The challenging part of Miami’s schedule arrives
CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — The last two games have turned into easy wins for Miami.
The level of difficulty is about to rise considerably, with no end in sight to that trend, either.
Out of the 125 teams at the highest level of college football, only 34 are still undefeated — and seven of those teams are among the nine left on Miami’s schedule. The Hurricanes (2-1) visit No. 24 Nebraska (3-0) on Saturday, a nationally televised matchup and a rekindling of what was once one of the sport’s top rivalries.
A crowd of more than 90,000 is expected, meaning the game should easily become one of the top-10 most-attended in Miami history.
“Any big win like that would elevate our program,” Miami center Shane McDermott said after practice Monday. “Nebraska has a great defense. We’re getting ready to go up there, give them our all. To beat any big program like that, of course, that would be a very big deal.”
It’s still mid-September, and plenty of teams on Miami’s schedule have feasted on overmatched opponents so far. So have the Hurricanes, who followed the season-opening loss at Louisville with easy and largely predictable wins over Florida A&M and Arkansas State.
But no one can argue that most of the teams left for Miami this season are off to flying starts.
“Talented football team,” Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said Monday of the Hurricanes. “Should be a fun weekend. ... We need to have a great week of preparation to get ready for this football team.”
The combined record of Miami’s remaining opponents right now is 21-2, with Duke (3-0), Georgia Tech (3-0), Cincinnati (1-0), North Carolina (2-0), No. 1 Florida State (2-0) and Pittsburgh (3-0) still unbeaten. The only remaining Hurricane regular-season foes that have been beaten so far are Virginia Tech (2-1) and Virginia (2-1).
Plus, eight of those nine remaining teams went to bowls last season.
“It’s a challenging schedule,” Miami coach Al Golden said Monday, repeating something he’s said at other points this season.
Golden is also very quick to say that, for now, no other game besides Nebraska matters to Miami. It’s the first meeting between the schools since the Hurricanes easily defeated the Cornhuskers 37-14 in the Rose Bowl, a victory that gave Miami the 2001 national championship — the school’s fifth and most recent title.
“It’s a one-game mission,” Golden said. “We came over here with a good attitude and put our ego down and learned from our mistakes in the game the other day. We’re still at a point where we have numerous mistakes that we have to correct in all three phases. I thought we did that today. Obviously we got better and we have to have a great practice tomorrow.”
Miami’s quarterback depth might get a boost, if needed.
True freshman Brad Kaaya threw for 342 yards and four touchdowns against Arkansas State, and offensive coordinator James Coley said he “absolutely” expects Kaaya to remain the starter.
But senior Ryan Williams, who’s been recovering from knee surgery earlier this year, is getting closer to a return, Golden said.
“Ryan has been cleared,” Golden said. “He’s been cleared for the last two weeks to progress as he can. He looked good out there today, took some reps with the 1′s and 2′s. That was positive.”
Golden decline to say if Williams may play this weekend.
“We’ll review the tape and see where Ryan’s at,” Golden said.
NOTES: K Matt Goudis, who didn’t play against Arkansas State because of continued back pain, was held out of practice Monday and will be evaluated throughout the week before Miami decides on a starter there for Nebraska. ... WR Stacy Coley is expected to play against the Cornhuskers. He missed last weekend with a shoulder injury. ... Golden said the suspension of reserve QB Kevin Olsen, who was arrested early Monday on DUI and other charges, “doesn’t affect anything.” Olsen has never thrown a pass for the Hurricanes.