Five things to watch for tonight

The Hurricanes are set to host Florida Atlantic in their season opener tonight. Here are five things to watch for in tonight's game.

1) Win the game impressively -- Everyone talks about playing a lot of different guys or how FAU is not even a BCS opponent or how long starters should remain in the game. All of that doesn't really matter. We saw a school like Towson go into UConn and thrash their Big East opponent. We watched Bethune Cookman come in here two years ago and take the Canes down to the wire. This same FAU team took Georgia down to the wire last season. This is college football, and anything can happen. Winning the game is the top priority, despite all the other story lines that are being talked about. However, an impressive win would give the team a lot of confidence heading into next week's showdown against Florida.

2) Develop rhythm on offense -- The Canes had plenty of it during the second half of last season under second year coordinator Jedd Fisch. With everyone but Mike James back, a huge third year was expected. Then Fisch left for the NFL. He was replaced by first-time coordinator James Coley. Sometimes it takes a few games -- or even a full season -- to fully adjust to having a new coordinator. With as much experience that is on the offense this season, that should not be the case. It sure would be nice to see the Canes pick right up where they left off last season -- scoring lots of points, limiting negative plays, and spreading the ball around to lots of different players. Fisch had all that figured out at the end of last season. Lets hope Coley does the same to start the season tonight.

3) Show signs of a much improved pass rush -- With everyone back from last season, and considering how bad the Canes were at getting after opposing quarterbacks last season, the pass rush was set to naturally improve. Then players like David Gilbert, Justin Renfrow, Ufomba Kamalu, and Quan Muhammad were added to the roster. All of those players should provide more of a spark in getting after the quarterback. Throw in third-down specialist Tyriq McCord and the Canes seem to have a lot of pieces in place to not just improve from last year but turn things completely around. Time will tell, but against an over-matched FAU front, we should see signs of it tonight.

4) Get a lot of guys into the game -- For the last month this entire coaching staff has preached wanting to get a lot of guys into the rotation. It's their philosophy, regardless of the depth on the team. This team is not deep at certain spots, which makes it even more important to get guys game action early in the season. We need to see someone emerge as a legit number two behind Duke Johnson at running back. We need to see if Stacy Coley can truly be a difference maker in his first year. Can Taylor Gadbois legitimately become part of the rotation? Can backup defensive tackles Corey King and Earl Moore work their way into the rotation? A lot of those questions remain unanswered heading into the season but tonight can help provide a lot of answers.

5) Avoid injuries -- This goes without saying, on any team at any level. However, it seems especially true on a team like this one. Miami's starting 11 on offense should be among the better units in college football. There's not much depth, however. On defense, it's a little different since a lot of the second team guys were competing for starting spots right up until this week. The Canes went through fall camp as a very healthy football team, and that likely enabled the coaches to get a lot done -- maybe more than they expected. It sure would be nice -- especially in a non-conference game at home against a non-BCS opponent -- to keep that momentum going.

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