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(9) Miami-Florida (9-2) vs. (10) L-S-U (10-2)



Friday, December 30th - 7:30 p.m. (et)

The Sports Network

By Pat Taggart, College Football Staff Writer

GAME NOTES: In what may be the most intriguing non-BCS matchup of this bowl season, the ninth-ranked Miami Hurricanes and 10th-ranked LSU Tigers are set to square off in the Chik-fil-A Peach Bowl in Atlanta, Georgia. Miami returns to the Peach Bowl for the third time, including one year ago when the team defeated Florida by a score of 27-10. The Hurricanes finished 9-2 in the regular season and placed second in the Coastal Division of the ACC. Their only two losses came by a total of seven points against Florida State and Georgia Tech. Miami is making its 32nd bowl appearance and owns an 18-13 record, reaching that point by winning seven of its last eight bowl games. As for LSU, it was trounced by underdog Georgia in the SEC championship game by a score of 34-14 at the Georgia Dome, and it is ironic that the Tigers will play this bowl game on the same field. They figured to be headed for a BCS bout, but that painful defeat kept the program out of a one of the four top matchups. LSU is making its fourth Peach Bowl appearance and is 3-0 all-time as a participant in this event. The program is 17-18-1 in its bowl history and has lost two of its last three after winning five straight. LSU holds an 8-3 series lead over Miami, and the teams are meeting for just the second time in the last 36 years. The programs last collided in 1988, and the result was a resounding 44-3 victory by the Hurricanes.

Miami tailback Tyrone Moss has a torn ACL in his left knee and will miss the Peach Bowl. He rushed for 701 yards with 12 touchdowns and a 5.1 average on 137 carries for the Hurricanes this season, and there is no doubt that his experience and toughness will be missed. Sophomore Charlie Jones is expected to take Moss' spot in the lineup, and he has run for 457 yards and five scores thus far. It should be pointed out that his average of 4.0 ypc falls well short of the mark established by Moss, so Jones certainly has something to prove. If Miami can't run the ball effectively, more pressure will be put on young quarterback Kyle Wright to perform. Wright has completed 59.4 percent of his passes this season for 2,303 yards with 18 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions. Wright's favorite receiver has been Sinorice Moss, younger brother of NFL standout Santana Moss, who leads the way with 35 catches for 604 yards and six touchdowns. Miami is averaging 29.3 ppg and 371.3 total ypg, and the club has turned the ball over 22 times. Without Tyrone Moss and no true star on the outside, the Hurricanes aren't nearly as formidable offensively as they have been in years past.

While Miami is rather mediocre offensively, the squad undoubtedly possesses one of the nation's top defensive units. The Hurricanes are limiting their foes to just 11.9 ppg and 252.1 total ypg, numbers that are especially impressive considering that the team competes in the ACC. Running the ball effectively against the 'Canes has proven nearly impossible, as they are yielding a mere 103.9 ypg and 2.7 ypc. Miami has been even better against the pass, as opposing quarterbacks have completed far below 50 percent of their passes with six touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Miami has registered 28 takeaways and 31 sacks, and opponents have only been able to move the chains on 28 percent of their third down conversion attempts. There are several players who have contributed to the defensive success of the Hurricanes. Rocky McIntosh leads the club with 80 total tackles, including 10 TFLs and 5.5 sacks, while Brandon Meriweather has recorded 78 stops, including 11.5 TFLs, and he has registered three interceptions as well. Three different players have three interceptions, and Javon Nanton leads the way with 6.5 sacks.

LSU does not have a quarterback, tailback or receiver on either the First or Second All-SEC squads. Sure, the Tigers do not possess one of the nation's premier offenses, but there is enough talent in the lineup to do some damage. The team is averaging 28.6 ppg and 366.2 total ypg, and sophomore quarterback JaMarcus Russell was entrusted with running the offense. However, a shoulder injury will keep Russell out of the lineup against Miami, paving the way for QB Matt Flynn to take over under center. Russell completed 60.5 percent of his passes for 2,443 yards and 15 touchdowns with only nine interceptions this year, so replacing his production won't come easy. Flynn played sparingly in eight games in 2005, completing only 53.8 percent of his passes (14-of-26), for 261 yards and five TDs. The top receiver is Dwayne Bowe, who has scored nine times and racked up 659 yards on only 38 catches. As for the ground attack, Joseph Addai has started 11 of the 12 games for LSU and has rushed for 781 yards and eight scores. Skyler Green hasn't done much as a receiver for the Tigers, but he is one of the better punt returners in the nation and helps the offense tremendously with regard to field position.

Like Miami, LSU is much better on the defensive side of the ball than on offense. Despite the loss to Georgia, the Tigers closed out their schedule ranked among the top eight in the nation in four categories, including the top five in total defense (276 ypg) and pass efficiency defense (97.5 rating). They also ranked seventh against the run (94.8 ypg) and eighth in scoring defense (15.2 ppg). Several players contributed to those strong numbers, and we will discuss three individuals specifically. Defensive tackle Kyle Williams has earned a spot on the AP All-America Second Team, as he has recorded 60 tackles, including 7.5 TFLs and 4.5 sacks. He has also posted 21 QB hurries, four pass break-ups and a blocked field goal. The team's other defensive tackle, Claude Wroten, earned First-Team All-SEC honors along with Williams. He has 45 tackles thus far, including 9.5 TFLs and five sacks. Junior free safety LaRon Landry was named a Third Team All-American, and he ranks third on the Tigers with 65 tackles and first with three interceptions.

Aside from the USC-Texas matchup and Notre Dame-Ohio State clash, this game between Miami and LSU may draw the most attention among college football fans. The Tigers and 'Canes are evenly matched in many ways, so expect this one to be decided in the closing minutes.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Miami-Florida 20, LSU 17

12/28 10:19:27 ET


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