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Florida Gators vs. Miami Hurricanes Complete Game Preview

Allison BankoCorrespondent IDecember 30, 2016

Florida Gators vs. Miami Hurricanes Complete Game Preview

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    The random-year rivalry will burn once again in a white-hot Miami on Saturday. 

    No. 9 Florida travels to No. 24 Miami for a "white-out" game in the depths of Sun Life Stadium to ring in a meeting that hasn't gone down since 2008.  

    Last weekend, the Florida Gators secured a 24-6 win against the Toledo Rockets, debuting a solid offensive line and impressive depth at running back.

    The Miami Hurricanes downed the Florida Atlantic Owls 34-6, showing that running back Duke Johnson is still a force to be reckoned with. 

    Though both teams came out of Week 1 bearing a win and freezing their opponents at only six points, one team will suffer its first loss of the season after this weekend. 

    When: Saturday, Sept. 7; 12 p.m. ET 

    Where: Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens, Fla. 

    TV: ESPN

    Radio: Sirius 91, XM 91 

    Spread: Florida (-3), via Covers.com

Florida Gators Keys to Victory

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    Pound the offense 

    Earlier this week, it's what UM coach Al Golden described as the Hurricanes' "Achilles' heel," per the Miami Herald. He was referring to the offense, which has been further weakened by the loss of junior receiver Rashawn Scott to a shoulder injury.

    The Canes struggled to stay in sync offensively in their win against FAU, limited by a lackluster passing game that's unlikely to be mended by Saturday. 

     

    Chill Out

    There will be no lack of adrenaline in Sun Life Stadium come Saturday. BEFORE an overwhelming white-out crowd, the Gators will face their first away test of the season.  To succeed, part of the Gators' game plan has to revolve around calming themselves and focusing throughout the game. 

    Florida coach Will Muschamp mentioned this as well during his Monday press conference, per GatorZone.com

    [A]ny time you're going to go play a rival and you're going to play somebody you know a lot about, certainly you need to make sure you keep your composure within the game and play through the situations and play between the whistles, line up, and play the next down

     

    Maintain consistency on offensive line 

    UM struggles on its defensive line. UF shines on its offensive line. As much as one game can foreshadow, the Gators up front are flashing promise, and it's time to take advantage of their talent while their momentum is hot and their bodies are healthy. 

Miami Hurricanes Keys to Victory

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    Utilize the home energy

    For the first time since 2003, the Hurricanes host this rivalry game. In a white-out home atmosphere, it'll be important for the Canes to channel their energy toward positive production rather than negative nervousness. 

    During his Tuesday press conference, Golden said, per Hurricanesports.com

    The key is to have poise and not hyperventilate in the beginning and now you're shot. We need to have some poise and use our maturity—it's nice to say that word, to say we have maturity and experience—and just keep our composure.

     

    Target Matt Jones 

    Florida's running back will enter his first game of the season Saturday after being sidelined with a viral infection throughout fall camp and Week 1.

    While UF's other notable opening-game absences (Antonio Morrison, Loucheiz Purifoy) were due to suspensions, Jones' was actually health-related, meaning he is the player most likely to make the weakest return.   

     

    Strengthen offensive chemistry  

    Though the Canes won their opener, Golden couldn't help harping on his team's weak passing game. UM returns a senior quarterback in Stephen Morris and a talented wide receiver in Phillip Dorsett. The two failed to do well against FAU, but if the duo smooth out their chemistry for Saturday, the Canes will be in good hands. 

Florida Players to Watch

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    Matt Jones (RB, So.)

    Despite the fact Mack Brown had a standout performance against Toledo, Jones returns to Florida's starting RB spot against The U. Jones was sidelined for the duration of Florida's fall camp because he was recovering from a viral infection.

    The sophomore's return has been much anticipated due to his impressive performance last season. Jones closed his freshman year rushing 275 yards, posting three touchdowns on 52 carries.

    Muschamp has said he isn't sure how long he'll leave Jones in for Saturday but that "he certainly will play," per GatorZone.com

     

    Antonio Morrison ("Mike," So.) 

    He. Is. Antonio. More importantly: He. Is. Back. After a fun-filled summer playing with bouncers and police pups, Morrison has officially served his full one-game suspension and comes back into play Saturday. The middle linebacker's second year is expected to be explosive, as he closed his first year as a Gator with 34 tackles and one sack. 

    Muschamp honed in on Morrison's skill set during his press conference Monday:

    He's got innate instincts as far reading plays, which is key for linebackers who can play off the ball to be able to anticipate where plays are being run, based on their keen diagnostic ability. That's something you can't really teach - you either have it or you don't have it, and he has a very high level of that. He's physical, he’s a tough player, football is very important to him.

    Morrison isn't listed atop the depth chart (he's behind Michael Taylor), but he's certainly a player to watch due to his off-field antics and on-field talent. 

    Florida's full depth chart is here.  

Miami Players to Watch

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    Duke Johnson (RB, So.)

    One of Miami's players to watch is also in the running back spot, but he's one to keep tabs on for reasons far different from UF's Matt Jones. 

    Johnson is the 2012 ACC Rookie of the Year who's showing no sign of slowing down any time soon. Against the Owls, he rushed a career-high 186 yards on another career-high 19 carries. Johnson, a 5'9", 196-pound offensive force, is also on three preseason watch lists.  

    Earlier this week, Muschamp said he was a "bigger version" of former Gators player Chris Rainey, per GatorZone.com

     

    Stephen Morris (QB, Sr.) 

    Once again, Florida will face an experienced senior quarterback this weekend. Morris has earned starts at the QB spot every year he's worn a Miami jersey, so he's no rookie. He even eclipsed 5,000 career passing yards in UM's season-opening win over FAU. 

    In Monday's press conference, Muschamp touched on Morris' strengths: 

    I think he's very accurate with the football and I think he takes the ball to the right spots. He gets the ball in the playmakers' hands, he makes really good decisions about where to take the ball and he makes quick decisions. He's got a very quick mental makeup as far as where to take the football. I think he's one of the better quarterbacks in college football.

What They Are Saying

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    Florida head coach Will Muschamp on Miami during Monday's press conference:

    I think you have to keep your composure. It's a very emotional game, and there's going to be...some ups and downs in the games, there's going to be some good things that happen, and you have to play for 60 minutes.

    Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease during Tuesday's press conference with the media, discussing criticisms of the Gators' offense against Toledo, via GatorVison.tv: "I don't know what "vanilla" is. I've never made a game plan with vanilla.'' 

    Miami head coach Al Golden on Florida during Tuesday's press conference

    It's obviously a big game, but worrying about anything on the outside is not going to change what happens in between the lines. The biggest thing for us is to focus on what we can control. Everything else that surrounds it, we have no impact on. We have an impact on how we prepare and what we have to do in between the lines on Saturday.

    Miami quarterback Stephen Morris during his press conference, via Hurricanesports.com, speaking on the potential of trash-talking from the Gators: "If they start it, they start it. We ain't gonna finish it. Our biggest goal is just get the call, get on the ball and get set.''

Prediction

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    Florida and Miami both have weaknesses entering this game, but the Hurricanes' flaws outweigh the Gators' at this point.

    UF, which has several star players returning, is going to target and overwhelm UM's offense. Miami's passing woes will only worsen with the absence of wide receiver Rashawn Scott.

    The Canes have too much working against them to emerge from this rivalry unscathed.

    Prediction: Florida 21, Miami 16

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