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.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Canes - Colorado: What I'm looking for

The Hurricanes play their first home game of the year this weekend against Colorado. This is the continuation of a home-and-home series from the early 90s that was postponed because of a fight in Boulder during the first game and later Miami's probation.

It's an early start (noon kickoff) which should work to Miami's advantage. It also figures to be hot and humid, which could work to Miami's advantage as well (although many would argue that the high altitude training in Boulder that the Buffs get year-round will negate any such advantage).

Regardless of all that, the Canes should win this game handily. Rather, they need to win this game handily. Oddsmakers have the Canes as a two touchdown favorite. To solidify themselves as a top-10 type team and to keep themselves in the BCS discussion, I think Miami needs that sort of a win - probably more than that.

Honestly, I don't know much about Colorado, other than two things: they have a lot of returning starters on defense (10 - or nearly everyone) and their special teams are solid.

The strength of Colorado's special teams will present an interesting test for the Canes. One of Miami's hallmarks over the years has been outstanding special teams play. Over the past decade, Miami leads the nation in non-offensive scoring (including defensive touchdowns). While the Canes blocked a punt last week against Clemson, special teams have not been a highlight for the Canes this year. In the loss against FSU, special teams were horrific for Miami. There was hardly anything redeeming. Against Clemson, there wasn't anything special that happened. Quite frankly, with the current explosiveness (or lack thereof) of Miami's offense, the special teams needs to do something spectacular (create a turnover and/or score points). If that doesn't happen soon (not necessarily this weekend), it will be time to be concerned about the Canes special teams.

On offense, it will be interesting to see how Colorado reacts to Miami's "new" unbalanced offensive line (where the two tackles line up next two each other). Look to see more of that this week. Clemson didn't react and played straight up against it. I'd expect Colorado to throw in a wrinkle or two when they see it. Apparently that might cause Miami to throw instead of just running right over the big lineman.

Hopefully we'll see a little more "balance" return to the Canes this week - or at least we'll hopefully see more of a proclivity to throw the ball down the field on occasion. Doing that would require Miami to give Wright more time. We'll see if that happens.

Defensively, we've already seen the emergence of Kenny Phillips. I think he's going to be a mainstay in the secondary until he departs for the NFL. His impact on the defense could be similar to what Ray Lewis was for the Canes. It's early for Phillips (and don't confuse him with the other true freshman, who is not his brother, Randy), but he has all the makings of a star.

This week may also be the first time that we see highly-touted Willie Williams get extended playing time with the defense. Willie didn't see much action last week, but he was in on at least three tackles.

Prediction: Miami 38 - Colorado 13

In other action this weekend, there are a lot of good games. Two big ones take place in the ACC, with both games having implications on the ACC title race.

Boston College travels to Death Valley to face Clemson. It's BC's first road ACC game. If Clemson wins, they have an inside track to the ACC title game - assuming they can knock off FSU (the Tigers' loss to Miami last week came outside their division, so it doesn't hurt them as much). If BC can win the game, they'll still be in the race, but they'll need help (as in two FSU conference losses).

The other big game in the ACC features Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech. GT will likely be without their star quarterback, Reggie Ball, who's suffering from viral meningitis. Without Ball, the Rambling Wreck will likely be slowed. Virginia Tech likely doesn't need any advantages. The best matchup in this game should be GT's Calvin Johnson (WR) against VT's Jimmy Williams (DB). Some all-conference and possibly all-American awards will likely go to the victor of that matchup.

There are a number of good games nationally. Tennessee - LSU was moved to Monday night. Weather permitting, that should be great. I'm also curious to see if Oregon can give USC a game. I don't think they can, but the crowd noise should make the first quarter interesting.


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