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September 1, 2006

Miami, FSU set for another priceless opener

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If they had their way, Bobby Bowden and Larry Coker would prefer to play this game later in the season.

But once, again neither Florida State nor Miami will be its normal, polished self when they kick off at the Orange Bowl on Labor Day (8 p.m., ESPN).

Being thrown from preseason practice into the biggest game of the year isn't an ideal way to start the season, but the free publicity of playing the game on Labor Day is priceless.

"You can't buy that kind of exposure," Bowden said. "I don't think either one of us likes to open with the other. You've got to bring your 'A' game and your 'A' game is not there yet."

Both coaches found out how true that was last season.

Miami lost 10-7 despite limiting FSU quarterback Drew Weatherford to 7-of-24 passing for 67 yards and an interception.

The fact that Miami quarterback Kyle Wright was sacked nine times in the game helped end Miami's recent dominance in the series. The Hurricanes also botched a potential game-tying field goal with 2:30 remaining.

Since then, Miami has gone through several changes. There are four new assistant coaches on the staff, including offensive coordinator Rich Olson.

The Hurricanes will also be without starting running back Tyrone Moss, who was suspended for the first two games, and wide receiver Ryan Moore - who has been suspended indefinitely.

"The players have responded and moved forward," Coker said. "Our players are getting comfortable with new coaches and the players we have in the game who are going to play against Florida State."

The Seminoles hope to start a modest win streak in the series after last year's victory in Tallahassee.

How will things shake out Monday? We'll let you know in Rivals.com's Game of the Week Breakdown for Florida State-Miami:

Week 1 Games of the Week: Florida State at Miami
Florida State offense vs. Miami defense: Miami's defense was one of the best in the country last year and returns enough talent this season to lead the conference again. Florida State receivers Greg Carr and Chris Davis will go up against new starters at cornerback, but the FSU tandem will have to be prepared to take hits from two of the nation's best safeties - Brandon Meriweather and Kenny Phillips. After FSU's offensive line struggled a year ago, touted junior college transfer Shannon Boatman will have an instant test when he faces Miami defensive end Baraka Atkins. Edge: Miami
Miami offense vs. Florida State defense: Once again, Miami has a lack of star power on offense. Look for the Seminoles, led by linebacker Lawrence Timmons, to gang up on Rivals.com second-team All-American tight end Greg Olsen. Miami will need to find impact players at other positions, which could be a tough task. Charlie Jones will step in for Moss. Darnell Jenkins, who had 242 receiving yards last year, will lead the receiving corps in the absence of Moore. Edge: Florida State
Miami special teams vs. Florida State special teams: Florida State will have to start over in its return game with the departure of punt returner Willie Reid and the dismissal of kickoff returner Kenny O'Neal. The Seminoles will use senior Chris Davis on punt returns and sophomore Jamaal Edwards on kickoff returns. Despite losing top punt returner Devin Hester, Miami will get the edge in special teams given Florida State's traditional kicking woes in this game. Hurricanes kicker Jon Peattie was All-Big East last year.
Edge: Miami
Miami coaches vs. Florida State coaches: The defenses are run by two of the best in the business in Miami's Randy Shannon and Florida State's Mickey Andrews. Miami cleaned house during the offseason, replacing four assistant coaches. The new coaches - including new offensive coordinator Olson - added a wrinkle to FSU's preparation, Bobby Bowden said. Miami's newcomers get the call over beleaguered FSU offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden. Edge: Miami
Miami will win if: Its defense contains Weatherford and running backs Lorenzo Booker and Antone Smith. Olsen has a game similar to last year's (eight catches, 137 yards).
Florida State will win if: The Seminoles can cause nightmares for Wright. Weatherford plays like he did in the final two games last season and not like he did against UM last year.
X-Factor: Miami's true freshmen. Following the suspensions and Moss and Moore, the Hurricanes will put a number of true freshmen in key roles. Wide receivers Sam Shields and Ryan Hill and running back Javarris James are all expected to play in the opener in reserve roles. How well they perform could determine the Hurricanes' fate.
Notes: For the third consecutive year, a major storm affected preparation for the game. Hurricane Frances cut practices short in 2004, then Hurricane Katrina in 2005. This year it was Tropical Storm Ernesto, which made landfall in South Florida on Wednesday night. Miami had won six games in a row in the series before Florida State's win last year in Tallahassee. A year ago both quarterbacks, Wright and Weatherford, made their first career starts against each other. Punter Brian Monroe is likely to see action at wide receiver for the Hurricanes.
Fox's pick: Miami, 17-10
Other Rivals.com Expert picks:
Olin Buchanan, national college football writer: Miami, 20-16
Bobby Burton, editor-in-chief: Miami, 31-28
Bill King, RivalsRadio host: Miami, 17-16
Steve Megargee, national college football writer: Miami, 17-14
Jenn Sterger, Tailgate TV: Florida State, 20-17
Make your picks on Rivals.com Pick 'Em.

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