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UCF Keys to the Game, Market Watch

I'm going to say it right now. Saturday's in-state showdown with UCF is not a must-win game for the Miami Hurricanes. It's not a conference game or game to decide if the Canes are bowl eligible (so it can't be must win). But it's as close as you get to must-win. I call it a GOTTA HAVE IT win. Why? Because if you lose this game and fall to 2-4 on the season, you put yourself in a position to head toward a very dark place. Not only do you lose some stature in recruiting (and get ripped by everyone in the state who can now officially say you've fallen behind UCF), but you now sink to a level where doubt for the future creeps in.

UcfCoach Randy Shannon has said this team is more talented than his '07 team, even though last year's was 4-1 at this point. We know this team is younger. And we know Miami lost to a pair of 4-1 teams in North Carolina and Florida State by a combined 6 points in the past two weeks. But this week, the Canes simply Gotta Have It. UCF is 2-3. Yes, they played South Florida tough a couple weeks ago. And yes, they'll have 18 players from the South Florida area on their roster who will be hoping to make an impression with friends and family this weekend. But this isn't UCF from a year ago, which finished 10-4 and won Conference USA with one of the best running backs in the country in Kevin Smith. This is a UCF team that is 2-3 with a 58-13 loss to UTEP.

Yes, UM is young. Yes, UM is banged up. Yes, UM had monumental problems last week defensively that need to be addressed. But the U has got to win this week. Because otherwise, all that talk about this program heading in the right direction and being more talented is going to be much harder to believe -- for everyone inside and outside the program.

KEYS TO THE GAME...
1. Play defense:
What Miami did last week against Florida State was pathetic. FSU ran for 281 yards, mostly on the legs of its quarterback Christian Ponder. UCF no longer has its star running back, but has still averaged 151 yards a game on the ground in its five games. In three of its games, its been UCF's quarterback and not redshirt freshman running back Ronnie Weaver who has led the team in rushing. So keeping an eye on the quarterback scrambling for yardage will once again be a huge key this week.

UCF ranks 113th in total offense, 109th in passing and 105th in scoring overall. This is a week, Miami's young defense should be able to take advantage and improve on third down and in the red zone.

Cooper_scores2. Establish the run early and often: You look at the national rankings for UCF and the only number that positively shocks you is their run defense. The Knights currently rank 26th in the country in run defense -- tops in Conference USA by allowing just under 105 yards rushing a game. But the number is deceiving. UCF held SMU to 25 yards on 21 carries last week in a 31-17 victory, but don't let it fool you. SMU has ranked dead last in rushing in the NCAA for the last three weeks. Against USF, Boston College and SMU, the Knights surrendered an average of nearly 150 yards a game on the ground. Miami abandoned the running game last week after falling behind early. This week, I'm expecting a heavy, heavy dose of Graig Cooper and Derron Thomas. Look for UM to pick its spots more wisely when passing the football, too.

UCF entered the 2008 season with the most experienced defensive secondary in the country with four senior starters who have combined for 155 starts during their careers and a combined 42 interceptions. Cornerback's Johnell Neal and Joe Burnett and safeties Sha'reff Rashad and Jason Venson combined to finish third in the country in interceptions last year and already have 10 combined picks this year to rank third overall. UCF has picked off at least one pass in each of its last 13 games. But, there is a weakness. And that's the big play. Last week, UCF gave up a 94-yard touchdown pass and have given up at least two passing plays of 40 yards or more in their previous two games before it.

3. Win the return/field position battle: Much will be made of Daren Daly facing the Canes, his old team. But the real story on special teams will be who wins the field position battle. Travis Benjamin had a spectacular, breakout game against Florida State and ranks 11th in the country overall in punt returns (17.71 avg) and 10th overall in kick returns (29.86 avg). Benjamin is good. But so is UCF's Joe Burnett, who ranks 10th on punt returns (18.07 avg) and 13th in kick returns (29.00 avg). Burnett already had a 91-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. With how much UCF's offense struggles on its own, Miami has to do a good job wrapping Burnett up and kicking the ball into corners, something UM's Matt Bosher improved on last week against FSU.

