It's officially less than 48 hours before the Canes and Gators get it on in The Swamp and I can only imagine that for some of you the drinking has already begun. I've got a five hour drive to Gainesville to complete in the morning, so I won't be joining you.
But I will leave you with more to ponder as we get closer and closer to Saturday night's 8 p.m. kickoff at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. I just filed my feature story on how Miami plans to stop the Gators. It's not Mission Impossible, but its darn near close in my eyes. No matter how much green and orange pride you have in your heart, you know as much as I do this football team didn't have what it took defensively last year to stop even a team like Virginia. The Gators, whether you like it or not, are one of the top five most dangerous teams in all of college football.
Tim Tebow, whether you like him or not, can kill you with his ability to run the football, the playaction and because he rarely makes mistakes (he had all of 6 INTs last year). The collection of weapons at his disposal are dangerous. Percy Harvin is the real deal. Jeffrey Demps and Chris Rainey are blazing fast and about as dangerous a weapon in the open field as anybody. And in Florida's spread offense, they'll be put in plenty of those situations.
But the Gators do have a weakness. And that's the fact they do not have an established, power running
game. Emmanuel Moody (6-0, 210) and Mon Williams (6-2, 210) are the two guys who are supposed to provide that. But they are relatively new to the deal. Last year, when Florida won, it averaged 222 yards on 40 carries a game. When the Gators lost, they ran the ball less on average (32 times) and were less successful (151 yards). When the Gators lost to Auburn, Tebow had 75 of his team's 111 yards on the ground. Auburn pounded the Gators into submission and controlled the clock late. Against LSU, the Gators blew a 24-14 lead in the fourth quarter because they couldn't run the football between the tackles. LSU kept the ball for 12 minutes in the final period and scored the winning points with Jacob Hester. Against Georgia, Tebow got sacked six times and Knowshown Moreno ate the Gators up to the tune of 188 yards and three scores.
Which leads me to the obvious keys to this game. If UM is going to have any shot to win in The Swamp...
1. The running game has to be successful: Miami has to not only control the clock, but pick up first downs consistently and keep Tebow and his toys off the field. If Miami can't move the chains, it's going to be a long, long night.
2. Nobody can miss an open field tackle: Whether the Canes like or not, Florida is going to have opportunities to hit the home run. The spread is going to create a lot of one-on-one situations. The Hurricanes cannot allow for the Gators to get easy scores and big gains. Obviously, with so many young players on the defensive line and guys coming back from injury (Glenn Cook, Anthony Reddick, Eric Moncur and Allen Bailey) I consider this the toughest task for the Canes.
3. The Special Teams have to provide a boost:This to me is the one category that can actually put the Canes over the top. Nothing quiets a crowd more or gets it excited than a big play on special teams. In a game filled with so much emotion, Miami can't afford letdowns (missed field goals, big returns by the Gators) or the Canes will have absolutely no shot of winning.
CANES IN THE STOCK MARKET
Last week, I gave you my first stock market report based on the individual play of certain players. Well, after one week and from what I've heard from practice, I've got our second installment ready to go.
BUY SOME NOW
> Graig Cooper, running back: While Javarris James will likely get the bulk of the carries Saturday night, Cooper to me seems primed to be the hero should the Canes pull the upset. Last week's eye-opening punt return for a score -- the first since 2004 -- shows you how much big play potential this sophomore has. Cooper also looked great running the ball, moving potential tacklers with him downfield. His added weight has made him stronger. And he hasn't lost any explosion.
> Spencer Adkins, linebacker: After basically being invisible for most of his first three years with The U, the undersized linebacker finally made a splash last week with two sacks against Charleston Southern. Adkins is proof positive sometimes having the right defensive coordinator can make you or break you. He was a standout end at Naples High and appears now like he'll be doing more of what he does best on third-and-long packages. It's an early sign Bill Young knows how to get the most out of his players.
> Eric Moncur, defensive end: Before the season started all we heard about was how much of a leader Moncur was going to be on this team and how much he would mean to the defense. After having sports hernia surgery, he's back this week in the rotation. And although he's only expected to play 20-25 snaps, I expect Moncur to play as Derrick Morse once told me "balls to the wall." With the death of his mother this past weekend after a long bout with cancer, something tells me Eric is going to do something special Saturday night. After all, his mother told him to make sure he got his butt in the game this week. Sometimes, emotions can make guys special on the field.
ON THE BUBBLE
> Robert Marve, quarterback: I feel horrible putting a guy making his first career start on the bubble. But who honestly has more to gain or lose this week than him? If Marve goes out and leads Miami to the win and plays great, nobody is going to care anymore that Jacory Harris is his backup. But if Marve comes out and plays horribly and Harris has more success than he does, UM will be back where it was last year. With fans debating about who should be the starting quarterback.
> Matt Bosher, kicker: Last week, Bosher did as good a job as anyone could have asked him to do handling all three duties. He averaged 39.3 yards a punt and pinned Charleston Southern inside the 20 twice. He made a 22-yard field goal and he averaged 62.3 yards on kickoffs. But unfortunately for him, the moment he messes up on something I'm sure it will be called into question if he's not handling too much. Florida has an amazing special teams unit. If Miami gives up a long return like Hawaii did last week, somebody is going to blame Bosher and say his leg is too tired.
TRADE IT IN
>Jermaine McKenzie, receiver: After looking like he might finally get over last season's injuries and be a contributor like most expected him to be when he was tearing this up in the Summer of 2007, it looks like the redshirt freshman suffered another injury setback in fall camp. This week, McKenzie was wearing Percy Harvin's number and running with the scout team. I hate to say it, but it could be another long year of waiting for McKenzie, who was not among the 11 receivers to catch a ball in the season opener.
>Randy Phillips, safety: I'm not sure what Phillips did to get suspended for the season opener, but it definitely looks like whatever it was has put him in the back of the line at safety. Jojo Nicholas and Anthony Reddick look like the clear-cut starters and the guys who have the job to lose at this point. Not what I was expecting from Phillips, a senior, who I thought could be the most valuable defensive player on this team because of his ability to create turnovers and big plays.