Game Preview: Miami, Part 1

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Bob Diaco’s special teams units will play a key role against the Canes.

In a game that features two of the least productive offenses in the ACC and two of the top 21 defenses in the nation, special teams, as it seems each week could be the difference-maker Saturday. Miami has the advantage in talent while Virginia has the luxury of playing in the friendly confines of Scott Stadium. When the match-ups are this close, usually turnovers and special teams decide the outcome.

Special Teams

Bob Diaco’s units have been inconsistent through the first 10 games and have been prone to giving up big plays on special teams. Fake punts and field goals have already had success against the Wahoos in 2006 and muffed and blocked punts have been big momentum shifters in games against Pitt, Maryland, and Florida State – all losses.

The difference in this contest could come down to punting. Which team can get the most out of its punting game? In a game where field position and hidden yardage could be critical, if either punt operation can have a stellar afternoon, that could determine who wins the field position battle and possibly the game. After a good start to the season the Cavaliers have tapered off, falling to seventh in the ACC in net punting at 34.9 yards per punt. Miami’s Brian Monroe is third in the conference, averaging 42.5 yards per kick while his team is currently third in net punting with a 38.8 average.

Both the Hoos and Canes are near the bottom of the ACC rankings in punt returns, standing at eighth (6.9 YPR) and 10th (6.2 YPR), respectively in league games.

Another key battle to watch is Virginia’s kickoff return game vs. Miami’s kickoff coverage unit, which is ranked fourth in the league. The Virginia return game received high marks last week against Florida State, averaging 27.2 yards per return in large part due to Cedric Peerman ‘s 62-yard kickoff return. The Cavaliers are ranked 19th in the nation in kickoff returns with a 23.34 average. Miami is tied for seventh in the ACC in returns at 21 yards per return and will