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Keys to the game: Oklahoma

Just arrived in Dallas, Texas a few hours ago -- and not just for the reason you thought. Tonight, I'll be covering Southlake Carroll, the No. 1 high school football team in the country, to get a glimpse of what Miami Northwestern will face next week in its Clash of Champions (a game that will follow UM-FIU on ESPNU). As the former high school writer, I have to admit I'm pumped. Any time you can spend 9 days on the road watching football and attending two of the biggest games in the country this week, you got to consider yourself lucky. I do.

I passed by the Dragons' home stadium this afternoon (that's Southlake Carroll) and was simply blown away. This team's $19 million facility looked nicer than the Orange Bowl. While my mind will be on Southlake Carroll tonight, I didn't want to leave you Canes fans hanging -- especially with the big game tomorrow in Norman. After a late midnight drive tonight to Norman, I'll be there with bloodshot eyes tomorrow morning for the game, providing live blogging as I did last week for the Marshall game. Hopefully, a few of you back home will be online to share some thoughts during the game.

As for the Sooners, I promised a weekly delivery of the keys to the game and that's what this blog is about. Here are my 5 keys to the game in order for the Canes to pull off the road upset of the fifth-ranked team. Let me know if you agree, disagree or if I missed something. The Eye On The U Crew is always on the ball. So, I expect some good feedback.

1. UM needs to win the battle up front: Unlike year's past when Oklahoma would come into this game with far less speed at the skill positions, that category is now a push between these teams. That means the Canes need to win the battle up front, especially on offense where like or not the Sooners are going to be ready to stop Graig Cooper and Javarris James. If those two don't have success on Saturday, the Canes have no shot to win in this game. The o-line has to come through with another solid game like it did last week, limiting penalties and making sure Cooper and James are falling forward, not backward.

2. Kirby Freeman has to be better than last week: 9 of 21 for 81 passing yards, 1 TD and 1 INT against Marshall was good enough. But if Freeman does the same against the Sooners this week, the only way the Canes end up winning this game is if the defense absolutely goes bonkers creating turnovers and points. Freeman has to keep Oklahoma's secondary honest and he has to complete a few passes downfield to do that.

3. Get to Oklahoma's freshman quarterback and make him fear for his life: The Canes' defensive line did a tremendous job last week against Marshall getting to the quarterback, recording 6 sacks and enough hurries to lead to 4 INTs. Oklahoma's QB looked good last week, but he's still a redshirt freshman making just his second career start. If Calais Campbell, Eric Moncur and company are eating him for brunch Saturday, the Canes are in this game regardless of what the offense is doing.

4. Sure up the secondary: Nothing can be more disheartening for a defense that gets as much pressure on a quarterback as Miami does than giving up first downs on third and long. Last week, the Canes had a few mental breakdowns in coverage, leaving the field open for Marshall to pick up a few big plays down the middle of the field. Can't happen this week. OU's receivers can take it to the house -- and crush the spirit of the Canes if it happens too often.

5. Special teams needs to be special: It wasn't last week. Francesco Zampogna was 1 of 2 on field goal attempts. Matt Bosher and Daren Daly struggled on punts and kickoffs. There were two penalties on the punt return team negated nice runs by Cooper. Nothing swings the momentum on the road like a big play on special teams. The Canes need someone to make some nice plays.

My prediction: Oklahoma 20, Miami 13. I predicted a 9-3 season before the year. And among those predicted losses its this one I feel most certain about. Because, of all the matchups, this one is the only one I think Miami might be overmmatched. Not talent wise. I believe the Canes are equal in the majority of the head-to-head matchups in this game. It's the Canes' confidence that I'm worried about. Oklahoma is at home, coming off a 79-10 victory and not afraid of anyone. I think until the Canes' offense explodes, Miami still will not have completely regained that swagger in needs to win games like this. On a positive note, though, this game could be the springboard to greater things for the Canes and getting some of that swagger back. After seeing what Virginia Tech and Florida State did last week, I'm not so sure anymore Miami isn't the best team in its weak conference. 

Comments

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I am envious of the dream job you do. I disagree with the score and I think Miami Wins. We'll see Saturday.

Shannon factor is the biggest mystery out there. If the kids even half buy into his mantra we will prevail -- we always have the talent. All we have to do is keep the faith!!!!

If I hear or read one more sportswriter say that Miami needs to regain their "swagger" I think my head might actually explode.

My realistic prediction:
OU-16 Miami-10

My homer prediction:
Miami-20 OU-10

The real key to win this game is this. Two keys actually.Be MENTALLY TOUGH!!! 2nd Play 60 minutes,(not 45 like fsu).Like all games there will be ups & downs,turnovers,& momentum changes.When we get a turnover we have to cash in,take the crowd out.When we have a turnover(and we will)we have to be mentally tough to step up and take their momentun away!Our players have to believe in their hearts (to know)that they have worked too hard,in spring,&summer not to give this game 100%,to leave everything on the field.COACHES TOO.Think about this,players are at a college4-5 years,most will only start 2 years, 13 games a year,play half a game (offence or defence).When you break it down it's not that much,& it goes by so quickley.DON'T tell me you can't give 100% for evey play for every game.Do it for yourself,your coaches,your teamates,your school.Have no regrets,looking back knowing you gave it your all.Be proud past & future. GO CANES!

