The Game Within The Game: A Preview Of The 'Canes '09 Season
On Sept. 7, 2009 the Miami Hurricanes will embark on yet another season. Will this be the year that the 'Canes reclaim their place among the elite programs across the country?
We'll find out right from the start with a week-one date against the arch rival Florida State Seminoles.
We'll take a look at each opponent on the upcoming schedule and highlight the games that will have the biggest impact on whether or not the "U" will get the "W".
FSU is the first game on the slate for the '09 season.
This is always an extremely physical game. Rivalry games are usually unpredictable and the UM/FSU rivalry is no exception.
The last two meetings between these schools on Labor Day have been defensive struggles partly due to FSU's stout defenses and the lack of offense generated by Miami.
Miami's offensive line play was inconsistent at best last season. Although Jacory Harris got some good experience playing last season, he's still young and a work in progress.
The Hurricanes must dominate at the line of scrimmage, especially in the running game. This will take the pressure off of Harris and allow for play action passes.
The second game of the season has the 'Canes opening up the home portion of their schedule against the Yellow Jackets of Georgia Tech.
The Yellow Jackets ranked fourth in the country in rushing offense last season. In Jonathan Dwyer and Roddy Jones, Georgia Tech has two excellent RBs that can wear you out. QB Josh Nesbitt is another threat to tote the rock.
Miami's front seven is going to have to bring their lunch pail and hard hats to work for this game.
Last year, the Yellow Jackets racked up 472 yards on the ground. It was a disgraceful performance by the Canes defense.
If I was Coach Shannon, the "U" would've been running sprints until they puked! Georgia Tech's passing game is not much of a threat so stop the run and the 'Canes should win this one.
No rest for the weary as Miami heads into a week three contest with the Hokies in Blacksburg.
Beamer's boys are always tough. The 'Canes did knock off the two time defending ACC champs last year. With that being said, Virginia Tech has one of the best defenses in the country. This is where we'll find out how far Harris and his young receiving corps have come.
The Hokies have a veteran secondary while Miami's group of WRs has two juniors who at this time don't appear to be in the mix to start or see significant playing time.
If Miami is to beat Virginia Tech for a second straight year, there will have to be balance in the offensive attack. The Hokies' defense is too good to be one dimensional.
Next up is a week 4 date with the Oklahoma Sooners.
Anybody who follows the 'Canes remembers the 51-13 beating suffered at the hands of the Sooners in Norman. None of the three phases (offense, defense and special teams) played well at all.
It was a complete destruction from the minute Miami stepped off the plane.
Returning Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford leads a Sooner team that is loaded coming off of a title game appearance. This is definitely a game that the 'Canes defense is going to have to rise to the occasion.
In addition to Bradford, you have to worry about the RB tandem (Chris Brown and DeMarco Murray) and All-American TE Jermaine Gresham. Miami's defensive line (Eric Moncur, Marcus Robinson, Allen Bailey and Joe Joseph) will be the key in this one.
They have to be able to generate pressure on Bradford without blitzing. Not to mention they're going to have to be disciplined in the running game because both of Oklahoma's backs are capable of ripping off big gains.
If the Hurricanes can play on the Sooners side of the line of scrimmage, they have a shot.
Week five gives the 'Canes a break as they match up against my alma matter, Florida A&M University.
This is one of those games where the big school is doing the smaller school a favor by playing them. The Rattlers lost 51-10 when they last visited South Florida in 2006.
Jacory Harris should be able to pad his stats and Cooper should have a big game on the ground. This one should be over by halftime.
For the second straight week, Miami will face off against another in state school when they travel to Orlando to play the University of Central Florida.
This should be another layup drill for the "U." The Golden Knights had the worst offense in college football last season and there's no reason to expect anything different this season.
Miami's defense should have a field day.
Last season, the 'Canes only managed to grab four interceptions all season. Playing against a QB that only completed 39.4 percent of his passes should give plenty of chances to projected starters Chavez Grant, Ryan Hill, Joseph Nicolas and Randy Philips.
