Defense to Lead 'Canes vs FSU

When it comes down to it, defense is what wins championships. Offenses might look pretty and they might do the sweet and sexy stuff on the football field, but it's the defense that is any football team's heart. That holds true with the University of Miami.

And it's the reason, Monday night's brawl on Labor Day between Miami and Florida State will be a defensive battle between two of the nation's most athletic and physically gifted defenses. And it's why we can expect a low scoring contest between Miami and Florida State Monday night. There will be nothing sweet and nothing sexy Monday night. Both defenses will make sure of it.

Over the past seven games between Miami and Florida State, six of which were Miami wins, it was the winning team's defense that came up big.

Last year, Florida State's defense came up with nine sacks of Kyle Wright and caused the young ‘Canes offensive line a ton of problems.

Sure, the ‘Canes still had a chance to send the game into overtime with a late field goal. And yes, the ‘Canes defense played great limiting FSU to a paltry 170 yards of offense, but the ‘Canes couldn't come up with the big plays on defense that resulted in points for its offense.

With the ‘Canes having a lot of youth on the offensive side of the ball again, it will be up to the defense that needs to come back to form after suffering a humiliating beating at the hands of LSU in the Peach Bowl last year.

The ‘Canes entered the Peach Bowl as the nation's second ranked defense, but finished fourth following the debacle.

However, the ‘Canes expect to be among the best defenses in the country and will be the reason Miami walks off the field Monday night with a 1-0 record and a win over Florida State. Here are four reasons why:

1. Brandon Meriweather and Kenny Phillips – The Hurricanes have the best secondary in the country and it's not even closer. Meriweather is the best safety in the nation and Phillips is right behind him. Together, it would be rather dangerous for Florida State quarterback to dare and throw down the seam because it's quite likely one of the two will come up with the interception if he dares try that. This doesn't even mention their back ups who could start just about anywhere. Anthony Reddick and Lovon Ponder are excellent safeties as well and come off the bench. At corner, Randy Phillips and Glenn Sharpe will man up on an island plenty of times. Weatherford had a miserable game against Miami last year. The secondary will make life very difficult for him once again.

2. Bryan Pata and Kareem Brown – The inside of the ‘Canes defensive line is flat out sick. Pata and Brown will make it very difficult for Lorenzo Booker to go in between the tackles. Pata is the better run stopper. Brown finds his way to the quarterback more. Don't expect to see too many yards up the middle against the two monsters in the trenches.

3. Baraka Atkins and Calais Campbell – Atkins is finally back at his natural position at defensive end after being a guy who does what's best for the team last year and spent a year playing defensive tackle even though it totally limited him from doing what he does which is get to the quarterback. Atkins is the leader of the defensive line and passed up a chance at the NFL to come back for his senior year. A win against Florida State will be a sweet gift for Atkins coming back. Campbell on the other end is a 6-foot-8 tree who has a great wingspan and showed flashes last season. He will be relied upon to get to Weatherford and put pressure on quarterbacks all season.

4. Jon Beason – If there is a guy on this team that bleeds orange and green more than "The Beast", I don't know who it is. Lined up next to Romeo Davis in the middle and Tavares Gooden on the strong side, Gooden admits Beason gets him hyped. Beason is the pride. Beason is the heart. He is what makes this defense go. Beason wasn't reportedly in the fight in the tunnel following the Peach Bowl loss, but he actually may have been what started it when he didn't let LSU receiver Dwayne Bowe take a UM football as a souvenir. He didn't let Bowe take the ball because of pride. The Tigers may have just beaten the ‘Canes up and down the field, but they weren't going to take their pride from them. Beason has pride. Beason has worked. Beason has studied and beating Florida State is something he knows the ‘Canes have to do. Not just for himself. Not just for his team. But the Hurricanes family of players that have come before him. For the Ray Lewis'. For the Jonathan Vilma's. For the Ed Reed's. For the family at ‘U'. It's why the ‘Canes defense will lead Miami to a victory against the Seminoles. It's why Weatherford will wish he'd never stepped foot in the Orange Bowl on Labor Day night. It's why ‘Canes fans can toss up their ‘U's following the game and why Bobby Bowden will be saying ‘dad gummit' following the game.

And it all starts on defense.

Miami 14 Florida State 10

Rudy Rodriguez-Chomat can be reached at rudy@canestime.com

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