Hurricanes Continue Big East Trek

After watching three of the top-ranked teams in the nation fall this weekend, University of Miami head coach Larry Coker isn't about to concern himself with any BCS or poll discussions. Is Miami worthy of its current No. 1 ranking in the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today coaches polls? Should the Hurricanes be moving up or down when the next installment of the Bowl Championship Series standings are revealed?

Coker has just one solution to all the banter that undoubtedly will follow the Hurricanes for the rest of the season -winning.

"No, not really," said Coker, when asked if was concerned with the possibility of being left out of the national championship game for the second straight season. "My biggest concern right now is the schedule we have left and the teams to have to play. If we do well and win our football games, we'll get where we want to go."

The Hurricanes (6-0, 3-0) can grant Coker's wish and keep their national championship hopes intact by taking care of the Temple Owls (2-5, 1-3) Saturday in the Orange Bowl (Noon).

"We need to continue to play solid, fundamental football and make sure that we get better every week," Coker said. "I want our football team to keep improving and at the same time get a positive result."

That might not be too difficult this week. Miami, playing in their fourth Big East game of the season, is a prohibited favorite to stretch the nation's longest winning streak to 17 games and continue their dominance in the Big East. The Hurricanes have yet to be seriously challenged this season, outscoring West Virginia, Pittsburgh and Rutgers149-24. The Hurricanes last tasted defeat in the Big East November 13, 1999 against Virginia Tech. That said, the Hurricanes must remain undefeated to enhance the possibilities of playing in the No. 1 vs. No. 2 Rose Bowl.

Temple is also streaking- in the wrong direction. The Owls, coming off a 33-7 defeat to the University of Pittsburgh, have lost five of their last six games. They have also dropped seven consecutive Big East games. Temple is 2-9 in their 11 conference contest with both victories coming against Rutgers.

The Hurricanes will be faced with an aggressive-style defense that is second in the Big East in stopping the run (60.4), but ranks last in the conference in pass defense (208.4). The Owls, who have 10 defensive starters from a year ago, rely on their defensive-front, most notably senior end Raheem Brock and junior tackle Dan Klecko, to apply pressure on the opposition. Senior linebacker Taylor Suman, who led the Big East in tackles last year, is also solid.

But despite having one of the most experienced defenses in the country, the Owls have struggled. They have allowed at least 33 points in each of their losses this season after improving in every statistical category from 1999 to 2000, including fewer points allowed (97), touchdowns (11), first downs(35), rushing yards (604) and yards of total offense (785).

Miami has had difficulties running the ball in the early stages of games this season before finishing strong in the second half. Junior tailback Clinton Portis was held to eight yards in the opening quarter before ending the night with 76 yards in UM's 45-3 victory over West Virginia last week. Florida State allowed Miami just four rushing yards in the first half earlier this month.

Coker expects the Owls defense to switch up their fronts early in the game in hopes of confusing Miami's offense.

"Temple is a fine, fine football defensive team," Coker said. "They run to the ball well and like to get very physical. It will certainly be a challenge for us."

The Owls, which operate a pro-style offense, thrive on offensive balance that calls for as many yards running the ball as throwing it. Unfortunately, they have spent all season looking for that balance. Temple, last in the Big East in total offense, has scored just two touchdowns in their last three losses.

Junior receiver Sean Dillard is one of a few weapons on a injury-depleted offense for Temple. Dilliard leads the Big East with 31 receptions and 482 yards. He has a touchdown reception to go with a 15.5 yards per catch average. Four of five TU starting receivers missed last week's contest against Pitt, including senior Greg Muckerson. Muckerson missed the game due to a death inhis family.

Freshman quarterback Mike McGann is 80-of-170 for 887 yards. He has thrown three touchdown passes and seven interceptions. Junior running back Tanardo Sharps has 308 rushing yards on 92 carries. Sharps ranks last in the Big East.

Temple coach Bobby Wallace is excited to have the opportunity of facing the No. 1 team in the country. He just doesn't know where to start in breaking them down on film. There isn't a single aspect of the Hurricanes that worries Wallace- they all do.

"They are such a complete football team, from their offense to defense to special teams," Wallace said. "We're also going up against the best offensive-line and defensive secondary in the nation."

The chances for a Temple might be slim, but Wallace does have a plan. Whether it works or not, remains to be seen.

"We need to slow'em down, not give up the big play on defense," Wallace said. "It is so important that we get to the football. We can't be carelees and have to be patient. You can't give them anything. If you do you're only shoting yourselves in the foot."

STILL PENDING

Junior defensive end Andrew Williams and redshirt freshman running back Willis McGahee are both questionable for Saturday's game.

Williams, who was placed in a cast over the weekend, suffered a sprained left knee in the second play of the West Virginia, but returned in the first half wearing a brace. McGahee also sprained his left knee in the game and did not return.

Nothing definite has been determined on the players status. "Wait and see," Coker said.

LEAGUE STUDS

Boston College running back William Green (offensive player of the week) and Syracuse linebacker Clifton Smith (defensive player of the week) have been honored by the Big East.

Green, the conference's leading rusher, had 195 yards rushing in BC's 21-17 victory over Notre Dame. Smith recorded 11 tackles and a sack in a Syracuse 22-14 upset over No. 4 Virginia Tech.

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