No. 2 Miami set to host home finale against Virginia
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Virginia has ruined parties for Miami before.
Take 2007, for example. Miami was ending its 70-year stay at the Orange Bowl and Virginia was the opponent. The Hurricanes blared “We are the champions” at halftime and shot off confetti cannons after the game, all of which was quite awkward since the Cavaliers totally spoiled the mood by rolling to a 48-0 victory.
This time, the Cavaliers will have a shot at ruining Miami’s undefeated season and national-championship hopes. Virginia (6-4, 3-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) visits No. 2 Miami (9-0, 6-0, No. 3 College Football Playoff rankings) on Saturday in a game the Hurricanes — who have already won the ACC’s Coastal Division title and have a Dec. 2 date with Clemson in the conference championship game — almost certainly have to win to stay in the race for the national title.
“It’s an awesome opportunity for our program,” Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall said.
These are awesome days for Miami as well.
The Hurricanes, who insist they’ve been disrespected by national media because many television analysts picked Notre Dame to beat them last week, have the nation’s longest winning streak at 14 games. With a win, Miami would wrap up its first undefeated home regular season since 2002 and go 7-0 at home for the first time since 1988.
It’s also senior day for 14 Miami players, including standouts like wide receiver Braxton Berrios, defensive linemen Chad Thomas and Trent Harris, offensive linemen KC McDermott and Trevor Darling and tight end Christopher Herndon IV. And there’s also a number of juniors — possibly as many as five defensive starters alone — who will likely consider leaving early for the NFL Draft.
So emotions will obviously be high on the Miami end, and Mendenhall hopes his team can find a way to match that intensity.
“It just so happens to be against a really good team and a game that matters,” Mendenhall said. “It’s fun to play in games that matter.”
Here’s some of what to know going into Saturday’s Virginia-Miami matchup:
FAMILY TIES: Not every Miami student will be rooting for the Hurricanes. Jordan Kiser goes to Miami. He’s the brother of Virginia linebacker Micah Kiser. “He’s a UVA fan,” Micah Kiser said in comments published on Virginia’s football website. “He goes to Miami, but he’s cheering for us, because I’m his brother.” Jordan Kiser posted a photo on Instagram this week of his brother intercepting a pass against Miami last year, one that even got Brad Kaaya — who threw that pass in last year’s 34-14 Hurricanes win — to comment in good fun.
BRONCO IN MIAMI: The last time Mendenhall brought a team to South Florida, it was memorable. BYU lost to Memphis 55-48 in overtime at the Miami Beach Bowl (fun fact: it was never played in Miami Beach) to end the 2014 season. Little did the coaches know that day that they would soon be neighbors; the Memphis coach was Justin Fuente, who is now at Virginia Tech. Mendenhall went to Virginia after the 2015 season.
THE SERIES: Miami leads the series between the schools 8-6, and is looking for its third straight win over the Cavaliers. No team has ever won more than three in a row in the series (Miami won the first three meetings, Virginia swept three straight from 2010 through 2012). And this is the first time that one of the teams has entered this game ranked since 2010.
EARLY RISERS: This is only the second noon kickoff for either team this season. Since 2013, in noon-kick games, Miami is 9-1 and Virginia is 1-6. Miami has another noon kick awaiting at Pittsburgh next Friday in its regular-season finale.
THE U AT 2: As the No. 2 team in the AP poll, Miami is 35-4 all-time, 21-0 against unranked opponents and 19-0 in home regular-season games.