Hurricanes to find out quickly how good they are

Even without playing a single game, the University of Miami football team has been put on a pedestal. Most pre-season college football magazines have the Hurricanes finishing the season with an unblemished record and biting rose stems in Pasedena next January.

Others believe Miami quarterback Ken Dorsey will pick up the Heisman Trophy Award at the Downtown Athletic Club in New York in December.

It won't take too long to find out if the Hurricanes are worthy of all the accolades. The Hurricanes will get a chance to find out how strong of a football team they really are.

First up: Penn State. First-year coach Larry Coker and the Hurricanes travel to State College, Pennsylvania to face the Nittany Lions in Beaver Stadium (Aug. 31).

The Nittany Lions, coached by legendary Joe Paterno, have falled upon hard times the last several seasons, including a 5-7 last season.

But the Nittany Lions will have plenty of motivation going into their 13th all-time contest against the Hurricanes that will be played up.

An expanded and renovated stadium (106,000 capacity); Paterno (322) is one victory shy of tying Bear Bryant for third place on the all-time wins list for coaching; Former Penn State football player Adam Taliaferro will lead the team on the field. Taliaferro was paralyzed last season after making a tackle.

The Nittany Lions, coming off only their second losing season under Paterno in school history, returns a young squad that must replace 12 starters. It could turn out to be another long season, but Penn State always performs well when they see orange and green across the field.

Penn State owns a 7-5 all-time edge against UM and has won some epic battles. In their last meeting, in 1999, Chancie Fields hauled in a 79-yard TD pass with 1:41 remaining to give Penn State a 27-24 victory. In 1987, the Nittany Lions derailed the Hurricanes hopes of a national title with a 14-10 upset victory in the Fiesta Bowl.

UM returns the following week to the Orange Bowl to open their home schedule against Rutgers (Sept. 8). The Hurricanes will be up against their former defensive coordinator Greg Schiano for the first time. Schiano took the Rutger's head coaching job last January.

After the departure of the Scarlet Knights, the Hurricanes welcome the Washington Huskies into the Orange Bowl (Sept. 15). And will have revenge on their minds.

The Huskies handed the Hurricanes their only defeat last season, 34-29 in Husky Stadium. Washington also holds a place in the UM record-books having been the team that snapped the Hurricanes home-winning streak in the Orange Bowl at 58.

Washington, who beat Purdue in the Rose Bowl, was 11-1 last season.

Miami will then get their first taste of the Big East Conference when they hit the road to face the much-improved University of Pittsburgh Panthers. The Panthers return most of their starters on both sides of the ball, including wide reciver Antonio Bryant.

After a soft schedule to start the season, the Panthers should know just how far they've traveled after facing Miami. A victory over the Hurricanes could have Pitt challenging for a conference title. Only problem? The Panthers have defeated Miami just once in their last 12 meetings.

The Hurricanes should get a breather with the arrival of Troy State (Oct. 6) for a contet at the Orange Bowl the next week. The Trojans were 10-2 in the Southland Football Conference, but going up against Miami might be a different story. The Hurricanes athletes will simply be faster and bigger than the Trojans usually face. This could be the week the Hurricanes get over some aches and pains.

The Hurricanes will definitely need to be free of any soreness for their next opponent: Florida State (Oct. 13). Although many are predicting the youthful Seminoles will have a down-seaon in 2001, playing at Doak Campbell Stadium is always tough. No matter what kind of team Florida State puts on the field.

The Seminoles enter the season having won 56 straight games in Tallahassee. The inexperienced FSU offense could have a long day with the prospect of facing one of the best defenses in the nation.

Miami concludes the month of October with a Thursday night contest against the West Virginia Mountaineers. The Mountaineers, under new head coach Rich Rodriguez, went 7-5 last season after winning the Music City Bowl.

West Virginia will throw a fast-paced style offense at the Hurricanes led by senior quarterback Brad Lewis. Lewis threw for 1,767 with 14 touchdown passes last season. The Mountaineers should also give UM a test on defense. WVU returns nine starters on the defensive side of the ball.

UM will host Temple (Nov. 3), before heading off to Chesnut Hill to meet the Boston College Eagles. The Eagles went 7-5 last season after winning the Jeep Aloha Bowl with a 31-17 conquering of Arizona State.

The Eagles receivers will challenge the strong UM secondary. Senior Dedrick Dewalt and junior Jamal Burke will look to go deep. Dewalt led the Eagles in receptions last season with 38 and had 676 yards. Dewalt recorded eight touchdown passes.

Syracuse comes into the OB for the Hurricanes final home game of the year Nov. 17. The Orangemen may have lost a close one to Georgia Tech in the Kickoff Classic, but they seem to be much improved this season.

Dwight Freeney and Clifton Smith anchor an improved defense that will come in with something to prove after being embarrased last year by Miami at home (41-0). Running backs James Mungro and Kyle Johnson are solid and will give the Canes D a workout all day long.

Miami closes the season at Virginia Tech, Dec. 1. The contet between the Hokies and Hurricanes could decide the Big East Conference and possibly have national championship implications. The Hokies are certainly hoping the result is better than the last time they faced the Hurricanes. Miami defeated the Hokies 42-21 last season.

Are the Hurricanes worthy of a trip to the Rose Bowl. It won't very long to find out.

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