POINT/COUNTERPOINT: Virginia Tech or Miami?

 Brian Curtis and Eric Sorenson slug it out over the most pressing football questions

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    Eric Sorenson, CSTV.com Analyst Brian Curtis, CSTV Senior Editor
    MIAMI. It's finally gut-check time for Virginia Tech. All the hype will finally be put aside Saturday in Lane Stadium. The Marcus Vick hype. The defense hype. The BCS-worthy hype. The hype hype.

    But if there's one program that is known for killing the hype machine in a big game, it's Miami. Just ask Nebraska in '83. Just ask UCLA in '98. Just ask Florida State in … well, every other year since 1980 or so. They are the college football version of "Homie don't play that."

    Could it happen to a rollicking Virginia Tech team that is out to prove a point this weekend? Abso-freakin-lutely. Here are a few things Miami has going in its favor:

    First and foremost…

    Nobody is giving the Hurricanes a chance
    Go ahead people - tell Miami they can't do something. Go ahead and put all your betting money on VT, making the point spread go from four points to seven. Go ahead, give the Hurricanes the ole "you can't" speech. That will only feed the monster.

    But also …

    Virginia Tech has the BCS on its mind
    What's the second biggest kiss of death? When All-American CB Jimmy Williams proclaimed this week, "We're just champing at the bit to play USC or Texas." Believe me; Miami was listening on this one. And do you really think a team with the talent of the 'Canes needs any kind of billboard material?

    Miami has already played in a hostile environment this year
    Lane Stadium will be goin' nuts on Satdee night - count on that (wish I had a ticket, man!). The 'Canes have gone into the Lion's den on a couple of occasions already, battling Florida State in the opener and winning at Clemson in game two. They're battle-tested in volatile situations, so that won't faze them. Shoot, handling hostile environments are ingrained in every Hurricane player the minute he signs on the dotted line. The fact that first-year starting QB Kyle Wright hasn't completely freaked out in tough situations is a good sign.

    Getting defensive
    Tech has been getting the pub for leading the nation in scoring defense, and it's well-deserved. Coach Beamer and defensive coordinator Bud Foster always seem to outdo themselves every few years. It's the 'Canes, however, that are at the top of the heap in the total defense stat, despite facing better offenses so far. Not only that, but Tech has been huge benefactors in the turnover department as well (18 takeaways). What happens if the Gobblers don't get to gobble up any freebies Saturday? Advantage, Hurricanes.

    The special teams
    Yep, we all know Beamer Ball. But what special-teams performer on the field has the most potential to have a game-changing performance? Try Miami return man extraordinaire Devin Hester. This guy is seventh in the country in punt returns, but it seems like he's on the highlight reel every night.

    VIRGINIA TECH. Virginia Tech will win this game. The Hokies will. Despite the swagger of Miami, the speed, the Devin Hesters of the world, Virginia Tech will win. Let's start with the big picture.

    Miami comes into the Saturday showdown sporting a 6-1 record. Sounds good, right? Well, the Hurricanes have faced only two teams with winning records, Florida State and Colorado, and they are 1-1 in those games. The combined record of their conquests is an unimpressive, 18-29, and includes victims such as Temple and Duke. On the flip side, Virginia Tech's opponents' records are 33-29, not overwhelming but a far cry from 11 games under .500. Its wins include Georgia Tech (5-2), West Virginia (6-1) and Boston College (6-2), all of whom have been ranked at some point this season. In fact, only two teams that the Hokies have faced have records under .500 - North Carolina State at 3-4 and Duke (1-8). So what does this mean? It means that Tech has beaten better opponents and Miami's record is a bit deceiving.

    Wait, there's more. Virginia Tech has won 7 of the last 10 games against Miami, including last year's win in the Orange Bowl. A year before, Tech blasted the Hurricanes, 31-7. Throw in the fact that Tech has been virtually unbeatable at home in night games and the odds are certainly in the Hokies' favor (as evident by their nearly 34-point scoring margin at home in 2005). So not only has Tech tackled a better schedule, history reveals that it has owned Miami in the last 10 years. Which brings us to Saturday night.

    Miami has a great defense. A defense so good that it leads the nation in total defense, allowing just 222 yards per game. The Hurricanes are big, fast and can stop the run and pass. Don't overlook the Tech defense, which ranks No. 1 in scoring defense, No. 2 in total defense and in the Top 6 in both rushing and passing defense. So, on the defensive side, it's pretty much a wash, though I give more credit to Tech because it shut down better offenses than Miami.

    Much has been made of how great Virginia Tech special teams have been under coach Frank Beamer, and they've done nothing to shame him this year. From blocking punts to stuffing field goals to containing kick-returners, Tech may be the best in the nation. But Miami has Hester who could make any kick coverage silly. Again, let's call it a wash. This brings us to the difference in the game.

    Virginia Tech has a better offense. The Hokies have had more consistent play at quarterback, pose more threats and have a better offensive line. Just look at the turnover margin. Tech has a +1.38 margin ranking it 4th in the country. Miami? The Hurricanes sit at -14 and 65th in the country. Did you see Kyle Wright throw the ball against North Carolina last week? It wasn't pretty. Yes, Tyrone Moss had a huge game but do you really think he can run over the Tech defense? Tech puts up more yards per game and scores more points (again, against better competition). Mike Imoh has a bum ankle but is still a great back and Marcus Vick can beat you through the air or on the ground.

    So that's it: Tech wins not on defense or on special teams, but on offense. With history, both long past and current on their side, the Hokies come out of the game with an impressive win, impressing poll voters, and soon, leapfrogging Texas in the BCS. Now, about those e-mails that are on the way …

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