SYRACUSE, N.Y. Miami trying to finish the job
The Hurricanes must beat the Orangemen and Virginia Tech for a berth in the Fiesta Bowl.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) -- About all Syracuse has left to play for this season is disrupting Miami's march to another national title.
Beating the No. 1 Hurricanes might make the year seem a lot better than it's been for the Orangemen (4-7, 2-4 Big East).
"I think this is a benchmark game for them," Miami coach Larry Coker said. "It would give them credibility and would be a great way to begin their offseason."
Syracuse has tumbled far after last year's 10-victory season. Its streak of 15 straight winning seasons is over and it's not going to a bowl game.
"We just have to match their intensity, try to play every play 100 percent and try to do everything right," Syracuse fullback Thump Belton said. "I don't look at Miami as just an over-dominant team. They've got a 32-game winning streak, and that's great for the program, but people don't win games on reputation all the time. We found that out the hard way."
If Miami wins at Syracuse on Saturday, then defeats Virginia Tech in the regular-season finale, the Hurricanes (10-0, 5-0) will meet No. 2 Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl.
"We know what we have to do. We know where we are," Coker said. "We know the challenge we have, and as we've stated all along, the thing we have to do is win the games. If we win the games, then we're going to be set up in the system."
Syracuse did beat Miami twice in a row when current Philadelphia Eagles star Donovan McNabb was at quarterback, including a 66-13 rout in the Carrier Dome four years ago. But the Hurricanes were reeling from NCAA probation then.
The Orangemen haven't exactly given the Hurricanes a tough time lately. Miami won their last two meetings by a combined 85-0.
Miami has struggled at times this season, though, including narrow victories over Rutgers and Pittsburgh.
"Pitt controlled the ball. They did a great job of running the ball, picking their spots when they had to throw the ball, and their guys made plays," Syracuse quarterback Troy Nunes said. "If you're going to have any chance against Miami, your guys are going to have to come to play. If there's an opportunity, you've got to take it. You can't let opportunities pass you by against this team."
In the last three games, Syracuse has allowed 539 yards to Central Florida, 604 yards to Virginia Tech, and 511 yards to Boston College. Overall, the Orangemen rank 111th in the country in total defense, yielding 468 yards per game.
That doesn't bode well heading into a game against Miami, which features quarterback Ken Dorsey (242.7 yards per game) and tailback Willis McGahee (134.7 ypg).
And on the other side of the ball, Miami linebackers D.J. Williams and Jon Vilma help anchor the best pass defense in the country (111 ypg). No opponent this season has surpassed 200 yards, and four were held under 100. Syracuse averaged 179 yards passing in its 10 Division I-A games.
No wonder Miami center Brett Romberg is thinking ahead.
"Ohio State is the undefeated team and they're waiting for us," Romberg said. "We've got to concentrate on winning football games and we'll definitely have our plane tickets for the Fiesta Bowl."