Yeah that pretty much somes up our chances of winning. Not making mistakes. It's going to be very important to win the turnover battle.

The offense will obviously struggle for a part of the game. If the special teams however, put them in some nice field position. Then there is no reason why they shouldn't be able to put up some points though in each quarter. The 1st quarter though will be the toughest.

My thoughts are that the CANES only lose if their blown out in this game. If they keep it close and I mean lose by less than 7 points they will gain respect from the sports writers. And if they pull off the upset I think they can move up into the top 20 and maybe even top 15. It would be hard to keep Oklahoma ranked higher than the Canes with an honest vote. But they need to win first which I do belive they are capable of doing. WIN WIN situation.
GO CANES.

although Stoops is the veteran head coach, i believe Shannon has what it takes to methodically pull out an upset. what i like most from what i'm hearing from the U locker room is that they don't feel as if it would be an upset if they win. very bold but you gotta admire their fire for it...they gotta back that up. i agree with pretty much all the bloggers; win the turnover battle, field position and play all out Miami football and i think we'll win 19-13. i hope our field goal kicker is better than whatever that guys name is we had last year. GO CANES!!!

Manny...I am confident the Canes will get numbers 2, 3 and 4 done against OU.

Numbers 1 and 5? Not so much.

First, the Canes need to come out on all cylinders and take the crowd out of the game. Secondly, the coaches need to make adjustments throughout the game and put the players in a position to succeed. My feeling are that we are going to win this one, I have no doubt in my mind. Shannon will not allow these players to give up and I have this feeling that the players want this win for themselves but also for Shannon. It is apparent that they will be more than prepared for this game. Randy don't think we are going to lose and neither do I. We have just as much talent as OU and there is no reason that we shouldn't win this one. Looking at the team last week this is not your Coker's Hurricanes.

scUM doesn't need "keys" they just break-and-enter. Go Thug U!!

I agree with all th keys. I will elaborate on number 2. Freeman needs to throw for about 150-180 yards and needs to connect on about 3-4 passes of 30-40 yards. This is very doable given the style of defense OU plays and the history of their secondary. OU plays a lot of man-to-man and tend to consistently get beat by fast receivers (which we have). There will be about 10 legitimate opportunities to connect on passess of 30-40 yards. We need to connect on 3-4 of them to loosen up the secondary and make it easier for us to run the ball. I think Kirby will get it done.

RARA

you are smoking crack if you think there will be 10 chance of completing 30-40 yd passes. We had 9 TOTAL completions against MARSHALL. what on earth makes you think we will get 10 30-40 yard chances against the 5th ranked team in the country? with that said if we can get a few chances and make them and have some balls bounce our way we can pull this off.

Manny...if the Canes win will you storm the field? I'll be looking for you on TV...

Please excuse this long post. To win the battle up front by an impoved offensive line is possible, but lets hedge our chances, just in case. An 8-man box by OU creates mismatches in favor of UM. Our slot receivers can not be covered by LBs. If FREE must roll left or right to avoid the rush someones always open short. If OU plays cover 2 on the opposite side of the roll, FREE should have two progressions and three options. Throw short, underneath long or run. Man, an 8-man box makes even the wishbone look good with our speed outside RB speed coupled with their inexperienced DEs. Lets not forget the unbalanced line, or screens, and quick inside slants off the line. My point is this, The U might consider only using the short passing game to supplement and setup the run. I'm not totally convinced we need to throw the ball 40 yards down the field or more that 12 - 15 times per game. Not convinced we need to go deep with regularity. No..No..No. Remember, with a running game, Griese rarely threw more than 15 passes per game. Granted, The U are not the Dolphins of old, but our RBs are deep enough to carry this load. OU can't score if their offense is on the sideline. RUN BABY RUN. FREE is capable of managing the game and not force the issue. He is my least concern. Their freshman QB will see visitors in his backfield early and often. Our secondary must keep everything in front of them. We must make every OU drive long and painful. Considering the pass rush on the freshman, and limited time to allow long timimg plays, this should be doable. Field position and special teams play will give the U a better chance for an easier win. If The U makes a serious commitment to run the rock, OUs LB and secondary run support will eat on the play action, then FREE should bomb away. We can lull them to sleep. Lets keep their secondary covering deep patterns as a general practice every play, yet focus on running the ball. Remember, OU gave up 240+ yards on defense last week. All but 15 yards was through the air. Their secondary is one of their weaknesses. When the time is right, they will be exposed. It's our turn. YOU MUST BELIEVE!!!
CANE fan for life.