MARKET WATCH
Buy 'em

Sean_spence
Sean Spence, linebacker: Spence had a solid first career start with 10 tackles and an interception return for a touchdown against FSU. With Colin McCarthy now out for the season, I believe Spence will be the best player on the field for UM on defense. This is his team now in my eyes. I predicted a freshman All-American season for Spence before the year. This week is when it really takes off. He'll lead the team in tackles again and grab another turnover this week.

Graig Cooper, running back: Super Coop had his back-to-back 100-yard rushing streak snapped last week against Florida State. He has by far in my opinion been the best player on the field for the Canes when he's been in there and used the right way. I think he will be again this week. UCF's run defense will make a concerted effort to stop Coop in the running game. But I still think Cooper will have a huge day -- especially catching the ball out of the backfield. Look for two TDs from Coop and more than 150 yards total offense.

Travis Benjamin, receiver/kick returner: Last week was Benjamin's coming out party. This week, I think you'll see UCF deliberately try and kick the ball away from him. That still means good field position for UM and means Benjamin is changing the balance of the playing field. Look for Benjamin to get more involved in the passing game this week -- especially vertically. He and Aldarius Johnson could have huge play days. Despite having a veteran secondary, UCF has been vulnerable to the big play. Benjamin and AJ provide that.

On The Bubble
Brandon Harris, cornerback:
Brandon had a tough first career start last week against FSU, getting flagged three times and missing several tackles. I'm willing to bet he gets the start again Saturday and redeems himself. UCF has two solid receivers in Kamar Aiken (6-2, 205) and Brian Watters (6-2, 180). When the Knights do pass they'll go after Harris. If he responds with a good game, then he'll solidify his starting spot. If he struggles again, Shannon will have to go with Plan B and likely have to lean on a veteran and less talented guy like Carlos Armour.

Bill_youngBill Young, defensive coordinator: Nobody needs a bounce back game more than Young, who made everyone happy with how UM's defense played against Florida for three quarters but whose last five quarters of coaching have been flat out bad. UM blew a 10-point lead against North Carolina with nine minutes to play and then got shredded by FSU last week. Another bad week this week against a bad UCF offense and folks are going to turn up the heat on Young. He needs to make the right adjustments this week, particularly making sure someone like UCF's QB isn't toasting his defense with scrambles.

Sell 'Em
Sam Shields, receiver:
Last week's costly penalty as well as a few dropped balls have probably put Sam on the shelf -- if not the dog house. Shannon said earlier this week he plans on using his freshman receivers more and more because his veterans weren't cutting it. Shields is not a freshman. If Sam is going to get back in UM's good graces, he's going to have to make some plays on special teams and whenever he does get in at receiver.

My prediction: UM 34, UCF 21. The Canes are considered a two-touchdown favorite in the game. And although I think they'll come close to covering, I still believe UM is going to sweat this one out for the most part. Ultimately, what helps UM this week is that the Knights aren't very good on offense and simply don't have a go-to player to turn to. Miami does. Graig Cooper will be that guy this week and will do enough to put UM comfortably in front to avoid a few more defensive mental lapses.

OK guys, now it is your turn. Give me your prediction, your keys to the game, your stars of the game and your thoughts.

By the way, yesterday I was on 790 The Ticket with Jorge Sedano to talk about the Canes. Here's a link to our discussion.

Comments

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1st

What ever happened to DVD? Why is it BJ, CG, BH, and CA???? What ever happened to DVD? No one even mentions him anymore...

Yeah, I picked DVD as my defensive impact player this year. He looked so impressive at the Spring Game. He was sticking it to our WRs, and I guess seeing things now, it was simply our WRs making him look good. He's been toasted a few times by our opponents.

Manny,

No prediction on my part and frankly I'm torn on who to root for. The Canes are my team but the Knights my alma mater.

As for you my boy, please no more predictions. Like I said a few days ago at this point you're coming off as ridiculous. Yes, I realize its always fun to do but... it only angers the masses and fuels the fire when the team doesn't perform.

