Guarding Against An Upset

What's going to happen Saturday in the Orange Bowl is a foregone conclusion, right? The No. 2 ranked University of Miami Hurricanes (6-0), winners of 38 consecutive regular season games and flying high after a victory over archrival Florida State, will occupy one sideline. The other will be occupied by doormat Temple (1-5), who has five last-place finishes in the Big East since1991 and is headed out of the conference after the 2004 season.

The Owls have posted just two winning records in the last 20 seasons, but none since 1990. And the Hurricanes have had plenty to do with the misery the Owls have felt in that time span. UM has handed Temple 11 straight defeats in the series between both teams, while outscoring the Owls 224-45 in their previous five meetings. Miami has scored at least 36 points in each game and has allowed more than 15 points only twice.

Miami is universally disliked in parts of the country because of their continued winning ways. Temple is universally ridiculed for pretending to have a football program.

So there you have it. Miami's entire roster could probably stay up all night carousing around town, sneak into the dorms for a quick shower and then head to the stadium to put a hurting on the Owls. And nobody would even notice. After all this is Temple where football victories are as frequent as snowstorms in South Florida.

Not so fast, says Hurricanes coach Larry Coker.

After watching five of the top-10 teams in the country lose last Saturday, which included the Hurricanes 22-14 victory over the previously-ranked No. 5 Florida State Seminoles, Coker is going to make sure that his team isn't caught looking ahead. Miami, who plays at Virginia Tech on Nov. 1, has a bye week after facing Temple.

"I don't buy, well ‘you're supposed to do this and win by this much.' If we don't come to play and put forth our best effort we're going to be in trouble no matter who we're playing," says Coker. "Bobby Wallace (Temple coach) and his staff do as good a job as any in the country in preparing their kids for a ballgame. And you guys saw what happened on Separation Saturday. "

Gone from the undefeated ranks: Ohio State, Florida State, Louisiana State, Arkansas and Nebraska.

"There's an unpredictability about this game," said Coker. "You just never know what's going to happen when you take the field."

Said Miami senior linebacker Jonathan Vilma: "We have to be prepared no matter who were playing. We can't take a laidback approach to any game we play. The fans and the writers might think that this game is a piece of cake. But we can't have that same attitude. If we do then we'll be in trouble on Saturday."

Hard to believe.

Coming off a hard fought victory in rain-filled Tallahassee, the Hurricanes will be facing a squad that surrendered 657 yards of offense to Boston College in a 38-13 trashing last week and is averaging a Big East worse 20.5 points per game on offense. Thanks in part to a constant downpour at Doak Campbell Stadium, Miami's offense struggled to find any consistency against the Seminoles as starting quarterback Brock Berlin encountered problems throwing the ball. Berlin completed 15-of-28 passes and threw three interceptions, while starting running back Jarrett Payton, playing for the injured Frank Gore, gave the offense a boost with 97 yards on 26 carries. The weather is expected to be a lot better for this one. And so are the Hurricanes.

"We just need to execute. That's the bottom line," says Payton.

Temple junior quarterback Mike McGann, who is averaging 229.5 yards per game, leads a passing offense that ranks first in the Big East with 274.2 yards a contest. But McGann is coming off a shaky performance against the Eagles. McGann was 14-of-25 for 96 yards and two interceptions, including one of the Owls' first offensive possession of the game. Senior wide receiver Zamir Cobb, who had six catches for 44 yards to become the Owls all-time receptions leader, ranks 17th in the nation with 96.7 receiving yards a game.

There's only one problem. The Hurricanes lead the Big East in pass defense, allowing 186.7 yards per game (24th nationally). Miami forced five turnovers, including two interceptions by junior safety Sean Taylor, while holding Florida State quarterback to 235 yards and a 47.6 (20-42) completion percentage. Miami had not allowed an opponent to go over 200 yards passing since the second week of the season.

The Owls' turnover problems could come into play on Saturday. Miami's defense (10 touchdowns this season) has forced 15 turnovers in the last four games, while Temple's offense has lost possession of the ball seven times in their last four games.

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