Must Win Situation

This Saturday the Miami Hurricanes travel to Papa John's Cardinal Stadium to face the Louisville Cardinals. Believe it or not, coming into this contest, 'the Ville' will be favored and it certainly wont be considered an upset if the 'Canes are toppled, sending their mark to 1-2.

And if that should happen, it certainly it wont be the end of the season with nine more games remaining and the rest of the ACC schedule upcoming. There would still be plenty of football left to be played.

But let's make this clear, while Miami needs this win-it's really Larry Coker who's got to have it.

You can call this game a 'must-win' situation but the reality is, after the disappointing loss to FSU on Labor Day night, they're ALL must wins at this point.

Bottom line, Coker needs to hold serve the rest of the year.

Drop another game so soon, and it'll be the first time since 1999 when UM was still in the midst of it's crippling probation that the Hurricanes will have suffered their second loss in the month of September.

Coming off consecutive 9-3 seasons, this isn't the start Coker needs.

In fact, it could signal the beginning of the end.

With fan and booster support quickly eroding, season ticket sales declining, and rumors already circulating about Coker's future replacement, lose this weekend and he might as well start calling realtor's. After scapegoating four assistants after the Peach Bowl debacle, the guillotine is squarely on his head, now.

There is talk on the bluegrass that this could be the biggest game ever played by Louisville. Who despite the loss of standout runner Michael Bush, still fields a formidable offense led by signal-caller Brian Brohm and orchestrated by head coach Bobby Petrino.

The Cardinals, themselves, have visions of BCS bowls and a win against Miami would be final proof that Louisville isn't just a basketball school, anymore.

It would also be final and most damning proof that UM is no longer among the nations elite programs.

In the past, Miami has thrived in situations like this. The bigger the game, the larger the stakes, and the more hostile the environment- the better the swaggering, swashbuckling Canes were. No team in the past two decades have gone into more daunting environments and come out with more big game road conquests.

General Patton had nothing on the Canes.

And Coker himself has thrived in these circumstances.

At the end of 2003, UM would travel up to a frigid Pittsburgh to face the revived Panthers for the Big East crown. In 2004, they would travel to Charlottesville to face Virginia in the midst of a two-game losing skid. Last season the Canes would travel up to Blacksburg to take on the highly rated Hokies.

And in each of these 'rally-the-troops-because-our-backs-are-up-against-the-wall' contests, the Canes would come out victorious.

Now, the Canes and Coker have 11 of these gut-checks (10 more regular season games and hopefully the ACC Championship Game) to get through. The schedule is certainly manageable with the ACC not exactly looking like the SEC and really only one tough roadie (versus Georgia Tech) to contend with.

Now, admittedly, it's not fair to tell any coach that his job may be dependent on an 11 game winning streak, but when the losses have come at such an alarming rate in recent times, the pressure has been turned up. The honeymoon has been over for awhile now, and his approval rating has sunk as fast as George Bush's, recently. But that's all a part of coaching at 'the U', and not Miami of Ohio.

So while the economically depressed athletic department at the University of Miami needs a BCS birth. Coker, probably needs it worse.

It's BCS or bust.

RANDOM THOUGHTS

- Does anyone else agree with me that if the FAMU game took place before FSU that Javarris James-- who looked eerily similar to his cousin Edgerrin, circa 1996--would have been inserted into the game against the Noles much earlier?

Reason number 5,675 why UM should stay away from season openers against FSU in the future.

By the way, James, has the look of a future star, doesn't he?

- As big a game as this is for Coker, I think it's just a big of a test for defensive coordinator Randy Shannon, who's unit in 2004 was torched by Petrino's boys at the Orange Bowl.

Speaking of that side of the ball, will Miami get any pressure off the edge this season? Brohm, by far, will be the best pocket passer UM will face this season. It's imperative to put heat on him.

- As I said before, it's much to early to give up on Kyle Wright, but on successive plays he looks so close and then so far from being an elite quarterback.

But make no doubt about it, he's the best option UM has behind center.

- Sorry, but I'm not one of those who wanted Troy to pull off the upset of FSU. I don't know if I could've handled having lost to a team, that then loses to Troy.

It wouldn't have said much for either FSU or UM.

- OK, but can we just admit that the Big East, right now, is a superior conference to the ACC?

- With N.C. State losing to Akron (does Gerry Faust still coach there?) will the rumors of Norm Chow going back to the 'Pack circulate, once again?

- I'll say it right now, while the winner of LSU-Auburn next week, makes an argument for being the top-ranked team in the country.

- My early Heisman Trophy front-runner, no, it's not Brady Quinn of Notre Dame, but another QB, Troy Smith of Ohio State. He could be this years Vince Young.

Steve Kim can be reached at k9kim@yahoo.com

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