How many TDs did Corso and Herbstriet predict to beat UNC by?

wow, the Betty over at Canespace is gettin drilled. At least those jakmeats over there keep the trains running on time. What a joke that site is.

play Benjamin, like Harvin....

360,

I feel you, I had DVD as our lock down corner this year too and was having dreams about b Harris and DVD locking down our 2ndary for the next 3 years... I know he got torched a couple times but damn man no one even mentions him as an option anymore. I dont get it... I hope he isn't in "the dog house" as they say. Very dissapointing considering our 2ndary has been awful... I sure hope he turns it around

I see this being similar to the Texas A&M game.

Manny U da man. I agree with your keys to the game. The defense has got to step it up. It's time to play the younging to see what we got. This is a must win game for Shannon, the team and us fans. They and us need something to get excited about. That's why I'm predicting a score of 49-13. If we can score 36 in one half on a very good FSU defense then 49 is very obtainable. I see points coming from the defense and special teams. Brandon Harris will be the star of the game via a pick six. Ooh yeah I think the Offense should pick up the tempo, no huddle fast break and find a way to get Shawnbrey and Lee Chambers some carries.

How about reporting on Kirby's short list of Top 5 Candidates Duhhhh U can promote within after Randy's inevitable firing? Dare I say, we need at least a list of 10 potential coaches after the first 9 choices laugh at Kirby for even inquiring. Anwwhooo, here is my Top 10 coaches I think we should promote within to replace Mr. Please Don't Run Duhhhh Score up on us.

1) Katie Meier (Head Women's B-Ball Coach) She has more head coaching experience than Randy & maybe our opponents will be intimidated by her last name alone.

2) Lela Cannon (Head Women's Golf Coach) Maybe she can get us a mulligan with Bowl Selection Committee.

3) Boban Rankovic (Assistant Rowing Coach) Only beacuse his name ryhmes with Conan and we need a barbarian to motivate our 112th Ranked D.

4) Randy Ableman (Head Diving Coach) He's an expert in teaching our swim team to take dives, so he shoud fit right in with our 7-10 team under the "other Randy".

5) Jeff Thomsen (Assistant Women's Tennis Coach) Our football team already plays like they wear skirts, an easy transition.

6) Calvin Robinson (Track Associate Coach) He may be able to cure what ails the nation's slowest moving offense.

7) Tricia Taliaferro (Head Women's Soccer Coach) Our bandwagon fans may actually show up to watch a real game of futball.

8) Felix Hou (Assistant Volleyball Coach) Since we never can get to the endzone to celebrate TDs to begin with he can at least teach us how to spike the ball.

9) Stewart Cramer (Football Video Coordinator) We all know he has watched more game film than our entire coaching staff combined. Maybe he actually knows how to coach after watching what our opponents have done the past 4 years.

10) Danna Shila (Duhhhhh U Prez) At least we know she can't make any more mistakes than Randy has. And maybe, just maybe, she has enough leverage to get us into the ACC Title Game.

U GET WHAT U PAY FOR

All I can say is that canesrule is one bored MTF.

I love canesrule!

Kisses Kisses

Urban Meyer & Dan Werner

YOU DIDN'T GET WHAT YOU PAID FOR

the canes suck where the hell is dvd

This is not similar to the Texas AM game. They have a good run defense. We will win, but not by much. Dinking the football 5 yards down feild never equates to a blow out, even when your special teams score points for you. George Oleary is a great coach. This game will be within 10 points, based on the failure of the QB to accurately throw the ball down field, yes UCF will stack the line like everyone else has done so, and our inability to pressure the quarterback with just the front four will kill us. When you blitz, all the time, you leave a weakness. I would take the under if I was a betting man. And I really fear that Shannon can not survive a loss in this game.

It would be really sad to have to sweat out a win against UCF. It really shows just how far things have fallen.

If this team is any good, it should beat UCF by at least three TDs.

It's time for Marve to shine.

Free Arthur Brown!!!!!

