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December 30, 2006

MPC Computers Bowl: Nevada vs. Miami

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Head-to-Head Breakdown

Miami's difficult season will make a final stop on the Smurf turf of Boise.

After a brawl with Florida International, the death of teammate Bryan Pata and the firing of Coach Larry Coker, the Hurricanes are ready to put 2006 behind them. Nevada and the MPC Computers Bowl will mark the last chapter of the Coker years.

Alongside Coker will be his replacement, defensive coordinator Randy Shannon.

"I'm the head coach and Randy Shannon is the defensive coordinator," Coker said. "It has not been awkward. After Dec. 31, he's the new head coach. The key for me to coach this game is that the athletic director wanted me to coach this game, and Randy Shannon wanted me to coach. And the players wanted me to do it. That did matter. I want to go out and win this game."

The Hurricanes will try to give Coker, who leaves after winning nearly 80 percent of his games, a sendoff against a Nevada team that won five games in a row before dropping its regular season finale. The Wolf Pack fell 38-7 to Fiesta Bowl-bound Boise State.

Like Miami, Nevada struggled against top teams. The Wolf Pack outscored opponents 200-35 during its winning streak before the undefeated Broncos dismantled Nevada at home.

Between them, Nevada and Miami have three total wins over bowl teams. Miami's came against Boston College and Houston; Nevada's against San Jose State.

MPC Computers Bowl: Nevada (8-4) vs. Miami (6-6)
When: Dec. 31, 7:30 p.m. ET
Where: Bronco Stadium, Boise, Idaho
TV info: ESPN (Mark Jones, David Norrie, Heather Cox)
Nevada Wolf Pack
Conference: WAC
Record: 8-4, 5-3
Coach: Chris Ault (185-77-1 in 22 seasons at Nevada)
Passing leader: Jeff Rowe (152 of 235, 1,715 yards, 16 TDs, seven INTs)
Rushing leaders: Robert Hubbard (189 carries, 936 yards, six TDs)
Receiving leaders: Caleb Spencer (52 receptions, 536 yards, two TDs)
Defensive leaders: Ezra Butler (62 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks)
Miami Hurricanes
Conference: ACC
Record: 6-6, 3-5
Coach: Larry Coker (59-15 in six seasons at Miami)
Passing leader: Kirby Freeman (48 of 98, 600 yards, five TDs, seven INTs)
Rushing leader: Javarris James (158 carries, 767 yards, four TDs)
Receiving leaders: Lance Leggett (37 receptions, 581 yards, four TDs)
Defensive leaders: Calais Campbell (49 tackles, 20 TFL, 10 sacks, three forced fumbles)
Nevada running game vs. Miami run defense: Nevada had the nation's No. 22 rushing offense in the country behind Robert Hubbard. The Wolf Pack went through a stretch of five consecutive games with at least 200 rushing yards before being stuffed by Boise State in the regular season finale. Randy Shannon's group kept Miami in most games this year with a rush defense that allowed only 66 yards per game on the ground this year. Only Virginia topped 100 yards rushing against the Hurricanes.
Edge: Miami.
Nevada passing game vs. Miami pass defense: Nevada will give Miami a unique look with the "pistol" offense, where quarterback Jeff Rowe will line up in an abbreviated shotgun formation with the tailback directly behind him. The Wolf Pack offense is a run-first unit, and Miami should have the edge with Rivals.com third-team All-American Kenny Phillips, safety Brandon Meriweather and defensive end Calais Campbell (10 sacks).
Edge: Miami.
Miami running game vs. Nevada run defense: The Hurricanes asked true freshman Javarris James to carry more of the load as the season progressed. James carried the ball 20 or more times in each of the last three games. Before the Boise State loss, Nevada had back-to-back shut outs, but the Wolf Pack has been vulnerable to the run all year. Nevada allowed Fresno State, Northwestern, Hawaii and Boise to put up big rushing numbers.
Edge: Miami.
Miami passing game vs. Nevada pass defense: Kirby Freeman will play in place of the injured Kyle Wright, who broke his thumb late in the season. In his last game against Boston College, Freeman threw three interceptions. Nevada's Joe Garcia (six interceptions) will cause Miami trouble, but Freeman will likely look to tight end Greg Olsen as much or more than any receiver.
Edge: Nevada.
Miami coaches vs. Nevada coaches: The Miami coaching staff is in flux with fired coach Larry Coker calling the shots. His replacement, Randy Shannon, will be with him on the sideline. Future Florida International coach Mario Cristobal will not coach the bowl game for Miami. The Hurricanes might dig deep to win the last game for Coker (or the first one for Shannon?). Nevada's Chris Ault, a College Football Hall of Fame member, tends to find a way to win with less talent.
Edge: Nevada.
Nevada will win if: Miami comes out uninspired, playing in a lower-tier bowl game this far from South Florida. Jeff Rowe and Robert Hubbard solve the stifling Miami defense that hasn't allowed 20 points in a game since Oct. 28.
Miami will win if: Kirby Freeman benefits from taking more snaps in practice since Kyle Wright's injury. Javarris James does the same as several other backs this year and runs all over the Nevada defense.
Injury situation: Miami offensive tackles Reggie Youngblood (knee) and Jason Fox (elbow) should return against Nevada. Safety Kenny Phillips (hand) should also play after missing the last three games.
Worth noting: This is the first meeting between Miami and Nevada. The Wolf Pack is playing its first game against an ACC team. Miami offensive line coach Mario Cristobal, who was named head coach at Florida International, will not coach in the bowl game. Miami quarterbacks coach Todd Berry will handle offensive coordinator duties with Rich Olson accepting the same position at Arizona State. The temperature on game day is expected to range between the 20s and mid-30s.
Line: Miami by 3
Fox's pick: Nevada 17, Miami 10.
Other Rivals.com Expert picks:
Olin Buchanan, national college football writer: Miami 21, Nevada 17.
Bobby Burton, editor-in-chief: Miami 14, Nevada 13.
Steve Megargee, national college football writer: Miami 21, Nevada 7.
Bill King, RivalsRadio host: Miami 24, Nevada 10.
Make your picks on Rivals.com Bowl Pick 'Em.

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