2009 Keys to the Game and Matchups to Watch: Miami at Virginia Tech

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The
resurgent Miami Hurricanes come to Blacksburg on Saturday coming off two huge
ACC wins over Florida State and Georgia Tech. The Hokies are coming off a
dramatic last-minute victory over a very good Nebraska squad. The #9 Hurricanes
have renewed confidence — dare I say “swagger” — and the #11 Hokies
have to be optimistic after the improbable rally last weekend. So what should we
expect from these long-time rivals in this critical ACC Coastal Division
contest?

Miami has looked impressive in defeating favored Florida State on Labor Day
and followed up by shutting down Georgia Tech’s vaunted multiple-option offense
last Thursday night. The Canes have once again become a media (aka ESPN)
favorite, jumping 12 spots in the AP poll last week to #9. The top ten ranking
is Miami’s first since 2005.

Has head coach Randy Shannon returned the talent level to the teams that sent
numerous first round draft picks to the NFL? Has Shannon’s emphasis on
discipline in the program taken effect on the team? Or has the hiring of new
coordinators Mark Whipple on offense and John Lovett on defense changed the
Canes’ attitude? The answer is probably a little of each.

Mark Whipple comes to Miami after serving as the quarterback coach for the
Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers for the last five years. Before
coaching in the NFL, Whipple was a head coach for 15 years and won a 1-AA
championship at Massachusetts in 1998. Whipple has rejuvenated a stagnant
Hurricane offense with some unique play-calling (more later in the Keys to the
Game) and the development of emerging star Jacory Harris (#12, 6-4 190 4.80*,
So.) at quarterback.

(*Note that 40 times represent the statistical mean obtained from combines
and college testing adjusted for conditions to be the equivalent of the NFL
combine times. Times are adjusted via a statistical smoothing algorithm

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