I've said it before and I will say it again....DVD is a fraud, he lost my respect when Da'Cody F agg (FSU) walked up to the line of scrimmage and pushed him down last year like a 3rd grade sissy!!!
Pace Players DO NOT FIT THIS PROGRAM! THEY ARE TOO SOFT!!! Rod Mack, Maurice Sykes, Lavon Ponder & DVD!! None of them panned out and none of them have seen or will see an NFL camp!! We just got a committment from another Monsignor Pace player and if he is anything like the previous guys, I say revoke the offer!!

Also let's not forget the one guy from Pace who was a beast but a complete friggin' idiot! Willie Williams! He was a Pace player before he transferred to Carol City High!

Canes02, your comments speak volumes about the farce that is the 5-star grading system. There is no connection between high ranked recruits and success. UM fans can't wrap their brain around this. They think all the leaks have been patched and that the glory days are just around the corner. This coaching staff, particularly King Randy, need to show an ability to develop these guys as players and leaders. So far there has been none of it. King Randy throwing his guys under the bus after a loss will go a long way towards this.....NOT. Keep wearing your King Randy Homer glasses cane fan. It's actually funny.

FOOLS

MANNY, COULD YOU CONFIRM PAT NIX ACCEPTED AUBURN OC JOB WED NIGHT? BUT WILL FINISH OUT MIAMI SEASON.........

MANNY, COULD YOU CONFIRM PAT NIX ACCEPTED AUBURN OC JOB WED NIGHT? BUT WILL FINISH OUT MIAMI SEASON..........

MANNY, COULD YOU CONFIRM PAT NIX ACCEPTED AUBURN OC JOB WED NIGHT? BUT WILL FINISH OUT MIAMI SEASON..........

MANNY, COULD YOU CONFIRM PAT NIX ACCEPTED AUBURN OC JOB WED NIGHT? BUT WILL FINISH OUT MIAMI SEASON..........


MANNY, COULD YOU CONFIRM PAT NIX ACCEPTED AUBURN OC JOB WED NIGHT? BUT WILL FINISH OUT MIAMI SEASON..........

MANNY, COULD YOU CONFIRM PAT NIX ACCEPTED AUBURN OC JOB WED NIGHT? BUT WILL FINISH OUT MIAMI SEASON..........

MANNY, COULD YOU CONFIRM PAT NIX ACCEPTED AUBURN OC JOB WEDNIGHT? BUT WILL FINISH OUT MIAMI SEASON.........

MANNY, COULD YOU CONFIRM PAT NIX ACCEPTED AUBURN OC JOB WED NIGHT? BUT WILL FINISH OUT MIAMI SEASON..........

MANNY, COULD YOU CONFIRM PAT NIX ACCEPTED AUBURN OC JOB WED NIGHT? BUT WILL FINISH OUT MIAMI SEASON..........

How glad am I that my football saturday isn't comprised of driving to the lifeless fish warehouse to watch the hapless canes engage in a very uncertain tussle with the lowly Knights.

111th ranked red zone D. Great work King Randy

IT S U C K S TO BE U

im watching OU&Tex. there is noooo way this guy can coach UM to the level of the top 5. shannons defense was totally killed last year by OU. what makes anyone think he can head coach a team to winning at all. shannon must go and must go soon. the coker years are still here, not because of talent or youth, only because of the LACK of coaching. period.FIRE SHANNON

Manny,
Im really glad to hear you think this is Spence's team. He has to evolve in to a leader of the defense in the coming years. From being around him and the team, does Sean have the personality of a great leader? He doesn't seem to be a motivator such as Reed but is he close?


