The Book of Mike

"This is no junior college. This is the notorious University of Miami.” -- Marlins starter Dontrelle Willis, after getting knocked around for six runs in 2 1/3 innings by the Canes.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Canes - Bulldogs Preview

It’s probably going to be football, football, football here for awhile. As you probably remember, I’m not all that happy with the Marlins right now, and their race for the Wild Card is not that enjoyable for me, especially because the Cubs are involved. I suppose I’m rooting for the Giants and Barry Bonds, but I think I’ll be sick if the Marlins or the Cubs make it to the post-season this year (and yes, I apologize to all of you that I went to Marlins games with this year. My unusual hatred for the team is purely because of their front office shenanigans). The White Sox have tanked too, and when the team is out of the race, it’s just flat out difficult for me to listen to Hawk Harrelson. Heck, it’s hard to listen to Hawk even when the Sox are still in contention (I do have to say though that Ozzie Guillen’s comments last week about Buck Showalter were pretty funny).

We also won’t be talking much pro football here. Although I live in Miami, I’m not a Dolphins fan. Technically, as hard as this is to believe, I’m still a Cardinals fan. Yes, that’s even more painful than being a White Sox fan. But being a Dolphins fan this year isn’t much better. Ricky Williams is gone, there’s a debate between having A.J. Feely or Jay Fiedler at quarterback, and no one likes the coach, Dave Wannsdedt. All in all, it’s not a happy time in Dol-fan (that word makes me sick) land.

But, at least for the time being, all is well in Miami Hurricane country. Fresh off a comeback victory against the rival Florida State Seminoles, Miami takes its number four (or five – depending on your poll of preference) back to the Orange Bowl this weekend to face Louisiana Tech.

Many of you, like me - well, at least if you're a Canes fan, are probably looking forward to a breather this week against Louisiana Tech. You probably remember last year’s 48 – 9 season opening romp on the road against the Bulldogs and think that the Canes will just roll again this year, particularly because the game is at home. Hopefully they will, but they likely will not. Louisiana Tech is not some patsy that is just going to come into the Orange Bowl on Saturday and roll over.

The Bulldogs are led by Heisman-hopeful running back Ryan Moats, who has rushed for more than 500 yards in La Tech’s first two games this season (actually, he’s rushed for exactly 257 yards in both games). On the surface, this probably doesn’t concern Canes fans because Miami looked pretty good stopping the run last week against Florida State and even last year against Louisiana Tech. However, the Bulldogs abandoned the run for the most part last year – in large part because they were trailing, and also because they were led by senior quarterback Luke McCown. When they did run the ball though, they were effective. Particularly Ryan Moats (who is humbly nicknamed “Barry Sanders, Jr.”), who gained 44 yards on only three carries (Moats had one long run of more than 40 yards sandwiched in between two short carries, on the last of which he was injured after a hard tackle).

Granted, Louisiana Tech hasn't won by overwhelming scores (38 – 21 and 24 – 20) in their first two games this year. They also have only beaten two so-so teams at home (Nevada and Louisiana Lafayette). Still, this isn’t likely to be an easy game for Miami, and hopefully the Canes will take it seriously. Coach Coker, in his first three years at the helm of the Canes, has been excellent at preparing his team for games such as these. After winning a crucial, early-season rivalry game, after which most prognosticators have virtually granted Miami a berth in another BCS bowl, it would be easy for a team to let down and take it easy this week, figuring that if they can turn it on late against Florida State that they can surely do the same – if they even need to – against the likes of Louisiana Tech. That’s a dangerous theory to test out though, particularly with the pollsters watching. A loss – or even a close game – to Louisiana Tech is not something the Canes are likely to recover from, at least not if they intend to preserve their national title hopes.

From the Louisiana Tech perspective, this weekend’s game against Miami is just the first of four in what is a brutal stretch of games. Following their contest with the Canes, the Bulldogs travel to Knoxville to face the Tennessee Volunteers, then return home to face Fresno State, and finally hit the road again to play Auburn. All four of those games are against top 20 teams, and three of the four are on the road. And they’re not even just road games –Miami, Tennessee, and Auburn are three of the hardest places for a visiting team to win.

It’s likely that Canes fans will see the Miami defense tested with as good of a ground game as they will see all year, or at least as good of a back as they will see all year. This is another excellent early season test for a club with big aspirations this year.

An even bigger test will be to see how well the Canes offense can perform this weekend. It would be an understatement to say that the Miami offense was throttled by the FSU defense for the first fifty-nine minutes or so of Friday night’s game. What isn’t clear at this point, since Miami and Florida State have only played one game, is if Miami’s offense is that bad, if Florida State’s defense is that good, and/or if both teams simply know each other so well at this point (three games in less than one year) that it’s difficult to generate any offense. Starting with the Louisiana Tech game this weekend, we should start to get a better handle on things.


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