off the live UK action in week five of the College Football season, as the Virginia Cavaliers travel to the humidity of Miami to face the Hurricanes. 

The ACC as a whole has been utter chaos so far this season, and there’s absolutely no chance that anyone predicted that the bottom three teams in the Coastal division after four weeks of action would be Miami, UNC & the Cavaliers. Duke sit comfortably above both teams involved in this one at 3-1, not bad for a team that started the season with a 3.5 win total.

Still, this matchup should provide entertainment for those keen enough to stay up into the early hours of Friday morning to watch it in this country – the bookies agree, setting the points total at 62. 

The reason for that high total is presumably the Cavaliers inability to stop the run so far in 2021. Virginia’s run game ranks 113th of the 130 eligible FBS schools, giving up an average of 201 yards per game, a total that would be much worse if they hadn’t played William & Mary in week two. In fairness to Nick Powell’s defense, they did play better against Wake Forest’s rushing attack last weekend, but in turn Sam Howell beat them through the air – throwing for 270 yards and three touchdowns.

On offense, things have been much better for Virginia, with Brennan Armstrong leading the FBS in passing yards per game. Armstrong has averaged 426 across his four appearances, with a 13-3 touchdown to interception ratio. As we mentioned in last week’s TV preview, the junior signal caller is starting to receive a small amount of draft buzz, but he’ll need to show a bit more outside of the pocket if he’s to really grab people’s attention.

Armstrong is supported by a solid cast of skill position players, the stand out of which is Dontayvion Wicks. The sophomore receiver didn’t play in 2020, which is why his emergence has happened seemingly from nowhere. However, he’s also starting to generate some buzz, with 460 yards and four touchdowns on 22 receptions – leaving him 7th in total receiving yards per game. He’ll need support from the 109th ranked rushing offense if the Cavaliers are to establish a balanced offense in this one.

On the other side, the Hurricanes have had a tepid start to the season by their standards. After dropping the opener against a rampant Alabama side, Miami struggled to beat App State and got pummelled by Michigan State in weeks 2 and 3, before finally putting a beating on Central Connecticut last weekend. 

Starting Quarterback, D’Eriq King, is officially questionable at the time of writing and it feels like the 24 year old’s chances of making it to the NFL are gradually slipping away. Before sitting out last weekend’s victory over CCSU, the former Houston signal caller had a 3-4 touchdown to interception rate and had lost some of his familiar threat in the run game. If he does return in this one, he’ll need to perform at a very high level to hold off competition from Jake Garcia and Tyler Van Dyke.

The Miami defense has been pretty average up to this point, often put under pressure by a lack of offensive production on the other side of the ball. Through four games they rank 72nd in the country in total defense, allowing an average of 370 yards per game, with the majority of those coming through the air. That clearly poses a problem against Armstrong and the potent Cavaliers passing game.

Starting Center, Corey Gaynor, missed last weekend’s game, as did fellow lineman Justice Oluwaseun, both are considered day-to-day at the time of writing and their availability will be crucial to the outcome of the game. One player that the ‘Canes will have available is Running Back, Jaylan Knighton, who was suspended for the first four games due to a legal issue. Knighton did start two games in 2020, and many view him as a potential difference maker when compared to the incumbent starter, Cam’Ron Harris.

With the depth of talent on both offenses and glaring defensive weaknesses, it feels like this should be a back and forth shootout. Given the weak start to the season Miami has had, I like the Cavaliers to not only cover the spread but to stage an upset at the Hard Rock.

By Andy Moore – @ajmoore21

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