Manny,
Can you call Omar and see if he wants the Herald job? You provide nothing any of us watching the Canes could provide....Let me guess..the boyz are flying around at practice? Canes 24 Ok 17....smoke that at Prime while you are having dinner!

Manny, that drive from DFW SUCKED.

I just made the drive from DFW into an OK City hotel. Man, that drive was about as exciting the turnpike between Gainesville and Tallahassee. Still, it's worth it. I'll be in the crappiest seats in the stadium (section 36, row 58), and you'll see me and a bunch of other Canes screaming like crazy.

GO CANES!!!!!

Listen, the issues at Miami over the past few years have resided in the realm of attitude, concentration and sustained intensity. The toughest opponents in those games Miami lost or struggled were not dressed in the other teams colors but in our own. We lost these games because we struggled between the ears not between the hash marks. None of those teams were as talented as Miami and neither is Oklahoma. We won't loose this game because we have MORE talent than Oklahoma and with Coah Shannon at the helm, we wont lose it between the ears because he prepares them to win. UM: 24 Oklahoma: 13 Book it!

Manny,
Can you call Omar and see if he wants the Herald job? You provide nothing Posted by: Jason Weber | September 08, 2007 at 12:54 AM we do ...

jason weber: who's up? who's down? in case you haven't noticed ... omar kelly's baby is a shun(del) of itself : )

once upon a time, omar kelly's unbroken blog ruled the blogosphere ... slings and arrows of outrageous fortune : )

http://blogs.sun-sentinel.com/sports_college_hurricanes/2006/04/responding_to_u.html omar kelly blog (4/27/06): "... I'm appreciative of how popular my blog has become. I'm still atop the mountain and they plan to use four Dolphin bloggers to get me off my perch, but they underestimate The Legion." ROLE REVERSAL

recent sunsentinel headline: "in need of fans for dolphin discussion" omar kelly has bigger fish to fry. you see, the magic always resided with us : )

http://wqam.com/ "it's all about the U saturday" stretches from 8a-7p!

http://www.csssports.com/pressrelease/2007%20Miami%20New%20Encore%20Schedule.pdf CSS airs "Hurricane Gameday with Coach Randy Shannon" 11a saturdays!

http://lfsports.com/index.php?s=&change_well_id=9965&e=246 affiliates for syndicated ACC football; pregame begins at 11:30a

http://thequad.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/09/07/marquee-matchups-2/ nytimes' fred bierman: "This has to be one of the greatest Saturdays in recent memory. Set up shop in front of the television at noon for Miami at Oklahoma."

(newsok.com) For the first time ever, OU will originate a Spanish-language play-by-play broadcast of a Sooner football game when they host Miami ...

we ready ... we ready ... we ready ...

RUN THE BALL, RUN THE BALL, RUN THE BALL, THEN USE PLAY ACTION TO TRY TO MAKE SOME BIG PLAYS. NIX ALSO NEEDS TO MOVE COOPER AROUND, PUT HIM IN THE SLOT WITH JAMES IN THE BACKFIELD.. FOREVER THE OPTIMIST..

MIAMI-23 OK-16

Attended the game in Miami. In reality, Kirby is making the correct reads. The timing is a bit off on the passes. The bomb to LL was just too far but before the play, the defense went man and LL got deep. A littlt more air and that is a td walking in. The Int was a pass that was glarinly bad. I feel 100% confident, with SS back as Jenkins said that forces the defense to play differently. I fully expect 200+ yards in passing and a big game from LL and Shields. The one thing that we will see differently with Nix is the in game change in offensive strategy (big reason Randy wanted him). From what I have seen from the spring, fall and game, the Canes have so many packages and flexability that it will be difficult to nail us down. What made us great in 2001 was the defense creating turnovers. Game one was like the old times.

Homer prediction

UM 16

OU 13


Real prediction:

OU 27

UM 13

(with it close til midway through the 3rd quarter) That's an improvement over the last two years.

Hopefully the team won't fold up like against LSU in the Peach Bowl or against L'ville last year. I would count that as huge forward progress.

UM fans don't kid yourself OU is for real. Not USC good though.

Agreed, until the offense has a big game, I just don't think the team has the confidence to win against an OU caliber team. Agreed that UM by the end of the season will be the best in the conference.

It would have been better for the team if this game had been flipped with the Texas AM game. I live in Texas and am familiar with most of the teams here. UM is much better than AM.

Yea right... Oklahoma is going to rip through Miami like a hot knife through butter. Chumps

Sorry for the late comment, I was busy watching the less-talented, over-rated, slower Sooners absolutely thrash the UM Hurricanes on national television. Best regards to those homers who posted fantasies about the 'Canes actually having more talent and more team speed than OU. Remind me again, what was the final score?

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