Ready or Not - Here Comes UM

The coaching staff at Syracuse University has had the privilege of an extra week in preparing for the country's No. 1 college football team. And besides having a few more days to get ready the Orangemen also had the opportunity to watch their next opponent on national television. But it's not quite enough if you ask Syracuse coach Paul Pasqualoni.

"I wish we had closer to a month to prepare for those guys," says Pasqualoni. "You can watch all the film you want and there isn't a lot they do wrong. That's why they are who they are."

Ready or not, Pasqualoni and the Orangemen (4-7, 2-4) will play host to the top-ranked University of Miami Hurricanes (10-0, 5-0) Saturday, Nov. 30, at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse. The Orangemen would partially save their season with an upset victory and derail the Hurricanes chances of a second consecutive national championship.

Miami, riding the nation's longest winning streak at 32, needs to close out the regular season with victories over Syracuse and Virginia Tech (Dec. 7) to secure a spot in the national championship Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, Jan. 3 against the Ohio State Buckeyes. Regardless of the outcome of Saturday's game Syracuse is assured of their first losing season since 1986. Pasqualoni has not had a losing season at Syracuse since taking over in 1991.

"These are the ones that really scare you," said Miami coach Larry Coker, who is 22-0 since replacing Butch Davis in 2001. "They're probably treating this just like a Super Bowl. They're going to be real loose and ready to play us for 60 minutes. Obviously, we can't lose focus of what's at stake for us."

The Hurricanes would move an inch closer to Tempe, Arizona to meet the Buckeyes for the national title with another win. And finally- so they think- start making believers out of plenty of skeptics who still think the Hurricanes are vulnerable despite the unbeaten string that dates back to Sept. 23, 2000. Miami, coming off a 28-21 victory over Pittsburgh in the Orange Bowl last Thursday, is still trying to shake off a reputation of winning ugly. After opening the season with relative ease the Hurricanes have struggled at times. But the end result is what matters most, says Coker.

"You can look at the games and come to the conclusion that well the Hurricanes just aren't that good this season," said Coker. "But a lot of people fail to understand that when team's see Miami on their schedule they tend to play their best. A lot of teams we forget there is a team across the way (on the other sideline)."

The Orangemen have been plagued by an inconsistent defense that has allowed over 500 yards of offense in the last three games. In their last outing, a 40-21 defeat at Boston College, Syracuse surrendered 511 yards of offense to the Eagles. Syracuse has given up 30 or more point in six of their seven losses this year. The Orangemen rank 111th in total defense, allowing 467.55 yards a game.

"Its not a secret. If we can't stop them then we won't win," said Pasqualoni.

Syracuse has lost three straight in the series and the Hurricanes have outscored the Orangemen 130-13 in those contests. Miami leads the all-time series 13-7.

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