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.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Football: Canes - Cardinals

Well, at the risk of turning you baseball readers off (but let’s be honest, it sure looks like most of you are finding your way here for Pedro Martinez and the midget or for a link to a story about Mariano Rivera and the tragedy that struck his family), today I’m going to talk about tonight’s big football game. I’m pretty sure there’s only one today, and I’m going to be at it.

Third ranked Miami faces off against seventeenth ranked Louisville tonight at the Orange Bowl. If you’re not in Miami, you can catch the game on ESPN. If you are in Miami and need tickets, drop me a line – I have a few extra.

Here’s what I think will happen – or at least what will be answered tonight:

Louisville comes into the game with a strong offense. That’s an understatement. They’re averaging more than five hundred yards of offense to date this year. This isn’t even your conventional, high-powered college offense. Usually those offenses, like Steve Spurrier’s old fun-and-gun, or even Louisiana Tech’s ground game this year heavily favor either the run or the pass. Louisville is very balanced. They have three starting quality running backs and two quality quarterbacks – who they rotate (one of whom is a true freshman).

What we don’t know about Louisville so far, is how they’ll fare against a top defense. It’s becoming cliché, but Miami’s defense lost four starters last year as NFL first round draft picks. Somehow though, they’re as good or better than last year’s team – or so it seems. They, like the Louisville offense, haven’t faced an offense like the one they’ll see tonight.

What’s most likely to decide the game though is Miami’s offense versus Louisville’s defense. Miami’s offense has been, at best, inconsistent this season. Complicating matters further is that the Canes lost, if not their top offensive player, certainly their top offensive lineman in Eric Winston late in their last game against Georgia Tech. Winston, a projected top five or top ten pick in next spring’s NFL draft will be replaced by Rashad Butler, who before an injury was expected to be this year’s starter at right tackle. Butler is most definitely talented, but he will be tested early and often by the strong Cardinal defense.

This game feels like it will come down to whoever wins the turnover battle and whoever makes a big play or two on special teams. If only because we’ve all seen Miami do that so many times before – including in three games so far this year (with a blocked field goal late against Florida State, two punt returns for touchdown against Lousiana Tech, and with a blocked punt returned for a touchdown against Houston), you have to give the edge to Miami there. Louisville’s special teams look solid though – at least on paper. Don’t be surprised to see a wrinkle or two thrown in as well. Although Louisville has a solid punter, their starting quarterback did punt one ball this year – and he punted it well.

Initially my take was that this game wouldn’t be as close as it seems like it could be on paper. One team or the other is likely to blow the other out somehow or another. One team will likely be exposed as a fraud – and it will most likely be the offense of one club that’s exposed. But after looking at it (a little) more thoroughly, I think we really could see a dogfight tonight, with the winner having an inside track to a BCS game (particularly if Louisville comes out on top – their road the rest of the way is likely easier, as Miami still has to travel to NC State, North Carolina, and Virginia, as well as facing off against Clemson, and Virginia Tech at home).

Prediction: Miami 24, Louisville 17

In other college football news, Ron Zook is apparently on a food and sleep strike since last week’s loss. One has to wonder if this is more a result of Zook’s role in a fraternity fight a few weeks back coming to light than his actual disappointment over losing to LSU (coming into the season one would have to think that Zook chalked that one up as a loss). Interestingly, Zook’s food strike is similar to that of a man in the Virgin Islands who is existing only on pudding until the NFL and DirecTV offer him the Sunday ticket package.


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