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Iffy McGee, A&M prepare for Miami

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

It's been a long time since Stephen McGee hasn't started a football game.

McGee's personal iron-man streak reaches back to the fourth grade. But his sprained right shoulder has made his condition questionable heading into Saturday's game against Miami at Kyle Field.

''Yeah, it's been a pretty scary deal for me,'' said McGee, who sustained the injury during the third play of the Aggies' 28-22 victory Sept. 6 against New Mexico. "If God is willing and my injury heals, I'll be ready to go ... It's obviously difficult because I've never been in this situation before."

If McGee can't play, he would be replaced by Jerrod Johnson, who engineered the Aggies' comeback victory after McGee went down. Johnson fired three touchdown passes to spark the triumph, evening A&M's record at 1-1 before last week's bye.

McGee said earlier this week he hasn't had any discomfort as he returned to practice. But A&M coach Mike Sherman isn't expected to make a decision until shortly before game time.

"If I can't go, I'll be preparing to be on the sidelines helping my teammates and being a leader," McGee said. "I want to use my experience to help the team and be beneficial for them. I'll be ready to go either way."

When the matchup between the Aggies and Miami was first announced several years ago, it was expected to be a battle between two of the nation's pre-eminent football powers.

But what a difference a few years can make. Both of the once-proud powers have struggled through some hard times -- as recently as earlier this season.

Miami has lost nine of its last 11 road games, five of them by at least two touchdowns. The Hurricanes have 12 freshmen on their two-deep roster. Their quarterback position is in flux and they'll be missing starting tailback Javarris James, who suffered a high ankle sprain against Florida and isn't expected back for another three weeks.

The Aggies are in just as dire straits after dropping their season opener at home to Arkansas State, a defeat that many observers are quantifying as one of the most disappointing in the school's football history.

Both teams will be looking to turn around their recent struggles and get their seasons headed in the right direction.

Saturday's game is particularly important for Sherman, as he desperately tries to regain some momentum in his first season with conference play looming in two weeks.

That's why having a bye week last week gave him the opportunity to rebuild his team's confidence, despite the season-opening loss and McGee's injury.

"I wouldn't have ever picked to have the off week this time of the season. But it was somewhat fortuitous on our part to have the week off when we did," Sherman said. "We need to get better. We need to improve as a team and it give us a chance to really isolate in practice on some things that we need to work on."

One of the biggest things is to try to get those players remaining from last year to wipe away any memories of Miami's humbling 34-17 victory over the Aggies at the Orange Bowl.

The Hurricanes' talent edge was apparent as they jumped to a 24-0 halftime lead, limiting A&M to 38 yards in the first half. The margin eventually swelled to 31-0 before the Aggies tacked on a couple of late cosmetic touchdowns that made the final margin appear more presentable.

That size and speed has left A&M defensive coordinator Joe Kines with a simple solution as he prepares for Saturday's game.

When asked by reporters earlier this week what he could do to neutralize Miami's athletic ability, the 64-year-old Kines had a quick response that was meant to be a joke.

"Pray," he said with a smile. "You've either got speed or you're chasing it. That's just football. You can't manufacture speed, and you can't coach them to run faster. God and momma gave them most of that.

"If you run fast, you've got a definite advantage. Hopefully, what we've got to do is keep them bottled up before they get out."

Miami coach Randy Shannon, who was Miami's defensive coordinator for six seasons before replacing Larry Coker after the 2006 season, was a part of three of the school's five national championships. But he has similarly struggled with a 6-8 record since taking over.

"They remind me of Miami of old," Kines said. "Coach Shannon is doing a heck of job putting his young program together. He has the recipe [for success]."

Sherman said he's trying to guard his team from getting intimidated by Miami's once-sizable mystique.

"I worry more about us than them," Sherman said. "I worry about how we're doing things. I can't control that mystique and what they are, but we can control what we think about ourselves. I don't think that's going to play into it. We're playing a team in 2008 on this field, and it has nothing to do with the past.

"It has everything to do with how we play. If we play well, we'll do well. If we don't we won't. It's as simple as that."