Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech athletics

Saturday’s contest in Blacksburg might just be an ACC Championship elimination game.

Miami has only one ACC loss, but was forced to survive last week against NC State in Raleigh, 44-41. Virginia Tech, on the other hand, is 4-3 and coming off a 38-35 loss at home to Liberty that ended in unthinkable fashion.

Although it has been inconsistent, Rhett Lashlee’s offense has been very good for No. 9 Miami this season. Quarterback D’Eriq King has been tremendous since transferring from Houston and is coming off a monster night against the Wolfpack when he accounted for 535 total yards and five touchdown passes. King has a nice supporting cast around him that includes running back Cam’Ron Harris, wide receiver Mike Harley and tight end Brevin Jordan.

For as special as King has been this year, the argument could be made that the best quarterback for Saturday’s contest will be playing for the home team. Virginia Tech quarterback Hendon Hooker missed the early parts of the season due to COVID-19 protocols, but has been outstanding since returning. Last week, Hooker finished with 373 yards of offense and four total touchdowns.

It was against Miami last season that Hooker had his breakout performance. Hooker finished with four total touchdowns in a 42-35 victory for the Hokies. Hooker has eight rushing touchdowns this season and he’ll be accompanied by the ACC’s second-leading rusher in Khalil Herbert. Herbert has 803 yards rushing this season on an ungodly 8.4 yards per rush. Virginia Tech actually averages more yards and points per game than the 6-1 Hurricanes.

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Where Miami holds the advantage over Virginia Tech is defensively. The Hurricanes rank sixth in the ACC in total and scoring defense and seventh nationally with 57 tackles for loss. Defensive ends Quincy Roche and Jaelan Phillips headline the defensive front.

Safety Bubba Bolden is one of the best in the ACC. Bolden leads Miami with 40 tackles and three forced fumbles this season.

Virginia Tech also ranks in the top 10 nationally in tackles for loss, but the Hokies have allowed at least 31 points in four of their seven games this season. A lot of that does have to do with the Hokies being ravaged in the secondary. Up front, Amare Barno and Justus Reed each have 4.5 sacks. Virginia Tech ranks third in the ACC in sacks per game behind Pittsburgh and Clemson.

If this game comes down to the kicking game, both teams have excellent kickers. Brian Johnson for Virginia Tech and Miami’s Jose Borregales have combined to go 27-for-32 this season. Borregales has missed just once.

Virginia Tech raced to a 28-0 lead last season at Miami before holding off the Hurricanes, 42-35. After DeeJay Dallas tied the game, Deshawn McClease scored the winning touchdown with 1:03 remaining. Miami had won four of the five prior meetings, including a 38-14 rout in its last trip to Blacksburg. Saturday’s contest begins at 12 p.m. ET and airs on ESPN.

Prediction: Miami 35, Virginia Tech 30

Other Games Across the State

College Football

Florida Atlantic (3-1) at Florida International (0-3)
Friday, Nov. 13 at 7 p.m. ET (CBS Sports Network)

Florida Atlantic has defeated rival Florida International in each of the last three meetings and by an average of 31 points per contest. First-year head coach Willie Taggart has yet to announce who will start at quarterback for the Owls. FIU is the only Conference USA school without a win.
Prediction: Florida Atlantic 24, Florida International 7

South Florida (1-6) at Houston (2-3)
Saturday, Nov. 14 at 3:30 p.m. ET (ESPN2)

First-year head coach Jeff Scott is still looking for his first conference win at South Florida. Last week, the Bulls gave a good Memphis team all it wanted on the road. They’ll need a similar effort this week to beat a Houston team that has been blown out in consecutive weeks.
Prediction: Houston 28, South Florida 26

Arkansas (3-3) at No. 6 Florida (4-1)
Saturday, Nov. 14 at 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Florida earned a signature win last week by handling rival Georgia. The Gators will see a familiar face in former quarterback Feleipe Franks, who now starts for Arkansas. This is one of the week’s few SEC games. The Razorbacks have already exceeded last season’s win total. They haven’t had a winning record this late in the season since 2016.
Prediction: Florida 37, Arkansas 27

Temple (1-4) at UCF (4-2)
Saturday, Nov. 14 at 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPNU)

UCF has overcome a slow start with consecutive blowout wins. The Knights continue to lead the nation in total offense. Temple has lost three straight contests.
Prediction: UCF 45, Temple 20

Florida State (2-5) at NC State (4-3)
Saturday, Nov. 14 at 7:30 p.m. ET (ACC Network)

Florida State has been blown out in consecutive games since upsetting No. 5 North Carolina. It remains unclear whether quarterback Jordan Travis will be able to go for the Seminoles. NC State is 6-5 at home against FSU since 1998.
Prediction: NC State 38, Florida State 19


Jacksonville Jaguars (1-7) at Green Bay Packers (6-2)
Sunday, Nov. 15 at 1 p.m. ET (FOX)

The Jacksonville Jaguars will stick with Jake Luton at quarterback after the rookie passed for 304 yards in his debut. The Green Bay Packers are looking to start 7-2 for the second straight year.
Prediction: Green Bay 41, Jacksonville 22

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-3) at Carolina Panthers (3-6)
Sunday, Nov. 15 at 1 p.m. ET (FOX)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ quarterback Tom Brady is coming off the worst loss of his career after being blasted by the New Orleans Saints. He’ll be facing a Carolina Panthers’ team that has lost four straight games. All four of those losses came by one score.
Prediction: Tampa Bay 30, Carolina 20

Los Angeles Chargers (2-6) at Miami Dolphins (5-3)
Sunday, Nov. 15 at 4:05 p.m. ET (CBS)

First-round picks at quarterback will square off as Tua Tagovailoa makes his first home start for the Miami Dolphins against the Los Angeles Chargers and Justin Herbert. The Dolphins have won four straight games and look for their best 9-game start since 2001. The Chargers have lost six of seven with each defeat coming by seven points or less.
Prediction: Miami 27, L.A. Chargers 24

Mike Ferguson is the managing editor for Fifth Quarter. Be sure to follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeWFerguson. Follow all of Mike’s work by liking his Facebook page.