5 Things to Watch: Florida

The Hurricanes are a day away from the biggest game of the Randy Shannon era and CanesTime.com's Larry Cole is here to give you three storylines of the game you need to watch tomorrow tonight.

1. Speed of the Game.
Florida is loaded with team speed. From Percy Harvin – who will return to action for this game – to Chris Rainey, to Joe Demps, to Louis Murphy, to Brandon James the Gators are loaded on offensive skill position players that base their entire game on speed, speed, more speed, and the big play. The Hurricanes offense hasn't proven they possess the ability to retaliate against a big play in the Randy Shannon era. The Hurricanes possess newly infused team speed, but it is young and unproven.
Why you have to watch? Florida's offense and firepower is predicated on their team speed.

2. Third Downs.
Last season, Florida was vulnerable on third downs allowing teams to convert 41% of third downs against them. If the Hurricanes could see marked improvement in the area and convert closer to 50% of their third downs (as they did versus CSU) there is success to be had. However, the Hurricanes last season only converted on third down 31% of the time in 2007 and haven't been tested yet. First and second down will be key in keeping third downs short and manageable.
Why you have to watch? They will be vital in determining the success of the Hurricanes offense and keeping Florida's off the field.

Special Teams.
Great Miami Hurricane teams have had great special teams. The return game has been dormant since Devin Hester moved on to play in the NFL. Randy Shannon put an emphasis on improved special teams on the season and against Charleston Southern it paid dividends with a score and great field position throughout the night. Matt Bosher has taken over as the jack of all trades kicker for the Hurricanes place kicking on field goals and extra points, kicking off, and punting. Florida has Jonathan Phillips an unproven senior kicker and Chas Henry returns as the punter after having 53.0 net yard per punt versus Hawaii.
Why you have to watch? The field position battle is paramount to success.

4. The Trenches.
Both the Gators and Hurricanes bring back experienced offensive lines with lots of talent and defensive lines that feature a bevy of young players. One of Miami's strengths going into the season was the stability and power on the offensive line in both the running and passing game, but it didn't look as menacing in the team's first game versus Charleston Southern. Florida features an elite pass rushing prospect in Carlos Dunlap that will match up against ‘Cane stalwart Jason Fox in one of the most intriguing match ups of the day. The Hurricanes will play potentially seven defensive ends – five will be first or second year players against a Florida offensive line that allowed only 13 sacks a year ago.
Why you have to watch? When isn't a game determined by play in the trenches?

5. A Puncher's Chance.
Every Apollo Creed has his Rocky Balboa. On the eve of the Hurricanes trip to Gainesville, it seems as though every major media market has the Hurricanes pegged to lose before they even step on the field. Despite it, once the whistle blows and the opening kickoff takes place any and all rational line of thinking is thrown out the window when two heated rivals take the field. Hurricane players have already taken note of being labeled the underdog. They are going up against one of the best teams in college football currently that returns a great offense that ranked 3rd in scoring last season. They are as fast as any team in the country. They return the reigning Heisman trophy winner. They have depth at the skill positions that rival any in the country. The Hurricanes are a shell of their former National Championship winning selves. In playing 21 true freshmen in their opener versus Charleston Southern, they are as young as any team in the country – 40+ first or second year players are on the roster. But, what has sport taught us more than anything is that even when the chips are stacked against you, the underdog has a chance, especially in college sports. A season ago, the world saw Appalachian State defeat a top ranked Michigan team and a heavily favored Southern Cal lose to Stanford. Anything is possible. The first quarter and a half will be key here. Urban Meyer will attempt to blow out the Hurricanes to prove a point and send a message to prospective recruits. How will the Gators react when they can't blow Miami out early? How will the Hurricanes react to a big play by Florida (which will happen) or getting down early?
Why you have to watch? It is the most important game in the Randy Shannon era at the University of Miami. They are underdogs to their greatest rival. Any and all breakdowns on paper get thrown out the window when games like this area played. Why do you need more of a reason to watch this then that?

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