Miami Hurricanes vs California Bears
This years 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 theyre 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 QBs in Kevin Riley and Nate Longshore, who have combined for 2300 yds, 23 TDs and just 10 INTs. They also boast the top running back in the PAC-10 in RB Jahvid Best, who has rushed for 1394 yds and 13 TDs. 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 TDs, 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. Miamis 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 TDs 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 havent given up huge passing yards, they only have 4 INTs 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 Marves 13 INTs, 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 TDs coming on the ground and another 20 TDs 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 Miamis weakness, and Jahvid Best should have a big Game here. And Miamis inability to create turnovers will not help them any.
California opened as a 9 pt favorite and the line is currently at 8. Thats 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. Ill take the Cal Bears 8.
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