- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 6, 2008

Beware the young and hungry.

When rebuilding Miami wades into the Swamp to meet No. 5 Florida in Saturday night’s marquee matchup, the oddsmakers expect to see a Sunshine State shellacking.

Thanks to coach Urban Meyer, Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow and perhaps the fastest college roster ever assembled, Gainesville is the state’s, if not the nation’s, football capital. After all, Tebow and Co. are favored to win the toughest division (SEC East) in the toughest conference in America.

And Miami? Well, the Hurricanes (1-0) are a mere shadow of the powerhouse that terrorized opponents around the dawn of the decade. Now in the second season of the Randy Shannon era, Miami is attempting to rebound from last season’s 5-7 campaign behind a pair of freshman quarterbacks and one of the nation’s least experienced rosters.

The result on paper is a 22 1/2-point spread that has the Hurricanes salivating for respect and the Gators (1-0) falling all over themselves to praise their southern neighbors.

“I consider them the most talented team in college football,” Meyer said. “When you just watch speed and watch guys run and watched the size and athleticism, we won’t play anyone more talented. … I asked [former coach Steve] Spurrier about that one time in a meeting, and he told me that he always used to talk about how much he wanted to play Miami but that deep down he didn’t want to face that team.”

While Meyer is laying it on a bit thick, Miami has one commodity few other teams can match: speed. Though young, the Hurricanes brought in a consensus top-five recruiting class this season, and 21 of those true freshman made an appearance in Miami’s 52-7 opening-week trouncing of Charleston Southern.

Most BCS-conference teams have speed at the skill positions. But what concerns Meyer is Miami has players who can fly on every unit, most unusually in a defensive front seven that returns standout defensive ends Eric Moncur and Allen Bailey from injury this week to join freshmen dynamos like linebacker Marcus Robinson and defensive tackle Marcus Forston.

Florida’s entire offense is predicated on identifying, isolating and victimizing matchup inequalities between its electric set of playmakers and opposing defenses. Miami’s team speed and athleticism makes finding those matchups more difficult.

Though most teams fear Florida’s quick-strike offense, Miami’s primary challenge Saturday night likely will be finding a semblance of an offense behind redshirt freshman quarterback Robert Marve, who will make the first start of his career. At least Marve has an experienced offensive line in front of him and a pair of capable backs behind him in Javarris James and Graig Cooper.

“I haven’t played football in a while, so it will be nice to be out there under center,” Marve said. “We are going to go out there and have fun. I just need to keep my head on straight. It is just a game.”

Try explaining that to the 90,000 fans at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. But that’s the beauty of youth; Marve might not know what to expect. Perhaps a swarm of disrespected young players with nothing to lose and no scar tissue to remember can begin the restoration of Miami - and the ACC - in the most unlikely fashion.

“I think it’d be a tremendous boost for us and also the Atlantic Coast Conference. [The ACC is] always looked at as not a strong conference, but this win would give us some lift and the conference some growth to it,” Shannon said. “This is a tremendous opportunity for this university to see where we are as a program.”

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