All the cliches apply. Its a backyard brawl. There’s no love lost between these two. It’s the battle for Miami. So many of these players know each other. For the record, I hate these cliches. When the Miami Hurricanes play FIU Saturday at 3:30pm, it will be the first time the schools have met since 2007.
The infamous brawl in 2006 effectively ended the series until now. They’re scheduled to play in 2019 again, either at Marlins Park or Hard Rock stadium. Regardless of venue, that would be technically an FIU hosted game.
As for this Saturday, Miami will be without two of its best players yet again. Ahmonn Richards will miss his third consecutive game, and senior All-American Jaquan Johnson will miss the game with a hamstring injury suffered in last week’s win.
As I said in last week’s Toledo game preview, I believe Mark Richt and his staff are holding Richards out until conference play starts next Thursday night. Johnson’s situation however, is tricky. Hamstrings can be lingering injuries, and if it compromises Johnson’s ability to play aggressively, Miami’s secondary could be in trouble. Amari Carter will start, Robert Knowles and Gurvan Hall should play quite a bit in Johnson’s absence.
UM will also have to overcome extreme attrition at the tight end position. Brian Polendey was declared out for the year this week, joining Michael Irvin II, leaving only two scholarship tight ends on the roster. Though there’s been much speculation on guys like Darrell Langham or even Trayone Gray getting snaps there, it seems for now the coaches are content with their two freshmen.
Malik Rosier is coming off his best game since midway through last season, even though he only had to complete 13 passes. He scored five total touchdowns and completed some enormous third down conversions with his arm and his legs. Lawrence Cager played by far his best game of the young season, and Jeff Thomas continued to show he’s the most dynamic player on the roster.
On the FIU side
As for the Panthers, they’re also 2-1, with a conference road win on their resume so far, and scored 63 points last week. They’re led by a run first attack, with four running backs having at least 15 carries through three games. They obviously recruit south Florida well, and come into the season with the second-highest ranked recruiting class in Conference USA. Both teams have about 45 players from Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties.
FIU brings a solid offensive line and tons of team speed into this matchup, but Miami should overwhelm or at least wear them down with pure size, strength, and depth. It doesn’t bode well for a run heavy team vs a Hurricanes defense that leads the nation in tackles for loss through Week 3.
I think Miami should be just fine Saturday, even if FIU comes out flying and motivated in front of a packed house. Don’t be surprised at a trick play early from the Panthers. I’ve got UM 45-17, maybe a bit closer than most expect at halftime. Rosier continues his good play, and at some point, someone other than Jeff Thomas will catch a deep ball or two. Sign me up for it being Brian Hightower on Saturday.