It's time to prove that Miami has a significant home field advantage. These are the biggest back-to-back home games since the Canes moved to Hard Rock Stadium in 2008. Loyal fans spent the Shannon and Golden eras by arguing that the empty orange seats weren't a big deal and by telling journalists that crowd photos before kickoff weren't fair. Times are different now. Miami is winning and the stadium updates the past few years have created a much louder and more exciting fan experience. Saturday night's game against Virginia Tech should be a sellout, and if the Canes win, it could be the best home game atmosphere in a decade.
I've been to games in over 40 College Football stadiums across the country. There are five factors that are needed to create a home game to remember.
The game has to mean something. For Miami, the stakes couldn't be higher. Georgia Tech is a 10-point favorite at UVA Saturday afternoon. If GT wins, Miami can clinch the Coastal Division with a win over Virginia Tech. The embarrassing fact that the Canes have never made an ACC Championship game could become ancient history this weekend. Looking ahead from the Coastal, a win would move the Canes up significantly in the Playoff rankings. Miami is ranked 10th and VT is ranked 13th. The Hokies have their minds on the Coastal and the Playoff as well.
Kickoff at Night
Night games are simply the best. There is no comparison. The hype builds throughout the day. Fans have extra time to hydrate. The adrenaline in the crowd is as good as it gets. ABC chose this game as the nationally televised matchup.
A Strong Defense
The home crowd thrives on a strong defensive performance filled with big plays. Miami is averaging 8.9 TFL a game, has 25 sacks on the season, and has the best prop in college football - the turnover chain. In recent years, the Canes didn't have a defense to rally behind, but under Manny Diaz things have changed for the better. Especially if Virginia Tech falls behind early, the noise on 3rd downs will be deafening for freshman QB Josh Jackson.
Miami was embarrassed by Virginia Tech in Blacksburg last season. The Hokies have been the best team in the Coastal since Miami joined the ACC. You can bet that UM's coaches had this game circled on the schedule this offseason.
A truly memorable home game always needs a little extra hype. This week it comes from disrespect. Miami is 7-0 and still an underdog at home. The Canes are ranked below a bunch of 1-loss teams. The motivation to prove your doubters wrong is a special fuel in sports. Also, Miami will be wearing new black uniforms, something fans have been looking forward to all season.
Need more reasons to be pumped up for Saturday? If the Canes beat Virginia Tech, all five of my factors will be present for the home game against Notre Dame the following weekend. One week at a time though, let's win the Coastal first.
Here are three of the best home games I've ever attended.
November 24, 2001 - Miami beats Washington 65-7. This game is my all-time favorite. Defensive touchdowns, revenge for 2000, absolute domination, and the Canes on their way to a national title.
October 15, 2006 - Auburn 27 Florida 17. The Gators eventually won the BCS title later that season, but I watched them lose at Auburn. Chris Leak struggled and the Tigers kept making big plays. The noise level when Auburn blocked a punt was something I'll never forget.
September 10, 2011 - Michigan 35 ND 31. Michigan was playing its first ever night game. I loved watched Notre Dame lose in devastating fashion. Denard Robinson took over in the fourth quarter and threw the winning touchdown with a few seconds left.
MIAMI +2.5 vs Virginia Tech - 8pm - ABC
These teams are evenly matched, both with strong defenses. The difference will be Miami's experience in close games and Miami's home field advantage at Hard Rock Stadium. I wrote earlier in the week why I thought the Canes should be a small favorite. The Hokies have only played two true road games - East Carolina and Boston College. This will be a much different experience. If all of us do our part, the Canes will win another close one.
It was bound to happen eventually. I had my first losing week in almost two months. My picks were a disgraceful 7-13-1. I've spent the last five days repenting, trying to change for the better in an effort to get back on track. I canceled two of my three passports, closed my Cyprus bank accounts, returned dozens of thousand-dollar rugs, deleted Ukrainian contacts from my phone, and vowed never to lie to the FBI ever again. I even thought about blaming my struggles on fake death threats, but the Gators experience this week has taught me a lesson. I don't want to give SOTU any ability to lower my buyout. Let's win big this week - Go Canes.