Since I won't be blogging live during the game, you guys can go ahead and post your in-game thoughts here as it progresses this afternoon. I'll check in throughout the afternoon as I help cover FIU's new stadium debut and the visiting South Florida Bulls.
As for the Canes, these are my three keys to victory in today's game at Texas A&M:
> 1. Turnovers: The talk this week has been about how UM's defense still has yet to produce a turnover this season despite playing well for three quarters. But here's a stat that was probably more important to UM's success -- 0 turnovers against the Gators. Robert Marve didn't throw any picks in his first career start. Jacory Harris didn't either. UM has turned the ball over just once in two games. While creating turnovers on defense will surely help this young offense, turning it over can kill it -- especially in a wild-place on the road like A&M. The Aggies have forced five in two games this season and definitely feed off them.
> 2. Establish the threat of the pass: Texas A&M's run defense has been bad so far this season. The Aggies have given up on average 235 yards a game to Arkansas State and New Mexico. So, you know what their weakness is. But A&M also knows Miami had trouble throwing the football two weeks ago against Florida and can stack eight men in the box if Marve and company aren't able to at least establish the threat of the pass. Marve doesn't have to throw for 200 yards and three scores in this game. But if he can connect on 2 or 3 balls longer than 20-25 yards today, he'll give Graig Cooper and Derron Thomas the running room they need to be effective.
> 3. Play with emotion: All UM has heard in the two weeks since its loss to Florida was how great it played, how great this team is going to become as the season progresses. That's the perfect ingredient for an emotional letdown. Miami obviously needs its defense to play as well as it did two weeks ago if its going to win any games this season. If the Canes come out flat emotionally, they can get buried quick.
> My prediction: Miami 23, Texas A&M 17 . Some folks believe this game is going to be the breakout game for this program. But I still think we are a few weeks away from that. This Canes team is going to have to win with defense. Today, I think Robert Marve has a very good day throwing the football, but still doesn't find too much success deep. You have to crawl before you can sprint. Marve will find a few 10 to 15-yard connections downfield and keep A&M's defense honest. But I also expect a few mistakes. Miami will win because the defense will create pressure on A&M's quarterbacks and force a few turnovers. It will be a busy day for Matt Bosher. A&M will score a late touchdown to make it closer than it really was. Miami runs out the clock and holds on for the win.
THE MARKET WATCH
Our third installment is ready to roll. Again, these are the players I think will shine, have the chance to blow up or fizzle and the guys I expect little from in this week's game against A&M.
BUY SOME NOW
> Derron Thomas, running back: UM coach Randy Shannon told us he expects Shawnbrey McNeal and Lee Chambers to pick up the slack for the injured Javarris James. I don't buy it. I think Thomas being a senior steps up and has a great game in front of his friends and family, who are making the drive over from Louisiana to watch him. I'm calling for 75 yards and a touchdown and a few key catches out of the backfield to help UM win this game.
> Brandon Harris, cornerback: I know fans -- include myself -- were pretty pumped about the way Sean Spence played in Florida two weeks ago. But I smell a big day for Miami's second-most talented freshman -- Harris. He dropped a pick two weeks ago against Florida. I say he grabs his first career one today and stops a crucial A&M drive in the second half with a big play.
ON THE BUBBLE
> Glenn Cook, linebacker: Although he ranks third on the team in tackles with nine and has two for loss, there are a lot of fans who think Cook, who isn't the fastest linebacker on the team, can be a liability. Many are already clamoring to get Spence into the starting lineup. With a solid game against A&M, Cook can show people why Shannon has him in the starting lineup. With a bad game, the complaining will continue.
> Chavez Grant, cornerback: Chavez is probably the nicest guy on this team and it pains me to put him on the bubble. But he's a guy who at times has looked bad dropping back into coverage. Like Cook, he could use a game to solidify his spot in the starting lineup. But if he struggles and Harris or sophomore DeMarcus Van Dyke shine, folks are going to be clamoring for Grant to move back to nickelback.
TRADE IT IN
> Joel Figueroa, offensive lineman: The rumor is Figueroa will not start this week and will be replaced by Chris Rutledge at right guard. Fig is a big, strong, talented kid. But he's still very raw and only a sophomore. If Rutledge has a good day, Fig could lose his starting spot for awhile.
> Kayne Farquharson, receiver: When Shannon released his depth chart this week one of the bigger names off of it was Kayne, who for all intensive purposes we thought would definitely be in the rotation at receiver. Instead, Sam Shields, Aldarius Johnson, Khalil Jones, Leonard Hankerson, Laron Byrd and Travis Benjamin are listed ahead of him heading into this week. Shannon said he only plans to rotate seven guys today. With the freshmen coming on, Farquharson has to shine today or he could find himself being passed up for good.
> Ok folks, feel free to leave your predictions for today's game below. Please pick an offensive and defensive player of the game too. My picks are Derron Thomas and Brandon Harris.
> I'll check in from FIU in the second half. See ya.