Analyzing the opponents: Virginia Tech and Miami

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With Camp Higher Ground only three weeks away and the opener against Pitt approaching on the horizon, the time is now to take a closer look at the teams that will be gracing the 2012 UC football schedule. 

We'll analyze their returning players and the narrative following the teams as they approach the year. Also, I'll rank the opponents from 1-11 and delve into the storylines for each week. Today, we roll into the thick of the non-conference slate with Virginia Tech and Miami.

Virginia Tech Hokies
Location: FedEx Field, Landover, Md.
Date: Sept. 29
Time: TBA
Returning Offense: 3/11
Returning Defense: 9/11
Returning Specialists: 1/2
Last year: The Hokies enjoyed a very Hokie-like season. They finished 11-3 and played in the Sugar Bowl, but on the outside looking in to the national championship picture due to two losses to eventual ACC champ Clemson. Va. Tech still went to the Sugar Bowl, though, where they lost to Michigan. Their defense finished the year seventh nationally in points against.
Player to watch: QB Logan Thomas. The Hokies defense figures to be nearly impenetrable -- too much talent. The question will be the development of junior QB Logan Thomas. Take a look at his stats in wins vs. losses last season. In the losses he completed 56 percent of his passes for 6.2 yards/att with one touchdown to four picks. In the team's 11 wins, he racked up a 61 percent completion percentage, 8.2 yards/att and 18 TDs to 6 INTs. UC's ability to contain the Hokies QB will go a long way to deciding the outcome in Landover.
Stat of note: Virginia Tech's running game fueled their 11-win season last year, but four of the the starting five lineman plus first-round pick RB David Wilson. The Giants selection ran for 1,627 yards for 6.1 yards per carry last season.
Why they're dangerous: That defense that finished last season seventh in the nation in points allowed (17.6), yeah, they are returning their entire front seven. They are the reason this team will be favored to notch a 14th 10-win season in the last 18 years. If they find the reinforcements for the running game, the Hokies will have the ability to make a national title run out of the ACC.
Media storyline: The non-conference headliner of the Bearcats season this will be a monster crowd at FedEx Field. This beats heading into Lane Stadium, but will be a rowdy Hokie road environment for the Cats. No bigger opportunity to turn heads exists for the Bearcats.
Schedule Rank: 1. The Hokies are the best team on the schedule and it isn't close.

Miami (Ohio)
Location: Nippert Stadium
Date: Oct. 6
Time: 7 p.m.
TV: FoxSports Ohio
Last year: The RedHawks (4-8, 3-3) endured a shutout at the hands of the Bearcats early last season (27-0), but the young team began to find its footing as the year progressed. Following the loss, Miami won four of five. It closed the season with three consecutive losses, but each came by one possession.
Stat of note: Miami last beat UC in 2005.
Why they're dangerous: Only seven teams in college football return more starters than the RedHawks. Considering the uptick they experienced last year, they should be a team on the rise this year. Coming into Nippert and winning will be a chore, but they own a far better shot of winning than last year's squad which held close for a majority of the game in Oxford.
Media storyline: Time to rerack Brian Kelly's comments about whether or not UC should be playing this series. To clarify, the series is going nowhere, but us media types sure like bringing it up as the streak of UC wins approaches seven in a row.
Schedule Rank: 9. I place them above all the other non-VT, out-of-conference opponents, but Miami understandably lacks the Big East talent. 

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