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Miami visits Blacksburg - The Perfect Storm

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With the big game on ESPN against the Hokies coming up, I wanted to contrast this week with my experiences from 5 years ago. The location and teams are the same, but not much else is similar. I give my opinion about Thursday's game and pick a winner. To call this a must-win for Al Golden is an understatement.

Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

"September 26th, 2009. A Date which will live in infamy." - John Pickens

I've been fortunate to attend dozens of games at the best college football stadiums across the country. I usually head home with a newfound respect for either the school, the town, or the atmosphere on gameday. My experience is always shaped by the specific game I attend, but even if I have to watch Miami lose on the road, I almost always look back positively on the trip (with Nebraska being the most recent example). Blacksburg, Virginia is the one exception. I don't want to relive it, but I can't help it. Let's go back in time.

After the Hurricanes beat FSU in Tallahassee and dominated Georgia Tech to begin the 2009 season, the hype surrounding Miami was palpable. It was the complete opposite of the current situation the Canes find themselves in. After starting 2-0, the fans, the national media, and the local media were fawning over UM QB Jacory Harris. Miami climbed back into the top 10 in the polls. Read this article from the Miami Herald to truly appreciate what I'm talking about. http://miamiherald.typepad.com/umiami/2009/09/jacory-harris-is-blowing-up.html

People started to utter the dreaded words I've heard far too often over the past ten years: "Miami is back". After stopping for breakfast in Fancy Gap, VA, we traveled to Blacksburg and expected to watch another Canes win. With the game being played in late September, we didn't expect weather to be a major issue.

As soon as the game started, I knew Miami was in trouble. There was a torrential downpour of rain throughout the afternoon that made "The Perfect Storm" seem like a sunshower. Within minutes, my shoes had standing water in them.  I've sat through numerous rainstorms at Sun Life and the Orange Bowl, but never felt close to this uncomfortable. The temperatures were in the 50's, but with the rain, it wouldn't have taken much convincing for me to believe I had frostbite. The product on the field didn't help my mood either. Miami fell behind 21-0 heading into halftime. The hot chocolate at Lane Stadium was more effective at warming me up when I tossed it on my arms instead of drinking it. The second half started with a quick touchdown and some hope for the Canes. Miami was driving to cut the deficit to 21-14, but then Jimmy Graham had two of the worst drops you'll ever see. To this day, I still haven't forgiven him for it. The drive ended on downs and the game quickly spiraled out of control. Miami lost 31-7 and while UM finished the year at 9-4, that 2-0 start was the high water mark for Harris and Randy Shannon. I watched every second in the stadium and then endured the heckling that comes with a loss on the road, as we basically waded across campus to our car. Changing into dry clothes at a Blacksburg McDonald's was the only positive from the entire trip. I can't imagine I'll ever visit Virginia Tech again.

MIAMI -2.5 at Virginia Tech   8pm - ESPN - THURSDAY

Miami fans had a week off to relax, but most of them are still extremely frustrated with the coaching staff. While freshman QB Brad Kaaya is having a phenomenal season, I don't think people are as excited as they should be about his future. The Canes' defense continues to dominate all discussions about the program. Miami is 0-3 on the road and Lane Stadium is a tough place to play. That being said, this is a game that Miami should win. Al Golden needs this one badly. With all of the commotion in the Coastal the past few weeks, this division is clearly winnable. It all starts with a victory on Thursday night. It's going to be a little cold tomorrow night in Blacksburg, but there are no acceptable excuses left for this team. Starting 4-4 would lead to complete chaos in Coral Gables.

Virginia Tech has been decimated by injuries on both sides of the ball. The Canes have actually been fortunate in that regard this season, and enter Thursday's game as healthy as a team can be in October (knock on wood). VT has struggled running the ball in recent weeks and will be inexperienced on the offensive line. Miami's run defense faces a much easier challenge compared to the games at Nebraska and Georgia Tech. Hokies QB Michael Brewer has been inconsistent all season and is interception-prone. Due to injuries, VT will be without their leading tackler Chase Williams and without their best defensive player, DT Luther Maddy. This should be a big night for Duke Johnson and the Canes' running game. Brad Kaaya has shown a lot of poise on the road, in Lincoln especially, and I expect him to play well. Bud Foster will pressure Kaaya early and often, but James Coley should be able to keep the Hokies' D off balance with some screens to RB's or quick throws to get the ball in the hands of Dorsett, Coley, and company.

Miami wins by two scores and gains momentum heading into November. Enjoy the game, stay warm, and be very careful when planning a trip to Blacksburg.