My pick: Miami 27, Tennessee 10

After watching Tennessee throw the ball with great success in the fourth quarter against Auburn and in overtime against Alabama, many Vol fans figure the Big Orange's best chance to beat Miami this Saturday is to put the ball in the air.

Well ... maybe not. You see, the Hurricanes have one of the finest pass defenses in all of college football. They rank No. 3 nationally in passing yards allowed (148.13 per game) and No. 8 in pass efficiency defense (98.47 rating). By comparison, Tennessee ranks 27th in passing yards allowed (195.8 per game) and 58th in pass efficiency defense (121.6 rating).

In its last two outings, Miami limited Temple and Virginia Tech to a combined total of seven completions in 22 attempts for a measley 65 net passing yards. Forty-six of those yards came on one Tech touchdown pass. Amazingly, that was the only pass Tech completed all day which produced positive yardage.

Still think Tennessee's best chance to win is by filling the air with footballs?

Probably so ... and that's what's scary. The thing Tennessee's offense does best is the thing least likely to work against the Hurricanes' defense.

Even without first-team cornerback Antrel Rolle (suspended for the UT game for fighting last weekend vs. Virginia Tech), Miami has the finest secondary Tennessee will face all season. The key figure is junior free safety Sean Taylor, who Vol head man Phillip Fulmer says ''may be the best defensive player in the country.''

Taylor reminds some observers of former UT All-American Al Wilson, who began his career at safety before finding a home at linebacker. Fulmer sees one difference, though.

''Taylor (6-3, 230) is bigger than Al,'' the Vol head man said. ''Al wasn't as tall.''

UT offensive coordinator Randy Sanders noted that ''The other safety (Mo Sikes) doesn't get as much attention but he's a really good player. And the corners ... you don't see anybody getting very open. You see some guys catching balls but it's usually because they made a play, not because the corner was out of position. I went back and looked at last year's depth chart, and it's the same eight guys (in Miami's defensive backfield).

''It's going to be a tremendous challenge to get loose in the secondary.''

Tennessee's best bet to beat Miami was to catch the 'Canes on a day when they were flat. That probably won't happen now that Larry Coker's team is coming off its upset loss to Virginia Tech. The Hurricanes should be focused this weekend ... which is bad news for Tennessee.

''I'd rather they had been beating everybody by 50 points,'' Sanders said. ''You hope you catch them a little overconfident. I'm sure they'll be mad and play hard.''

In addition to a great pass defense and a ton of motivation, Miami has another factor weighing heavily in its favor this weekend: The Hurricanes have won 26 consecutive home games, the average margin being a mind-boggling 31.3 points.

Can Tennessee overcome all of these obstacles and prevail? I doubt it.

My pick: Miami 27, Tennessee 10.

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