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MIAMI-UVA. A True Test of Character - Weekend Picks

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I preview UM's game with Virginia and share my thoughts on the loss to FSU. The final two games will tell us a lot about the 2014 Miami Hurricanes.

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The tailgating was close to perfection. The weather couldn't have been nicer. The stadium was electric and for the first time ever, Sun Life Stadium felt like the Orange Bowl. Miami started the game better than anyone could've dreamed, but the Canes just couldn't hold on in the second half against Florida State. I still haven't emotionally recovered from the loss. Miami was so close to officially taking that next step forward as a program. That being said, there are some positive takeaways from the close loss and it is crucial that the Canes finish the season strong.

I don't believe in moral victories, but if some fans can't see the progress Miami has made, I can't help them. Miami earned the respect of the nation and many college football writers and analysts praised the positive trajectory of the program in the aftermath of Saturday night's game. Recruits were impressed and seem eager to help the Hurricanes get over the hump. For the first time in years, Miami belonged on the field with Florida State. There wasn't a talent gap between the two teams and it was a classic rivalry matchup that went down to the wire. As I said after the game, I completely disagree with the narrative that Miami's coaching staff let the team down on Saturday night. Miami's coaches put the players in a position to win the game. UM's offense had great success early, but simply didn't execute well enough in the final 40 minutes of the game. To beat a team like FSU, you can't drop touchdowns, fumble on long gains, and overthrow wide open receivers.

For some reason, fans seem unable to give Florida State any credit for the win. The Noles adjusted well to Miami's early success and played more nickel and zone coverage. FSU shuffled around their offensive line and was able to give Jameis Winston and Dalvin Cook more room to operate. It seems like people have very short memories when it comes to evaluating Florida State. Is FSU as good as they were last year? No, but that doesn't mean the ability of this year's team to go undefeated isn't extremely impressive. Even though the 2001 Miami Hurricanes were the greatest team of all time, there were still two close calls on the road against Boston College and Virginia Tech. In my opinion, the College Football Playoff Committee has done a terrible job thus far. Florida State should be ranked first and it shouldn't even be a question. "Game control" is an infuriating phrase that makes me angry every time I see it. The loss to Florida State will take a while to get over, but I'm excited about Miami's future. Go Canes.

"The true test of a man's character is what he does when no one is watching." - John Wooden

This game at Virginia will be a significant test for Al Golden and his players. Many of the goals this team set at the beginning of the season are now out of reach. Miami cannot win the Coastal Division or play for an ACC Championship. Cold weather will greet the Canes in Charlottesville. Despite four straight losses, the Cavs will be a team motivated to finish the season with two wins to become bowl-eligible. Miami-UVA will be broadcast on ESPN2, but this game won't be receiving much national attention. For the Canes, this trip is all about pride and finishing strong. Focus and motivation are extremely important factors in college football. Miami needs to show some maturity and take care of business. Two wins against Virginia and Pittsburgh would get UM to 8-4 on the year, finishing 5-1 the last six games. While that isn't what I was hoping for when the season started, it would still give Miami some momentum heading into a bowl.

Table

John Wooden's quote about character applies to my picks this week as well. I had aspirations of a 55% winning percentage this season, but precise mediocrity has proven to be a very addictive habit I can't shake. My 94-94-2 record almost mathematically eliminates the possibility of reaching my goal during the regular season. My bandwagon consists of just friends and family at this point, but I won't quit. There are still three more chances for a huge winning weekend.

Two Golden Picks this week - both on weeknight games. North Carolina will keep pace with Duke and have a chance to pull the upset in this rivalry game. Utah State will blow out SJSU and continue to stay hot, setting up a huge matchup with Boise State to finish the regular season.

Texas Tech has too much talent for Iowa State, especially if Davis Webb is able to play on Saturday. Look for Nebraska and Notre Dame to bounce back from disappointing losses last week. Arkansas is still rejoicing and celebrating the end of their SEC losing streak, while Ole Miss is eager to make a statement following a bye week. Florida State has heard enough about "game control" and will finally play four quarters against Boston College. Georgia State is horrible, but Clemson's QB Cole Stoudt might be even worse. UCLA and Brett Hundley will win a close game over their rival USC. Tennessee might seem like a strange favorite with just a 5-5 record on the year, but the Vols have looked like a different offense with Joshua Dobbs at QB. Michigan should still be on my "Do Not Pick" list, but for some reason, I expect Brady Hoke's team to play inspired football for their soon-to-be fired coach.

MIAMI -5.5 at Virginia   7pm - ESPN2

Virginia has lost four straight games and Mike London is firmly on the hot seat. I have respect for Virginia's talent on defense, but the Cavs haven't been good enough on offense, especially during ACC play. Virginia hasn't scored more than 27 points in any of their six conference games. Virginia was competitive with Florida State early on, but the Cavs struggled to move the ball on offense during the final three quarters. UVA hasn't been able to run the ball effectively in 2014 so I feel confident that Miami's defense will make some plays on Saturday night. The teams that have given the Hurricanes the most trouble have relied heavily on their ground games. In my opinion, this game is all about focus and motivation. If Miami shows up ready to play, the talent the Canes have on offense will prove to be the difference. Dorsett, Duke, and Walford will continue to play well and QB Brad Kaaya has shown he has the maturity to handle a hostile environment on the road. Miami wins by 10-17 points and moves to 7-4.

GOLDEN PICK
NORTH CAROLINA +6 at Duke   730pm - THURSDAY - ESPN

WEST VIRGINIA -2.5 vs Kansas State   7pm - THURSDAY - FS1

GOLDEN PICK
UTAH STATE -14 vs San Jose State   930pm - FRIDAY - ESPN2

NEBRASKA -10 vs Minnesota   12pm - ESPN

NORTHWESTERN +1 at Purdue   12pm - ESPNU

WASHINGTON STATE +15 at Arizona State   1pm - Pac 12 Network

TEXAS TECH +1.5 at Iowa State   330pm - FSN

FLORIDA STATE -17 vs Boston College   330pm - ABC/ESPN2

OLE MISS -3.5 at Arkansas   330pm - CBS

GEORGIA STATE +40.5 at Clemson   330pm - FSN

NOTRE DAME -3 vs Louisville   330pm - NBC

ARIZONA +4 at Utah   330pm - ESPN

MICHIGAN -5 vs Maryland   330pm - BTN

TENNESSEE -3.5 vs Missouri   730pm - ESPN

UCLA -3 vs Southern Cal   8pm - ABC

WASHINGTON -6 vs Oregon State   1030pm - Pac 12 Network

Enjoy your weekend.