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College Football Season
Game Of The Week

Preview: Miami at Florida State

By Dave Congrove

Miami begins one of the toughest four-game stretches that any FBS team will undertake this season when it kicks off the 2009 campaign at Florida State.

Survive the opener and Miami will be rewarded with a home game against Georgia Tech before traveling to Virginia Tech. After the visit to Blacksburg, the 'Canes will entertain Oklahoma. Ouch, ouch, ouch and ouch. That would be a tough slate for any school, but it could be particularly devastating for a team which is anxious to recapture its glorious past. Miami doesn't even want to think about starting 0-4 overall, and 0-3 in the ACC.

Head coach Randy Shannon opens his 3rd season as head coach in Coral Gables with a 12-13 record that includes a 6-10 ACC mark. He has new coordinators on both sides of the ball as Mark Whipple takes over for Patrick Nix on offense, and John Lovett replaces Bill Young on defense. The Hurricanes were 6th in the ACC in total offense in 2008, and 7th in total defense. They ranked 11th in the conference in scoring defense.

Florida State is also looking to rejuvenate its image as the cloud of an academic fraud scandal from 2006 and 2007 still hangs over the campus. The NCAA ruled in March that Florida State's punishment would include vacating as many as 14 wins by the football team. The school has appealed the ruling and is scheduled to present its case to the NCAA infractions Appeals Committee on November 15.

Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden has 382 career victories, one less than Penn State's Joe Paterno. Bowden is beginning his 34th season with the Seminoles.

Going into last season the computer (picks based on the Congrove Computer Rankings) had missed on the outright winner for five straight years, but FSU prevailed 41-39 to give the computer a correct outright upset pick. The computer has won the last two games ATS.

Last season's game saw FSU open a 24-0 lead in the first quarter. But the Seminoles had to hold off a furious rally by Miami in the second half as the 'Canes trimmed a 31-10 3rd quarter deficit to 34-32 with 8:30 left in the game.

The visitor has now won the last three meetings. FSU has taken three of the last four overall, but all of the victories were by 3 points or less. Florida State won the last two Labor Day matchups. Miami still leads the overall series 30-23. The Hurricanes won the last contest in Tallahassee, 37-29, in 2007.

The computer likes the 'Noles by nearly 9 points (8.97) this time around. The 'Noles enter the season as prohibitive divisional favorites in the ACC Atlantic while Miami is a consensus 4th-place pick in the Coastal division.

Florida State senior RB Antone Smith ran for 4 TD's at Miami last year, and QB Christian Ponder added 144 yards as the 'Noles outrushed Miami 281-51. Smith is currently trying to make it in the NFL, but Ponder returns to lead an offense that easily topped the ACC in scoring average a year ago with 33.4 points per game.

Robert Marve was the starting QB for Miami in 2008 but transferred to Purdue in May. Backup QB's Taylor Cook and Cannon Smith just recently announced their departures from the program. Given those developments, Jacory Harris appears to be the starter for now and way into the future. The sophomore played in all thirteen games for Miami last year and started two, including the Emerald Bowl loss to California when Marve was suspended. If Harris goes down, inexperienced freshman A. J. Highsmith will have to step in.

The game will be televised Monday night at 8:00 on ESPN as the Sunshine State rivalry returns to Labor Day weekend for the first time since 2006.


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