vs California Bears
This yearís Emerald Bowl from AT&T Park in San Francisco, CA. pits
the ACC Miami Hurricanes (7-5) against the hometown PAC-10
California Bears (8-4). California should have a decided advantage
in this game as all they have to do is drive across the San
Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge (about 10 miles) and they are there.
Miami will have to travel over 3000 miles and cross 3 time zones to
get there. Plus, they will probably be interested in a little
sight-seeing while theyíre there as well. Both of these teams would
probably be the first to admit that they had disappointing seasons.
California started out the year with a huge win over visiting
Michigan State, and they were 4-1 coming off of their bye week on
Oct 18. But they then proceeded to lose 3 of their next 5 games to
knock them out of the national rankings. They did finish strong
though, with 2 consecutive home wins over Bay Area rival Stanford,
and the Washington Huskies, out-scoring those teams by a combined
85-23. Their 6-3 conference record was good for a 4th place finish
in the PAC-10.
The Bears have 2 capable QBís in Kevin Riley and Nate Longshore, who
have combined for 2300 yds, 23 TDís and just 10 INTís. They also
boast the top running back in the PAC-10 in RB Jahvid Best, who has
rushed for 1394 yds and 13 TDís. As a team, the Bears have the 4th
ranked rushing game in the conference with an average of 183 ypg.
On defense, California has the 3rd ranked unit in the conference,
giving up an average of just 315 ypg, and are ranked 2nd in scoring
defense, giving up an average of just 20 pts per game. They are also
the top ranked team in turnover margin with a +1.17 per game.
As a team, the Bears have put up over 4500 yds of offense and 44
TDís, including 24 on the ground and 20 through the air.
Miami started out rather poorly and were at just 2-3 after 5 games.
They then caught fire though, winning their next 5 games in a row to
put themselves in position to win the ACC Coastal Division and play
for the championship. But then consecutive double-digit losses to
conference foes Georgia Tech and North Carolina St. killed those
aspirations, and ended their season on a sour note. Miamiís usually
staunch defense was extremely inconsistent over the course of the
season. They held 3 conference foes to 17 pts or less, and they held
the explosive Florida Gator offense to just 3 TDís and a FG in an
early-season 26-3 loss. But then they gave up 38+ pts each in losses
to Florida State, Georgia Tech and North Carolina St., and they even
gave up 31 pts to conference doormat Duke.
The defense has had trouble stopping the run this year, as they are
giving up an average of close to 150 ypg. And although they havenít
given up huge passing yards, they only have 4 INTís in 12 games, one
of the lowest numbers in the nation.
But they can put up some points on offense though as, after that
Florida game, they went on to average a respectable 28 pts per game.
The Hurricanes have been led by QB Robert Marve, a redshirt
freshman, for the most part, but do alternate in another freshman,
QB Jacory Harris, for a change of pace. And sometimes they just go
with the one with the hot hand. Marve got most of the snaps in the
first half of the season, but Harris has seen nearly half the snaps
in the 2nd half of the season. However, Marve has been suspended for
this game due to academics, so Harris will be on his own in this
one. That might not be a huge issue though, as Harris has the higher
completion percentage (60%-54%) and better TD to INT ratio (10/6 to
9/13). In fact, if you take away Marveís 13 INTís, Miami has only
turned the ball over 10 times. As a team, the Hurricanes have put up
just over 3900 yds of offense with 1561 yds rushing and 2364 yds
passing, with 17 TDís coming on the ground and another 20 TDís
through the air.
Miami has done well in post-season play and have won 8 of their last
10 bowl games. But California has done well recently as well, with a
4-1 record under current coach Jeff Tedford. I think Miami may be in
for it in this one though, as they will not have the luxury of
having Marve available. If Jacory Harris has problems with this Bear
defense, he will have to deal with it alone. This is almost like a
home game for California, and 3000 miles is a long way to travel for
a team that had hopes of winning the ACC but then ended the season
losing a couple of huge games by double-digits. Cal, on the other
hand finished the season strong and should be fired up in front of
the hometown crowd. The Bears strong running attack plays right into
Miamiís weakness, and Jahvid Best should have a big game here. And
Miamiís inability to create turnovers will not help them any.
California opened as a Ė9 pt favorite and the line is currently at
Ė8. Thatís a lot of points to give, but to me, the signs all point
to a strong Bear showing and probably another double-digit loss for
the Hurricanes. Iíll take the Cal Bears Ė8.