Hurricanes at best in big games

Updated: October 28, 2003, 7:30 PM ET

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- Miami coach Larry Coker can sense a difference in his players and assistants this week.

He feels it in meetings and practices. He figures it's because No. 10 Virginia Tech is coming up on Saturday.

It's a big game. And the second-ranked Hurricanes usually play their best in big games.

"I personally like these type games," Coker said Tuesday. "The teams that we play that are supposed to be tuneups, I don't like those games. Those are the really hard games to prepare for. The Virginia Techs are harder to win, but you feel really strongly that you're going to be into it."

And when the Hurricanes (7-0, 3-0 Big East) are motivated, they are typically tough to beat.

Coker has more wins against ranked teams in three years than his predecessor, Butch Davis, had in six seasons at Miami.

The 55-year-old Coker is 11-1 against ranked teams, losing only to Ohio State in double overtime in the Fiesta Bowl national championship game last January. Davis was 10-13 against ranked opponents between 1995 and 2000.

The Hurricanes already have two wins in big games this season, beating state rivals Florida and Florida State. They have to win several more big games this season -- including ones at Virginia Tech, against Tennessee and at Pittsburgh -- before possibly playing in a third straight national championship game.

"We thrive on big games," defensive end Baraka Atkins said. "It's a national event, everyone's looking at us and we want to perform well."

Under Coker, the Hurricanes have won at Florida State twice, at Florida, at Tennessee, at Penn State and at Virginia Tech. They also have home wins over the Seminoles, Gators, Hokies and Washington.

The 'Canes have won 18 straight on the road, 26 in a row at home, 27 consecutive conference games and 39 straight regular-season games -- the second-longest regular-season winning streak in the history of Division I-A. Only Oklahoma (1953-57) has a longer streak.

Miami's current streak included 14 consecutive victories against ranked teams -- games Coker jokingly calls "two-blimp games," referring to the number of aircraft flying over the stadium.

"It doesn't really shock us that we play a name team in a large stadium," Coker said. "I know the Florida State week, you could tell the intensity in practice. We didn't do anything different. We didn't say, 'Hey guys, this is a big game, let's go practice hard.' They know that.

"They really like that showcase. They really like to go in front of a national audience and play well."

The Hokies (6-1, 3-1) haven't had nearly as much success against ranked teams. In 16-plus seasons at Virginia Tech, coach Frank Beamer is 20-30-1 against ranked opponents. The Hokies have beaten the No. 9 team twice under Beamer, but are 0-19 versus teams ranked eighth or higher.

The winless stretch includes seven losses to Miami.

The Hurricanes hope to add another in Blacksburg, Va., on Saturday.

"This is a big game," defensive end Thomas Carroll said. "It makes or breaks both of our seasons. If they win this game, it puts them right back where they want to be. If they lose the game, it puts us where we want to be."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index