Thanks Manny, great blog!

lets go back, a losing okla. hires stoops. 2 yrs. and nat. champs-a mediocre gaytor team hires meyer, 2 yrs to nat. champs-- a sorry n.carolina team hires butch, 11/2 yrs. later, they are climbing into recognition. 2 yrs ago, a mediocre UM hires shannon--11/2 yrs later, the team is WORSE than when he started. when you hire an inside coach from a mediocre team, you get a mediocre coach. its time to stop the excuses and make the coaching staff accountable.where is the new AD at UM. i agree with giving people time, but the trend of the team was going down with coker, and shannon has let it go down further. this team is not under ncaa pealties.i am really sad thinking the end of what we knew at miami is gone. how bad do you have to get before a change is made.the longer we wait, the harder it will be to get a real coach and recruits are NOT going to keep coming so they can lose and hear the words maybe next year

How about reporting on Kirby's short list of Top 5 Candidates Duhhhh U can promote within after Randy's inevitable firing? Dare I say, we need at least a list of 10 potential coaches after the first 9 choices laugh at Kirby for even inquiring. Anwwhooo, here is my Top 10 coaches I think we should promote within to replace Mr. Please Don't Run Duhhhh Score Up On Us.

1) Katie Meier (Head Women's B-Ball Coach) She has more head coaching experience than Randy & maybe our opponents will be intimidated by her last name alone.

2) Lela Cannon (Head Women's Golf Coach) Maybe she can get us a mulligan with Bowl Selection Committee.

3) Boban Rankovic (Assistant Rowing Coach) Only beacuse his name ryhmes with Conan and we need a barbarian to motivate our 112th Ranked D.

4) Randy Ableman (Head Diving Coach) He's an expert in teaching our swim team to take dives, so he shoud fit right in with our 7-10 team under the "other Randy".

5) Jeff Thomsen (Assistant Women's Tennis Coach) Our football team already plays like they wear skirts, an easy transition.

6) Calvin Robinson (Track Associate Coach) He may be able to cure what ails the nation's slowest moving offense.

7) Tricia Taliaferro (Head Women's Soccer Coach) Our bandwagon fans may actually show up to watch a real game of futball.

8) Felix Hou (Assistant Volleyball Coach) Since we never can get to the endzone to celebrate TDs to begin with he can at least teach us how to spike the ball.

9) Stewart Cramer (Football Video Coordinator) We all know he has watched more game film than our entire coaching staff combined. Maybe he actually knows how to coach after watching what our opponents have done the past 4 years.

10) Danna Shila (Duhhhhh U Prez) At least we know she can't make any more mistakes than Randy has. And maybe, just maybe, she has enough leverage to get us into the ACC Title Game.

U GET WHAT U PAY FOR

canesrule and cokecanes, i read what you say all the time and you really need to grow up. i have been a gators for many many years and remember plenty of times when we were going thru rebuilding. there are better ways to spend you time then to comment like this. you make all gators look bad when you comment like this, this is there site, come comment on our site about our gators.

hey king randy guy do you remember earlier this year when we got lucky on a iffy call, that miami team was right there with us.

"have been a gators for many"?

"this is there site"?

Try as you may to convince us otherwise it very apparent you went to Duhhhhh U.

i am in my mid twenties - will i ever see a miami receiver make a play downfield again before i die? wtf?

is it me or do we have more injured players than any other team every year?

Here we go again this game should be a blow out but instead we keep it close and give other teams momentum. Defense came to play Offense didn't. replace Marve with Jacory, he is having a horrible 1st half again. Give Lee Chambers more carries and we will be okay.

3timeouts b4 the half and we throw and int?

I'm a Marve fan like most but enough is enough after really questionable decision-making the last few games. Shannon should not bench him when he's hot but when he's been making some serious mistakes, just sit him down.

He's a big boy and I'm sure the competition will help both him and Jacory.

What's up with marve. He is having Kyle Wright moments right before our eyes. He is not living up to the billing and I'm not sure if he is a better QB that Jacory. Let Jacory start the second half, maybe that would light a spark in his U no what.

What are we doing . Where is Jacory it's apparent that Marve is struggling. Nix is in over his head. This should be a easy victory. 1 for 10 on third downs against a team that gave up 56 pts against UTEP. WOW!!!

1 for 12 on third down. wow!!! i cant believe what im seeing. It's Jacory time. UCF is terrible.

is any team in the nation worse at running screens than um?

is any team in the nation worse at running screens than um?

YES - NORTHWESTERN HIGH SCHOOL

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