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Statement game? Some Hurricanes fans likely think otherwise, but you bet it is.

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BOONE, N.C. -- The Miami Hurricanes are the first Power 5 team in history to come into Kidd Brewer Stadium.

And what a reception they'll get.

I'm imagining this could be the loudest 35,000 or so fans that I've ever heard -- and I've been to a lot of college football games.

ESPN thinks it intriguing enough to choose as its noon game. Las Vegas thinks it'll be close enough to make the 25th-ranked team in the nation -- that's 2-0 Miami -- only a 4-point favorite as of Friday.

The Mountaineers, famous for being giant slayers since bringing down fifth-ranked Michigan at the Big House to begin the 2007 season, are known for their fearlessness. They're the little team that could, and the little team that will, hope those who love underdogs and have a major distaste for the green and orange. 

Hey, they almost and in my opinion should have beaten No. 9 Tennessee in Knoxville in the season-opener. So, they're more than thinking, 'Why not Miami?'

Maybe it's just the mediocrity that I've gotten used to the past 10 years or so, but so many times when the Hurricanes could have made a statement that they were turning the corner, they didn't. They haven't won a bowl game since the 2006 season, which frankly, feels like an eternity. They usually fall in these hyped games.

So, whether or not Appalachian State is in the Sun Belt, whether or not the Mountaineers talk a lot bigger than they play, you better believe most of the country is waiting  for the Hurricanes to fall Saturday. And that's why UM needs to make a statement to itself, if no one else, that this Mark Richt era is humming right along after Game No. 3 -- en route to a week off before the Canes travel to Atlanta to face the triple option attack of ACC Coastal Division foe Georgia Tech. That will be no easy task, especially for three true freshman linebackers.

I know that a win is a win is a win. But UM should have a lot better athletes than Appalachian State, and the victory should be decisive and clean.

I don't even know where to begin should the Mountaineers pull off the upset. We might have to all shut down our Twitter accounts.

For now, here are my keys to victory for the Hurricanes:

***Take the home crowd out of the game, the sooner the better. Thus, come out blazing and don't let up.

***Somehow manage to communicate amid the deafening noise. This might be a major challenge for the youngest Canes, though there are veterans on the offensive line, and as coach Mark Richt said Wednesday, "The noise affects one guy the most -- that's the quarterback. Does he have the poise to handle the noise? Does he have the poise to handle all the nonverbal communication? Does he have the poise to handle it when [fans] go ballistic the first time something good happens for their team? That's the biggest key of playing on the road, in my opinion. Brad has been through it. I'm not worried one bit about how Brad is going to react to anything that might come up.''

*** Stop Marcus Cox. This 5-10, 205-pound senior from Dacula, Ga., has run for three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and has eclipsed the 100-yard mark 24 times in his last 33 games.

***Pressure quarterback Taylor Lamb. This 6-2, 200-pound junior from Calhoun, Ga., has led the Mountaineers to an 18-7 record and threw for 2,387 yards and 31 touchdowns, with nine interceptions last season. He ran for another 436 yards and five touchdowns.

*** Run, Mark, Run. Run, Joe, Run. Run, Gus, Run. The Canes are sixth nationally in rushing offense, averaging 326 yards over two games. The Mountaineers, who lost in overtime at then-No. 9 Tennessee and defeated Old Dominion 31-7 last week, are 69th in rushing defense, having allowed an average of 142 rushing yards each game.  

*** No interceptions for Brad Kaaya. He had two last week against FAU, which converted only one of them for three eventual points. It would likely be more costly Saturday.

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

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