The Hurricanes jump back into ACC play with a week 7 date against Clemson.
Miami was successful in their last trip to Death Valley (Sept. 2005) capturing a 36-30 victory. Clemson struggled last season to pressure the quarterback only averaging one sack a game.
The offensive line of Miami will be the key and they should be able to handle Clemson.
The Tigers seem to be in a bit of a rebuilding mode and if the o-line holds up, then the 'Canes passing attack should be able to find success.
Week eight has the Hurricanes visiting the Demon Deacons of Wake Forest.
The Canes hold a 5-2 all time advantage in the series. The Deacons have lost a lot of talent on the defensive side of the ball.
Four of their starters from last year all went in the first four rounds of the NFL draft. This should bode well for Harris and the offense.
Since there are plenty of question marks in Wake Forest's secondary, Aldarius Johnson and Travis Benjamin must establish themselves in the passing game early and often. If they are going to continue their growth and become big play threats, this is a game where that should come to light.
The University of Virginia Cavaliers visit Landshark Stadium the first Saturday of November for a week nine date with the 'Canes.
The Cavaliers are coming off of a season in which they only won five games. Miami won in Charlottesville last year 24-17. The Demon Deacons are still in rebuilding mode and this should benefit Miami greatly.
A major gap in Virginia's defense is their linebackers.
Three out of the four starters from last year's team are gone. This means Graig Cooper and Javarris James should look forward to big games on the ground and catching the ball out of the backfield.
Both backs are good in open space and should have the advantage in the one on one matchup with the Virginia LBs.
Week 10 brings a matchup with a familiar face to the "U" program, former coach Butch Davis and the North Carolina Tarheels.
Miami lost last year in Chapel Hill on late touchdown and have surprisingly struggled against the Tar Heels with just a 5-7 record all time.
Miami had trouble defending against the big play in the passing game last year against the Tar Heels.
Although Miami's secondary will not have to worry about UNC receivers Hakeem Nicks and Brandon Tate, the DBs still hold the key to this game. If they're able to shut down the passing attack, that would make UNC one dimensional.
UNC RB Greg Little also had a big game against the Hurricanes, but if the entire defense is able to key on him his impact will not be as significant.
The Hurricanes welcome the Duke Blue Devils to Landshark Stadium in week 11.
Miami had no problem disposing of Duke last year (49-31) and there is no reason that the outcome will be different this upcoming season.
Duke is not a team stocked with talent, but they do have a pretty good QB in Thaddeus Lewis. The defensive line needs to have a big day if the Canes want to cruise to a victory. The Blue Devils have lost three starters off an offensive line that was not that good to begin with.
A bad o-line means no running game and no protection for the QB. If the d-line comes to play then it will be a long day for Lewis. Miami should win this game on pure talent alone.
The Hurricanes wrap up the 2009 campaign in Tampa where they will play the University of South Florida Bulls.
In the two schools only meeting back in 2005, the Hurricanes beat the Bulls 27-0.
Since then however, South Florida has been to four straight bowl games and even had a shot at playing for the National Title briefly two years ago.
When you play against the Bulls, everything starts and ends with their starting QB Matt Grothe. He's an excellent passer and he can create with his legs. This makes the key factor in this game the entire defense of the 'Canes.
The defensive line has to get pressure and collapse the pocket, the LBs have to be disciplined just in case Grothe breaks containment, and the secondary cannot lose track of the receivers once Grothe starts scrambling.
Grothe will be the second best QB that Miami will see this season. Miami has to have a complete defensive effort in order to win this one.
Looking at the schedule, Miami should be able to improve on last season's 7-6 record by at least two games. There's a definite road block in the Oklahoma game, Virginia Tech, FSU and USF all pose challenges.
The offense should be able to find some consistency with Harris who is now the unquestioned starter at QB. Another year of experience under the belt of a young receiving corps will take some pressure off of a defense that carried the 'Canes for the most part last season.
Coach Randy Shannon has new offensive and defensive coordinators. How they mesh in philosophy will also play a huge role in the team's success this year.
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