ARLINGTON, Texas – The hype is finally over, and the University of Miami Hurricanes are set to play the Louisiana State University Tigers on Sunday night in Arlington, Texas.
Miami enters the season ranked 8th in the country, and whether they like it or not, they're the one hope South Florida has for a true championship contender.
While the pro teams in town range from mediocre to solid to promising and awful (you can guess who's who), the 'Canes have the talent and schedule to be in the national title conversation come December.
But it starts with a huge challenge against the Tigers.
I can't stress enough to UM fans who see this as an easy win: Please, think again. LSU is talented. Very talented. They are full of top recruits with lots of speed, especially on defense. Similar to Miami.
The Tigers are far from a pushover.
The one issue LSU does have is they're basically a new offense with lots of question marks, and Miami's strength is on defense. That combination is the reason why UM is the favorite in this game
I wouldn't make too much of the rankings. Every year we see teams outside of the top 25, or just barely in it, make huge leaps in the polls by midseason. The same applies for teams that start in the top 10 and fall out.
The bottom line is both of these teams have superb talent.
UM coach Mark Richt told me last week it's likely one of the most talented teams they'll face all season.
So how does Miami win this game? The formula is as simple as it gets for most tight games. Don't turn the ball over and create turnovers. I know, I know, that's football 101. But in an early season game like this, where teams are trying to learn what they're about, limiting mistakes is the difference between winning and losing.
And we know what happens when Miami creates turnovers.
The "turnover chain" was the hit of college football last season, but it's much more than a gimmick for UM players. It's a lightning rod to turn the game in their favor. The earlier it comes out, the better it is for the Canes to get off to a quick start on the Tigers.
If they do that, LSU's inexperienced offense will have an uphill climb.
The flip side is that Miami's offense has to find a rhythm with Quarterback Malik Rosier. Getting running back Travis Homer involved right off the bat would be wise, but I anticipate a lot of quick series to start the game on both sides.
It wouldn't surprise me to see a 10-7 or 7-3 type of halftime score.
The 'Canes need to overcome any jitters or struggles on the big stage to start the game. It's bound to happen. How they handle that will be crucial.
By the second half, I expect Rosier and the offense will find a nice balance, and the defense will confuse and pressure new LSU starting quarterback Joe Burrow.
I see this being a close game into the fourth quarter, with a late score by Miami allowing them to pull away.
I'll say 'Canes 27-17 over LSU.
But again, if it's a little more stressful than you expected, don't say I didn't warn you.