Prepping For Noles - Like It Or Not

Judging from what was coming out of the mouths of most University of Miami football players on Thursday afternoon, the Hurricanes are still in a Ohio State frame of mind. But its Florida State, not Ohio State, that UM actually started getting ready for at Greentree Field in Coral Gables.

Miami (10-2) will be making its fourth consecutive Bowl Championship Series appearance when they meet Florida State (10-2) in the FedEx Orange Bowl Jan. 1 at Pro Player Stadium. Yet the sentiment of wanting another crack at the Buckeyes appears to be alive and well. Ohio State defeated Miami 31-24 in double overtime in last season's national championship Fiesta Bowl. UM, which defeated FSU 22-14 in October will open the 2004 season on Labor Day against the Seminoles as well.

Asked what team they would like to be facing again senior strong safety Maurice Sikes and middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma didn't take long to answer the question.

"Ohio State - I think that's obvious by now," said Vilma after a light workout. "If it were up to me we'd be playing Ohio State Jan. 1. But I don't get to make those decisions."

Vilma, a senior who will be playing in his final game as a member of the Hurricanes, didn't hide his feelings about wanting to play the Buckeyes for the second time in a year. Although he added that if the Hurricanes had to play the same team twice in a season it might as well be Florida State. Sikes said there was no doubt he wanted to see the Buckeyes on the opposite sideline on New Year's Day.

"Ohio State," said Sikes. "It would have been nice to get some revenge because this is it for me."

There were those who said playing Florida State again should be enough to bring out the best in the Hurricanes.

"If you can't get up for the Miami-Florida State rivalry you shouldn't be playing the game at all," said Miami senior tailback Jarrett Payton.

UM coach Larry Coker, who last week said the Hurricanes need a victory over the Seminoles to uphold their national reputation as one of the premier programs in the nation, sides with Payton.

"It's the next game, and the next game is always as important as the last one," said Coker. "Besides it's Florida State – it's important. If we win this game it might influence somebody (recruits)."

On the shelf Thursday: Junior safety Sean Taylor, who wasn't on the field, missed practice with the flu, while junior center Joel Rodriguez spent the entire session on a stationary bicycle. Coker said he expects Taylor back soon. The Hurricanes return to practice this afternoon.


Although the Hurricanes didn't engage in any contact during the 75-minute practice, Coker was just glad to be back on the field.

"It was a Florida State day - it was a great day," said Coker, who added that the team's next three practice sessions would be a lot more physical. Coker praised defensive lineman Santonio Thomas, who is gradually working himself back into playing shape.


The Hurricanes defense finished the regular season with better statistics than the Seminoles in eight of 12 categories, including points per game allowed (15.2) and yards per game allowed (261.8). Florida State's offense has the advantage over Miami in 10 of 13 categories. But in UM's 22-14 victory over FSU earlier this season the Hurricanes defense forced five turnovers - three fumbles, two interceptions - and held their state-rivals to 296 yards of total offense.

Sikes believes the Hurricanes defense doesn't have to change a thing.

"Will take a few things from the first game, but I wouldn't say we're going to do anything different. I would say they are the ones that have to try something different."

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