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Miami-Virginia Tech finally lives up to conference hype

Head coach Mark Richt talks with Malik Rosier #12 of the Miami Hurricanes during their game against the North Carolina Tar Heels at Kenan Stadium on October 28, 2017 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Head coach Mark Richt talks with Malik Rosier #12 of the Miami Hurricanes during their game against the North Carolina Tar Heels at Kenan Stadium on October 28, 2017 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Published Nov. 3, 2017

When Miami and Virginia Tech left the Big East together in 2004, the ACC thought it was getting two powerhouse programs. The Hurricanes had four consecutive seasons with at least 11 wins. The Hokies were five years removed from playing for a national championship.

When UM hosts the Hokies on Saturday night in a showdown with College Football Playoff ramifications, it will be only their fourth ACC meeting when both teams were ranked in the top 15, and their first since 2009.

No. 9 Miami has the country's longest active win streak (12 games). No. 13 Virginia Tech has rolled off three consecutive double-digit wins.

"Virginia Tech is not a good team but a great team in our mind," 'Canes coach Mark Richt said.

Miami has a chance to show that it is, too, by finally winning its first Coastal Division title (which it can clinch with a victory and a Georgia Tech win over Virginia). The Hurricanes' plus-10 turnover margin leads the ACC, and they've found ways to eke out four consecutive one-score victories.

"There's a reason they are undefeated," Hokies coach Justin Fuente said. "There's a reason they have this winning streak dating back to last year is because they are a very well-coached and very talented football team."

The Hokies are, too. And for the first time in almost a decade, the ACC has the kind of high-stakes Hokies-Hurricanes matchup it envisioned.

Miami matchup to watch: An 8-0 start depends on how well the Hurricanes' elite pass defense fares against Virginia Tech's efficient offense. QB Josh Jackson's passer rating (153.88) is second nationally among freshmen and 16th overall. But he hasn't faced UM, which is third nationally in opponents' passer rating (97.90) and third in the ACC with 11 interceptions. Pay special attention to DB Michael Jackson, who has three interceptions in the last two games.

New Miami target: After catching four passes for 9 yards in his first four games, freshman Jeff Thomas has 240 yards and two scores over the past three. That includes the Hurricanes' two longest plays of the season — a 70-yarder against Georgia Tech and a 78-yard touchdown at North Carolina. Keep an eye on him against a Hokies pass defense that's susceptible to big plays.