2006 MPC Computers Bowl - Miami vs. Nevada

Posted Dec 14, 2006

2006 MPC Computers Bowl Preview & Prediction - Miami vs. Nevada

Miami (6-6) vs. Nevada (8-4)

Dec. 31, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

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If you're a BCS conference team playing in Boise in late December, something went horribly, horribly wrong. If you're Miami and you're playing in Boise in late December, you're starting over.

Miami can't exorcise all its demons with a win over a not-that-bad Nevada team, but it can prove it has the heart to make a fresh start and salvage something out of one of the most disappointing seasons in school history while sending Larry Coker out a winner.

In his last game as the Miami head coach before Randy Shannon takes over, Coker can't afford the ultimate indignity, no offense to the Wolf Pack, and lose to a WAC team after all the good things he's done over the years. The players should play hard for them, and for themselves, but will it be enough? Is the team simply not that good?

National Rankings
Miami Nevada
Total Offense
87th  314.58 ypg 46th  362.58 ypg
Total Defense
5th  252.08 ypg 55th  327.58 ypg
Scoring Offense
88th  19.50 ppg 19th  30.92 ppg
Scoring Defense
14th  15.08 ppg 33rd  19 ppg
Run Offense
78th  123.33 ypg 22nd  176.83 ypg
Run Defense
3rd  66 ypg 59th 136.92 ypg
Pass Offense
67th  191.25 ypg 75th  185.75 ypg
Pass Defense
39th  186.08 ypg 45th  190.67 ypg
Turnover Margin
75th  -0.25 7th  1.00
Florida St L 14-10
Fla A&M W 51-10
at Louisville L 31-7
Houston W 14-13
No Carolina W 27-7
FIU W 35-0
at Duke W 20-15
at Ga Tech L 30-23
a Tech L 17-10
at Maryland L 14-13
at Virginia L 17-7
Boston Col W 17-14
at Fresno St L 28-19
at Arizona St L 52-21
Colorado St W 28-10
Nwestern W 31-21
at UNLV W 31-3
at Hawaii L 41-34
San Jose St W 23-7
NMSU W 48-21
at Idaho W 45-7
Utah State W 42-0
at La Tech W 42-0
Boise State L 35-7
Position Ratings
relative to each other
M 5 highest
1 lowest
3 Quarterbacks 4
3.5 RBs 3.5
3.5 Receivers 3.5
3.5 O Line 3.5
4.5 D Line 3
4 Linebackers 3
5 Secondary 4
4 Spec Teams 3.5
3.5 Coaching 4

The Canes had the talent, at least on defense, and the schedule to be a sleeper for the national title hunt with Florida State, Virginia Tech and Boston College coming to the Orange Bowl, and with road games against Louisville and Georgia Tech the worst of the bunch. Unfortunately, the lack of any consistent offense, and the inability to ever come up with a clutch play, meant a 1-4 record on the road with the lone victory coming in a stunning 20-15 fight with Duke.

Speaking of brawls, the season will be remembered for the ugly incident against FIU that gave Miami the thug tag again, while the tragic death of defensive lineman Bryan Pata made a bad year truly horrible. Even so, Miami wasn't all that far off from a good year with four of the losses coming by a touchdown or less. The opening day loss to Florida State could've gone either way, and the 14-13 loss to Maryland thanks to two big Darrius Heyward-Bey pass plays.

Nevada is looking to be more than just a patsy in the play as it goes for its second straight nine-win season. Chris Ault's club won eight of its last ten games only losing at Hawaii and in the regular season final against Boise State, but it failed to come up with any wins of significance. When you're hanging your hat on a 23-7 victory over San Jose State, you're not exactly striking fear into the hearts of the big boys.

While Miami might not be Miami, this would still be a big win for a Wolf Pack program, and a WAC, in constant search for respect and publicity. Miami would have to not bring its A game while the Pack has to be fired up and sharp for a sixty minutes, but there's enough of a Nevada offense to pull this off.

