First off, I want to apologize for not posting in a few days. Been busy preparing our UM basketball previews for next week along with maintaining our online coverage. I worked 18+ hours between covering UM's press conference Tuesday and the Heat opener Tuesday night. But it's all worth it. You feel like your stealing money when you cover sports for a living.
Anyway, considering the Canes don't have much more to play for than not going to Boise, Idaho for the MPC Computers Bowl anymore, I figured interest has wained a bit. Before I get to the 5 Most Important Things for Virginia Tech, just want to share a few notes from b-ball and rumblings of what is going to happen as far as coaching changes on the football field at The U.
As for the b-ball, when I went out for our photo shoot on Thursday, I saw Brian Asbury working overtime -- something he has done with roommate and now starting shooting guard Jack McClinton for weeks. Asbury and McClinton take anywhere between 250 to 500 shots on their own every day aside from practice. In the one and a half hours I was at the BankUnited Center, Asbury took 250. He missed 43. I know. I counted the clanks. That's pretty impressive for a guy who couldn't hit the wide side of a barn last year. I know a lot of the so-called experts have the Canes picked near last in hoops. But I think they are going to be a lot better than people think. McClinton and Asbury may only be sophomores, but they could end up making UM better than it was last year if what they do in practice translates to the court when as Frank Haith puts it "the lights come on."
As for the coaching rumors... I have to point out how chipper Larry Coker has been of late. For a guy who is 5-3, he doesn't look like someone worried at all about his future. Maybe there is good reason. A little birdie told me Larry's agent is close with the AD at North Carolina. Considering the Tar Heels will have a new coach next season, maybe Larry isn't too worried about getting his contract bought out at The U and having a new place to live next year. Who knows. That's what the birdie said. As it stands, Coker says he plans on staying until the end of his contract, which has three years left or whenever it gets bought out.
My source also says not to expect Butch Davis to end up coaching at UM. They said Davis likely wouldn't be first on the list of wants. When UM lets go of Larry, they are going to want a big name, a guy like Steve Spurrier. As the birdie put it, "Spurrier would bring instant attention to recruits and fans." I tend to agree although I'm not sure how Canes fans would react to a former Gator running the show at the OB.
Now, onto the five most important things and my prediction for Saturday:
1. SHUT DOWN BRANDEN ORE, SHUT DOWN THE HOKIES: Randy Shannon wasn't kidding when he said earlier this week Tech likes to run and not throw. The reason? Have you seen the Hokies quarterback? We all know UM's defense is the heart and soul of this team. They kept Miami in last week's loss against Georgia Tech until UM's offense started passing out freebies. This week, the Hurricanes D will play with heart again and force Virginia Tech's weak offense to punt plenty. But if Ore gets away for one big play or sets up a TD with a big run, that could be all the Hokies need to beat UM, which figures to have its own troubles with Tech's defense.
2. DON'T HAND OUT FREEBIES: Kyle Wright is going to start and if we see Kirby Freeman for more than 2 series I'd be shocked. With that said, Kyle can't do what he did last week against Georgia Tech (hold the ball too long and take sacks on 2nd-and-2) or turn the ball over late. This game is going to be low-scoring and if UM is going to win Wright and the offense has to play mistake free.
3. WIN ON SPECIAL TEAMS: It was only a month ago when Jon Peattie looked like he couldn't make a 35-yard field goal. Now, he's making everything again and former ACC-leading punter Brian Monroe is having woes. Both need to be on their A-game to beat the Hokies, who are Jedi Masters on special teams. Aside from last week's late fumble on the punt return by Rashaun Jones, UM's special teams has played well of late. Taking a step back on Saturday will doom UM.
4. BABY J MUST RUN THE BALL WELL AGAIN: Last week UM stayed close with Georgia Tech and actually produced points for one reason -- Javarris James kept the Yellow Jackets honest. James made runs out of nothing against Tech and had a few chances to provide something UM's offense has needed all season: the big play. In order for UM's offense to score a TD this week against the Hokies stingy D (12.0 ppg), James is going to have to break a big run. I think he will.
5. NO HEARTBREAKING PLAYS: This team's soul has been tested all season. The players already know what they really were playing for -- The National Title, The ACC title -- are no longer attainable. UM will show up with a lot of heart on Saturday at home because they don't want to lose anymore. But if something terrible happens, an INT return for a TD, a fumble return for a TD, a kick return for a TD, I'm not sure they'll be able to survive the disappointment. The "It's happening to us again syndrome" will set in and the team will fall apart. Avoid that and UM can win this game.
My prediction: UM 13, Virginia Tech 10. Hokies are favored and playing better than UM. But the fact Virginia Tech is so one-sided on offense and the fact their strength, running the ball, is what Miami does best tells me UM has more than a shot of winning this game. They should really be favored. This will be a defensive struggle all night. UM's defense, led by a healthy Jon Beason, will once again lead the way and force turnovers and limit Tech to one offensive score, a field goal. The other score will likely come via a UM offensive or special teams lapse. James will ultimately be the player of the game when he breaks free for a big run on this Tech defense in the second half as Miami salvages a little pride.
Don't like my prediction? Think it will go another way? Tell me how Saturday's game will play out and feel free to chirp-in on UM hoops and the Larry Coker rumors.