at Miami • Sept. 24 • Noon (MT) • ABC
Head Coach: Larry Coker (5th year)
2005 Record: 1-1 (ACC)
Last Meeting: 1993, Miami 35, Colorado 29 (Boulder)
Much is made of Miami's speed. And there's no doubt, the Hurricanes are among the fastest teams in the country. But through its first two games, the UM offense has relied on a power running game, utilizing 5-foot-9, 220-pound tailback Tyrone Moss' powerful style. The junior, in his first year as a starter, has carried the ball 54 times, compared to just 15 carries for the rest of the Miami running backs.
Moss has been carrying the load while fellow first-year starter, sophomore quarterback Kyle Wright, gets his feet wet. Considering his (lack of) experience, Wright has played well, completing 59 percent of his passes. However, Miami has struggled to protect Wright, giving up 14 sacks in two games.
Player to watch: At 6-5, 252 pounds, Olsen is effective. Miami found some success vs. Clemson by coming out of the huddle and going into an "unbalanced" formation. The formation features Olsen on one side as a tackle, and moves tackles Rashad Butler and Eric Winston side-by-side on the opposite edge. It caused Clemson some problems because it's not always obvious which player is receiver eligible in the look. Winston is a former tight end. Gary Barnett mentioned it this week, so the Buffs are well aware of the formation.
Matchup to Watch: Eric Winston vs. Colorado defensive ends Abraham Wright and Alex Ligon. The 6-7, 312-pound Winston has the potential to be among the best tackles in the country, after recovering from a season-ending knee injury (ACL) in 2004. UM line coach Art Kehoe calls Winston among the three best tackles in Miami history. The Colorado defensive ends need to make Winston earn his reputation.
KEYS for COLORADO
While the Miami offense has given up 14 sacks, this key is easier said than done. That's because the Buffs have struggled pressuring opposing quarterbacks — at least with the front four — in CU's first two games. And Miami's offensive line, which features four senior starters, is better than Colorado State's and New Mexico State's.
If Kyle Wright has time to throw, covering Miami's speed at receiver may be too much to ask of Colorado's improved secondary. Safety J.J. Billingsley and linebacker Brian Iwuh could be key players in blitzes.
Keep 'Canes in Front of You — But Not Too Far
CU looks like it's improved this season at not giving up big plays on defense. But they haven't played a team this fast since Florida State in 2003. The Colorado corners made Chris Rix look like a Heisman winner in that debacle, playing so far off the FSU receivers, the 'Noles moved the ball at will.
Miami plays a straight-up 4-3 defense that is both powerful and (in case you hadn't heard) fast. Senior tackle Orien Harris is a load inside at 302 pounds, while ends Bryan Pata and Thomas Carroll are strong in pursuit.
The strength of the UM defense may be its linebackers, which make plays, again, due to the unit's speed.
Junior safety Brandon Meriweather leads UM with 17 tackles.
Player to watch:True freshman safety Kenny Phillips was the USA Today Defensive Player of the Year last year at Carol City High School. He had 10 tackles in the win at Clemson, and came up with the game-saving interception in overtime.
Freshman Kenny Phillips was mobbed after coming up with a big interception at Clemson.
Matchup to Watch: CU wide outs vs. UM defensive backs. The Colorado receivers should see more man coverage than they have. In the run game, staying with their blocking assignments will be key, especially if CU dares to try and go outside on the ‘Canes.
KEYS for COLORADO
No Leaks Along the Front Wall
The Buffs go into the game short-handed on the offensive line. Junior starting guard Brian Daniels will not play (kidney), according to Gary Barnett. Sophomore starting tackle Tyler Polumbus is also ailing, and line coach Dave Borbely told the Daily Camera his status will be a game-time decision. Edwin Harrison should start in Daniels' place, but also look for Gary Moore to move into the lineup if Polumbus is sidelined.
The patchwork line could mean the Buffs play in a max protect mode on passing downs. The problem there is that V-back Lawrence Vickers and tight ends Joe Klopfenstein and Quinn Sypniewski are among the best targets in the CU passing offense.
Any way you slice it, the fact that CU's already thin offensive line is banged up could spell big trouble for the Buffs' offense.
Mix it up on Offense
Barnett hinted that the Hurricanes will have to contend with some new looks from the Colorado offense. Expect the Buffs to try some things on offense we didn't see the first two games.
"We've played some better defenses (than Miami's) since I've been here. I don't know how much better. Miami does a great job of letting their athletes be athletes. Our offensive line blocking will be the key." — Colorado quarterback Joel Klatt on Tuesday
Corner/Wide receiver Devin Hester is a big-play threat anytime he's in the game. That includes as a kick returner or punt returner. A mishandled ball on a bad snap during a field goal attempt cost Miami the Florida State game. Kicker Jon Peattie and punter Brian Monroe are no Mason Crosby and John Torp, but they're solid.
If the Buffs have any chance of winning at Miami, it's by winning the field-position game and giving Crosby opportunities to put points on the board.
MU Statistical Leaders
Passing: Kyle Wright, 54-32-384, 2 INT, 3 TD
Rushing: Tyrone Moss, 54-241/4.5, 3 TD
Receiving: Greg Olsen, 10-146/14.6 0 TD
Kickoff returns: Devin Hester, 3-64/21.3 0 TD
Punt returns: Darnell Jenkins, 1-15 0 TD
Punting: Brian Monroe, 14-569/40.6
Tackles: Brandon Meriweather, 17
Tackles for loss: Jon Beason, 2
Sacks: Javon Nanton, 1
Interceptions: Kenny Phillips, 1
Did You Know?
A combined six players on the Miami and Colorado rosters were high school teammates. The Buffs' Kevin Moyd and UM's Romeo Davis and Khalil Jones played at Miami Northwestern. Miami's Vegas Franklin and Derron Thomas were teammates with CU's Reggie Joseph at East St. John in La Place, La.
Miami has had 74 players drafted by the NFL in the past 20 years, more than any other college.
Prediction: Miami 30, Colorado 9