Miami Football: Canes Should Be Thankful to Play Louisville Instead of Texas A&M

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Miami Football: Canes Should Be Thankful to Play Louisville Instead of Texas A&M
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport
With one final game to shine, can Stephen Morris emerge as the better quarterback on December 28 against Louisville?

Anyone. Anytime. Anyplace. It was a mindset that put the Miami Hurricanes on the map in the 1980s—taking on all comers and knocking down top-ranked competition, which led to wins and birthed "swagger".

Three decades later, "The U" must embrace more conventional methods as it attempts to claw its way back to the top.

Much to the chagrin of the purists, modern day college football has become all about conference supremacy, reaching the BCS, putting oneself in position to play for championships and using all the above as a recruiting tool, keeping the machine churning year after year.

For Miami, a run at the ACC Championship game fell short, so it's all about the next best thing—a bowl victory and a 10-win season.

The Hurricanes haven't won double-digit games since 2003 or prevailed in a postseason showdown since 2006. Head coach Al Golden went 13-11 his first two seasons after taking over a program that went 28-23 the previous four.

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Running back Dallas Crawford needs to channel his North Carolina mojo when Miami takes on Louisville.

A 10-3 final record sounds better than 9-4 and knowing that perception is reality, the more "beatable" bowl opponent and manageable matchup should be embraced as another season comes to a close.

On paper, Louisville in Orlando is a better scenario for Miami than Texas A&M in Atlanta. Both the Cardinals and Aggies boast offenses that can absolutely give the Hurricanes fits, but there's no debating the overall talent level in the American Athletic Conference can't touch the mighty SEC.

Location is also a factor, as the Central Florida area ensures that a strong Miami contingent will be felt on December 28. Fans can pack the stadium, players can play in front of family and coaches can use bowl week as a recruiting tool in an area of the state they look to make inroads.

The Chick-fil-A Bowl—smack dab in the middle of SEC country—sold out months back, though it's safe to assume Aggies Nation will make the pilgrimage to the Georgia Dome to take in what will arguably be Johnny Manziel's last collegiate game. That would've been especially true had his finale been against the nationally hated Hurricanes.

"The U" facing off against Johnny Football on New Year's Eve would've had more national appeal, but it's about embracing the hand dealt and making the most of the stage given.

Teddy Bridgewater and the Cardinals boast a roster with 25 kids from the Sunshine State who are ready for a homecoming, while the Hurricanes' defense aims to show what it can do with 19 days to prepare for an opponent.

Louisville was a national title game dark horse early fall and was a preseason Top 10 team thanks to a Sugar Bowl upset over the No. 3 Florida Gators back in January.

From there, Bridgewater became a household name and a Heisman Trophy candidate, though a midseason loss to Central Florida knocked Louisville down a few rungs on the national level. A downside of playing in a lesser conference—little margin for error. 

Bridgewater has thrown for 3,523 yards and boasts a 28-to-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio, but the Cardinals still look like a paper champion at 11-1 due to the degree of competition. Louisville had less than impressive wins over Kentucky, Rutgers, Houston and Memphis, while needing a late fourth-quarter rally to knock off Cincinnati in overtime.

In a loss to Central Florida, the Knights put up 31 second-half points—aided by the legs of former Hurricanes running back Storm Johnson, who rushed for 109 yards and a touchdown.

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Stacy Coley's explosiveness and versatility can help a Miami offense that has struggled on the ground since Duke Johnson's season-ending injury.

Against Cincinnati, it was Brendon Kay who appeared to be the hero before the Cardinals rallied late. The Bearcats' quarterback moved the ball effectively and threw for 304 yards but had two crucial interceptions in the eventual loss.

While Miami's defense can't flip a switch overnight, the Hurricanes offense features enough explosive weapons to put Louisville's defense on its heels.

Quarterback Stephen Morris and wide receiver Allen Hurns will be rested and ready for their collegiate finales, as will a veteran offensive line. The Hurricanes will also have receivers Phillip Dorsett and Rashawn Scott fully healed from earlier injuries while the explosive Stacy Coley will get the ball in space and the opportunity to make plays.

The X-factor for the Hurricanes is a slowed-down rushing attack, struggling since Duke Johnson was lost for the year at Florida State. Miami will need the trio of Dallas Crawford, Gus Edwards and Eduardo Clements to help with ball control and clock management, eliminating opportunities for Bridgewater and the Cardinals' offense.

A take-on-all-comers mentality can resume next season for the Hurricanes. Out of conference, Miami is set to face Nebraska and Cincinnati while the conference schedule brings on Florida State, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Georgia Tech and the other usual suspects—including a rematch against bowl foe Louisville, which begins ACC play in 2014.

Compared to the Aggies, the Cardinals may represent a path of least resistance—but that doesn't impact the overall goal of a much-needed bowl victory and long-awaited double-digit win season.

 

Follow Chris Bello on Twitter @allCanesBlog.

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