The MPC Computers Bowl, formerly known as the Humanitarian Bowl, has had its lousy moments, like when grossly overmatched Tulsa and Louisiana Tech teams were obliterated by Georgia Tech and Clemson respectively, but it's been a stunningly competitive bowl over the last few years with Fresno State coming back to beat Virginia in overtime and Boston College hanging on to stop Boise State last year. It'll be the last game of 2006. If it's not any good, you'll quickly forget about it after your night out.

Players to watch: Call this the big final audition for Kirby Freeman. With Kyle Wright injured/ineffective, Freeman stepped in and started over the final three games of the season and did nothing to show he's a must for the number one gig next year. To be fair, the receiving corps hasn't given him a whole bunch of help, but he has to be more consistent and can't try to make plays that aren't there. He's not the passer Wright is, with seven interceptions and five touchdown passes, but he's more mobile and has to be accounted for when things start to break down.

Nevada's offense works best when it's running the ball effectively, but it needs senior QB Jeff Rowe to come up with a big performance in his finale. A second-day draft prospect, he has the height, the experience, the mobility, and an accurate arm when the offense is working. What he doesn't have is a signature moment this year despite completing 65% of his throws with 16 touchdown passes and seven interceptions. He's coming off an awful outing against Boise State completing just six of 15 passes for 35 yards, and now he has to prove he can deal with an even faster, more athletic defense.

Wolf Pack RBs Luke Lippincott and Robert Hubbard aren't going to steamroll over the Canes, but they have to be effective and they have to take advantage every time there's a hole to fly through. Lippincott's a former safety with more power than speed coming on over the second half of the season to be a major workhorse. He ran for 359 yards and seven touchdowns in a three week span, but Miami isn't Idaho, Utah State or Louisiana Tech. Hubbard's workload decreased with the emergence of Lippincott, but he's the team's best back.

Trying to keep the Pack ground game in check, while also getting to Rowe, will be Calais Campbell, who led the team with ten sacks, 20 tackles for loss, and finished third with 49 tackles. He's 6-8, fast, and athletic. The NFL scouts will be watching closely over the next year as he has first round potential if he keeps improving.

Nevada will win if... Boise, Idaho in late December is Boise, Idaho in late December. Miami is saying all the right things about not caring about the cold weather, with some claiming to be excited about the possibility of playing in non-Miami conditions. That all goes out the window after about 15 minutes. To generalize, Florida players, who are used to practicing in 98-degree, 100% humidity conditions, hate playing in cold weather and seem to lose an edge once the thermometer drops. The forecast for the 31st in Boise is for a high of 38 degrees and a low of around 28. The expected low in Miami on the 31st is 70. Nevada doesn't have the talent or athleticism to try throwing it around or getting into a speed game against the nation's fifth best defense, but it might be able to power it a little bit. It'll be interesting to see how frail Miami's psyche is after a long season. If it's really cold, and the Pack is pounding the ball with its good offensive line, Miami won't quit, but it might be ready to get this year over with, get on a plane, and move on.

Miami will win if... the Miami defense is the Miami defense. This isn't the Nevada offense of last year, and while it threw some impressive numbers on the board against the UNLVs and Northwesterns of the world, it died against Boise State and didn't exactly explode on Arizona State. Miami is way too fast for the Wolf Pack and has way too many playmakers. As long as the offense is competent, takes advantage of every opportunity, and doesn't screw up, the defense will take care of the rest.

What will happen: Will Miami care? It seems like such a nebulous and arbitrary factor, but this is Nevada's Rose Bowl. It's going to come out looking to prove to the world it can play, and it doesn't care whether or not Miami is interested; it just wants the win. The Cane defense will dominate from the word go, while the running game will do just enough to hold up its end. Nevada's offensive line can run block, but it can't protect Rowe, so expect at least five Miami sacks. Also expect Kirby Freeman to screw up enough to keep the score in the stratosphere.

Line: Miami -3 ... CFN Prediction:
Miami 24 ... Nevada 10