Plenty of each of these will be on hand tomorrow night at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The fact that these two have not faced each other since New Year’s Eve 2004 has increased the focus on the match-up, but the fact that there are not many more intriguing games this weekend has also fanned the flames. Naturally, everyone is looking forward to next week’s swath of college football games with the USC-Ohio State collision leading the way (Catfish is already on Beanie “Footwatch ‘08”). This game is a mere appetizer, a dainty bonus snack on the year’s buffet of great games to come. But still, it will be an interesting scene, even if a lop-sided game follows, the atmosphere should be excellent at the beginning.
As a hurricane alum I can tell you I have been dreading this game for about a year. I am one of the Miami fans that prefer to live in this place called the real world. The U is down, everybody knows this but the gleam (there’s a gleam) of hope is that Randy Shannon will bring us back to winning. That is all true UM fans want; to win like any other big program out there. If and when Miami ever does return to the national prominence, the media will be saying the retarded line of “the swagger is back”. But who cares about swagger, we just want wins. Obviously if a team is winning, it will be more confident, but based on past perceptions, the Canes will always be seen as cocky thugs and nothing more when they are winning. Again, as a Hurricane I can deal with that, it’s the poor play blowouts I cannot deal with.
Shannon has brought in a top flight recruiting class. He has penalized players for doing something as trivial (gasp) as missing class or study hall. He brought in a new defensive coordinator to get away from the old style he could use when he had defensive backs like Rolle, Reed, Taylor, and Buchanon and could gamble all the time. Most importantly, he might have some quarterbacks now. Jacory Harris was impressive, even if it was against Charleston Southern, as he lead the Hurricanes to 52 points, something Kyle Wright was only able to do once. Then there is Robert Marve, who will be making his first college start tomorrow night and his first start in a game in almost two years. The word is that Marve has the tools and could be the answer at quarterback that Miami has long sought after Ken Dorsey. I prefer to wait and see how he plays after I was told Kyle Wright was the number 1 rated QB coming out of high school years ago. Either way he will have a tough night against the Gators.
The Florida program is riding high, having just built a 28 million dollar facility, and will host some coveted recruits for the game that are deciding between the two schools. Urban Meyer has the team in contention in the SEC every year recently and it seems it will stay that way in the future. However, with that success comes the expectation every year of a national title or bust. This game is not a must-win to secure a spot in the SEC title game, and will not have much bearing on the chance for the Gators to land in the top two BCS spots when the final rankings come out, unless they lose it. I am certain the Bull Gators have been in Meyer’s ear about this game. The fact that Florida has not beaten Miami since 1985 sticks in their craw, even if they do not play annually. The last two losses to Miami have to be particularly distasteful. The improbable comeback by former Gator Brock Berlin in the Orange Bowl to win 38-33 after trailing 33-10 in the third quarter, and the 27-10 victory in the 2004 Peach Bowl in which Miami scored 14 points on a missed FG return by Devin Hester and a punt return by Roscoe Parrish. The point is the Gators and their fans want blood, they don’t care that Miami has been down and enters with a young team, they want to humiliate them and end the streak with a exclamation.
That brings us to the game itself. The two teams are seemingly playing for different goals: Florida to win and win big, Miami to be in contention throughout. Tim Tebow may not wish to be included in the Playboy All-American team, but there is no doubt he is one of the best QBs in the nation. I have no clue what Miami’s defensive gameplan will be but it better have a good one. The Florida offense is obviously loaded and will put up points, the key for Miami is to make them finish a drive for points and not give up any big plays. Defensively is where the Gators have struggled, so the Canes have to be able to move the ball. Running backs Javaris James and Greg Cooper will hold that responsibility because it cannot be laid on Marve in his first game. Miami started strong on their big road test last year against Oklahoma, but a big turnover crushed their confidence and led to a blowout. They will have to do it for all sixty minutes in an even more hostile environment.
Florida will no doubt win the game unless something extremely unexpected happens. True Cane fans have accepted this, but how we lose might set the tone for the rest of the year in a wide open ACC. Miami only has 5 seniors that get any playing time, the future is bright but they must endure the present. The Gators have been waiting a long time for payback; I just hope the game doesn’t take a long time to forget.