It's back

Ever bump into an ‘old' friend and walked away all smiles? What about that first girlfriend in high school that has been hard to forget? Well, they won't exactly be holding hands or reliving the past, but playing against each other for the first time in a regular season game in 14 years will be good enough as the No. 1 ranked University of Miami Hurricanes (1-0) take on No. 6 Florida (1-0) at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium this Saturday.

Despite a series that started in 1938, both teams have not squared off in a regular season tilt since opening night of 1987 when the Hurricanes overcame an early deficit to pound the Gators 31-4. Miami repeated the feat in the 2001 Sugar Bowl in New Orleans with a 37-20 triumph.

The Hurricanes ride into "The Swamp" with a 23-game winning-streak, the longest in the nation, including a season-opening 63-17 victory over Florida A&M, and untouched since a stumble at Washington almost two years ago (Sept. 9, 2000). Florida is fresh off a 51-3 thumping of UAB The series is tied at 25-25.

Either the Hurricanes or Gators will have the all-time lead come Saturday night. And perhaps much more.

Like the inside track to a trip to the Fiesta Bowl in Tempe and the early bragging rights as college football kings in the state of Florida. UM head coach can't wait.

"Now I guess we can talk about it," said Coker, who is facing Florida for the first time as head coach. Coker was Miami's offensive coordinator in the 2001 Sugar Bowl against the Gators. "It's definitely a tremendous challenge, but at the same time it's what our players are looking for. You all understand why national championships seem to come through the state of Florida. This is just another of those games."

"I feel calm and I don't know any different because we have good coaches and good football players. Obviously, I wouldn't feel so comfortable going into Gainesville if we were going in with less than this arsenal."

As it is with all games that reek of major implications there are subject plots. And this one has more than it's share.

Starting with the all question marks surrounding the Hurricanes secondary, the youngest unit on the defending national champions and considered the most suspect sector of this year's team, which will be facing a left-handed passing machine in the name of Rex Grossman.

Grossman, a top contender for the Heisman Trophy as the nation's best collegiate football player, has exceded or approached most of Florida's all-time passing records in just two seasons. His 55 touchdown passes as a freshman and sophomore combined currently stands as a NCAA Div. I record. And to boot his passing effiency of 167.63 through the 2001 season was the best ever for any quarterback with at least 325 pass attempts.

Even with the departure of Steve Spurrier to the NFL in the off-season, Grossman apparently hasn't missed a beat. He threw for 337 yards and three touchdowns last week. In what was expected to be a quiz before the big test, the Hurricanes gave up 94 passing yards to Florida A&M and heralded quarterback Casey Printers. Bring it on, is the battle-cry from the Hurricanes secondary.

"We practice against the best receivers in the nation day in or day out," said redshirt freshman defensive back Kelly Jennings, who is doubtful for the game with a torn tendon in his right thumb that required surgery. Jennings missed the season-opener. "We have all the confidence in the world that we can go to Gainesville and play some good football. That's what we're expecting anyway."

But Jennings probably hopes he had some help from last year's unit that included Ed Reed, Phillip Buchanon, Mike Rumph and James Lewis, all who are currently playing in the NFL. The 2001 group collected a nation's best 27 interceptions- nine by Reed- and allowed a meager 138 passing yards per game.

"Nothing against those guys because they were all great and brought something to the table, but it's been a lot of fun working with these guys. They are going to be very good sooner than later," said Miami defensive backs coach Mark Stoops.

All of the Hurricanes defensive backs, expect Jennings, were used in the season-opener against the Rattlers to offset four and five receiver sets. Miami played nickel and dime defense most of the night with Al Marshall, Antrel Rolle, Glenn Sharpe and Greg Threat all getting significant playing time.

"They did well," said Stoops.

But it was nothing like they will see against the Gators. Although the Gators have tweaked their offense to balance out the run and pass more to the liking of first-year coach Ron Zook they still have the capability of covering the length of the field- quickly.

Grossman was 16-of-26 against UAB with senior receiver Taylor Jacobs setting a school record with 246 receiving yards, including two TD catches.

"They have a lot of weapons, but we're preparing against Andre Johnson and Roscoe Parrish everyday in practice."

Problem is Johnson and Parrish won't have to worry about Grossman's passes.

The Hurricanes secondary will.

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