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Emerald Bowl: Miami (7-5) vs. Cal (8-4)

12/8/2008

Dec. 27, 8 p.m., (ESPN)

Miami take by ACC blogger Heather Dinich: Miami is back in the postseason after missing it last year, a small but important step in getting the program back to where it needs to be. The Hurricanes have depended on young playmakers all season, and the defense has struggled in the Canes' past two losses against Georgia Tech and NC State. They'll have to improve their running defense to stop talented sophomore Jahvid Best, who has 1,394 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns this season.

Maryland was able to hold Best to just 25 yards on Sept. 13 in a 35-27 win, but this time, Cal won't have to travel across the country. Miami has the No. 2 scoring offense in the ACC, but has been inconsistent behind the play of quarterbacks Robert Marve and Jacory Harris. The young receivers have also had a few drops this season. Miami has 19 interceptions and 20 touchdowns, and will face the Pac-10's leader in interceptions (21) and the No. 2 scoring defense. The Canes have been at their best when Graig Cooper and Javarris James get the ground game going. Cal finished its seasons with back-to-back wins, while the Hurricanes lost their final two. The Canes lead the series 2-1.


Cal take by Pac-10 blogger Ted Miller: Miami, one of the nation's youngest -- and most talentedteams -- appeared to hit a wall in losing its final two games, giving up an eye-popping 691 yards rushing in losses to Georgia Tech and North Carolina State.

That likely will catch Cal coach Jeff Tedford's and running back Jahvid Best's eyes. But Miami's youth also includes speed and ability, and true freshmen defensive linemen Marcus Robinson, an end, and Marcus Forston, a tackle, look like budding stars who will give the Bears' injury-riddled offensive line trouble.

The Hurricanes used two quarterbacks, Robert Marve and Jacory Harris, and both have been inconsistent this season. With youth comes turnovers, and Miami ranks 101st in the nation in turnover margin, while Cal is seventh. A lot of that is due to a huge disparity in interceptions. Miami ranks last in the nation with just four picks. The Bears are third with 23.

Moreover, it may be a challenge for a young team to travel 3,000 miles away from its comfort-zone, seeing that Miami and the Bay Area couldn't be more different. On the other hand, Cal's players already expressed disappointment they were stuck staying at home instead of traveling for a bowl game -- they finished fourth in the Pac-10 and should be playing in the Las Vegas Bowl but a business deal was made to benefit the Emerald Bowl -- so maybe it will be the Bears who show up flat.