The Tigers (4-4, 3-3 ACC) have cut that down to two-of-three going into the season's final month, and suddenly Saturday's game at Miami doesn't seem to be the Mission Impossible it once appeared either.
Not that the Tigers are taking the Hurricanes lightly, but Miami's loss at North Carolina last Saturday did take away from the aura of invincibility that had been building up around the Hurricanes.
Also, it's not just that loss that has raised questions about Miami. The Hurricanes have given up nearly 1,500 yards of total offense and 100 points in their last three games.
"There's two ways to look at it," coach Tommy Bowden said. "You can look at the fact they're going to be mad or, No. 2, there's a chink in the armor."
How big a chink is the question.
The Tigers are still going to have bring their "A" game to the Orange Bowl, where the Hurricanes are 21-1 under coach Larry Coker. If the Tigers can come up with turnovers, as they did last week against North Carolina State when they intercepted five passes and recovered a fumble, and hold the Hurricanes' running game in check, as North Carolina did last week, it could become interesting.
"We feel like we are coming in with some confidence," said DT Eric Coleman. "But we've got to get it done up front. That's where it all starts for us against Miami."
In addition, the Tigers need to step up the running game and hope QB Charlie Whitehurst doesn't revert to the problems he was having with interceptions earlier. He had 13 through six games but hasn't thrown one in the past two.
In addition to getting the Tigers within one game of being bowl eligible, a victory would be a big boost to the program's prestige and go a long way to making up for the 1-4 start this season.
Bowden cited the success Miami has had since experiencing a dip in the mid-1990s, the number of players the Hurricanes have sent to the draft and the success the present staff has had as incentives.
"I don't say you get more juiced up, but those are programs you'd like to defeat," he said. "That's the best. That's the cream of the crop. That's up where the air is thin. That's where everybody wants to go. I want to go up there where the air is thin and stay there like they have."
After the Hurricanes, the Tigers finish the season at Duke Nov. 13 and back home against in-state rival South Carolina Nov. 20.
Tigers Thinking Upset
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