CORAL GABLES -- In the end, it could all come down to this.
Both involved in the two-loss logjam atop at the ACC Coastal, Miami and Virginia Tech find themselves at a cross road. Win Thursday night or most likely kiss goodbye a chance to qualify for the conference title game.
So, the 7:30 p.m. showdown in Sun Life Stadium could be one of the more anticipated early-November games Miami plays in some time. It still faces Duke, the other member of the two-loss crew, to close the season, but the Blue Devils have No. 10 Clemson coming to town Saturday.
Virginia Tech, though off its typical pace with a 4-4 record, still have a few weapons occupying Miami's concerns. Of course, quarterback Logan Thomas tops the list.
The 6-foot-6, 240-pound junior averages 238.8 passing yards a game while rushing for a total of 298 yards -- second best on the team. The Hurricanes are still haunted by the elusiveness he showed a year ago. Thomas' 19-yard touchdown run in the closing minute pushed Virginia Tech past Miami 38-35 in one of many late-game collapses.
Miami coach Al Golden expects to see something new Thursday night from Thomas with both teams coming off a bye.
"If I'm over there, I'm saying he's had 10 days before this game, and going to have nine days on the back end -- I would probably run Logan a little more than he's running or than he has run," Golden said. "He's tough when he gets going."
Freshman defensive tackle Earl Moore embraces the challenge of facing a big quarterback who likes to take off.
"He's very aggressive and will tuck it and run and do whatever he has to do to help his team," Moore said.
How the Hokies defend the pass might open things up for the struggling Miami offense. Golden expects to see more man-to-man coverage on the outside, which means two things. The receivers could have more opportunity to get open without as much safety support, but with more resources dedicated to the pass rush, quarterback Stephen Morris might not have the time to spot available targets.
"If you're going to take your shots, you have to hit them," Golden said. "And if you're going to take your shots against man-to-man, you need to protect. It's no secret we've been a team that has tried to take shots in every game we've played in. We have not been as successful in the last couple weeks as we need to be, and we certainly we need to be very successful in doing so Thursday night against this team."
Virginia Tech has five sacks in each of the last two games and ranks 20th nationally with 7.3 tackles for loss per game.
There won't be quite the pregame health concern for Miami compared to its last outing. Nearly three weeks have passed since Morris sprained his ankle against North Carolina and he said the progress continues. The only name listed on the Hurricanes' ACC injury report was linebacker Denzel Perryman, who was probable with a leg injury.
Either way, this game could easily be considered the turning point for two seasons with a matching absence of momentum. Virginia Tech lost three of its four while Miami has a three-game losing streak.
But someone's got to win this one. And the survivor scores the inside track for a spot in the ACC title game.
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