Upset-minded Syracuse is headed south; the Orange eight days past their stunning home upset of second-ranked Clemson. Across the field, a Miami Hurricanes squad that’s relied on back-to-back mini-miracles en route to much-needed conference wins over Florida State and Georgia Tech.

Put it all together and the week’s media narrative is as-expected; home squad on upset alert, while ignoring Miami’s strength and playing up why Syracuse’s fast-paced offense is set to give the Canes fit.

Lots of chatter about Dino Babers and what he’s done year two with the Orange; working under Mike Leach and learning the air raid offense at Texas Tech, followed by a stint at Baylor under Art Briles, where the veer and shoot was perfected. Babers put his offensive stamp on Bowling Green in the two years prior to taking over at Syracuse—where his Orange—currently 4-3—has already matched last season’s win total seven games in.

Networks need narrative to get folks to tune in—especially regarding a match-up where Miami’s opponent has zero national appeal. The eighth-ranked Canes are undefeated and looking to make some noise this season; so build a case as to why the Orange can do what they did against Clemson, to Miami—proving that upset wasn’t a fluke.

Last week’s assessment from ESPN’s talking heads—Rod Gilmore and Mark Jones in the booth for Miami’s win over Georgia Tech; the Canes were big-headed and unfocused courtesy taking down Florida State at Doak Campbell. Too many “pats on the back” was the diagnosis when UM started slow offensively and trailed 14-3 after the first quarter.

Anytime a Malik Rosier pass sailed incomplete, a receiver dropped a ball or running back Travis Homer was stopped at the line—the diagnoses was the same. Miami was believing its own hype was the culprit. Forget the fact that the Canes had started slow and rallied late in each of the past three games—Gilmore and Jones we’re looking to shoot holes regarding Miami being “back”; yet it’s the media that fuels the narrative, not players or coaches.


Enter veteran head coach Mark Richt as a voice of reason; a calm, cool, experienced equalizer who both keeps his kids in check, while also laying waste to any fabricated media nonsense or pointless drama.

Weeks back in Tallahassee, a handful of Miami players proved a bit spirited after the 24-20 comeback victory. Located midfield and throwing an impromptu party on Florida State’s logo, Richt quickly stormed in and showed some passion when shooing his kids off the field in a, “you’re better than that”-type moment. After the late rally against Georgia Tech, Richt continued to sober-up any who were thinking too far ahead regarding this season’s Canes.

“We’re excited about winning. We are trying to establish that mindset of winning and doing the things it takes to win. But we’re not a dominant football team, Richt shared with the assembled media. “We’re a very, very solid football team that’s fighting like mad just to win the close battles, is where we are right now. A lot of positive things are happening through the adversity that we’ve been able to overcome to this point.”

As for any rankings talk about the current No. 8 team in the nation, Richt laid waste to that hype, as well.

“You’re not a top-10 program unless you’re a top-10 program at the end of the year,” Richt reminded the crowd. “We’re not at the point where we can just line up and impose our will on people. … We’re not lining up and whipping people and having margins of victory that are comfortable. We have to battle every week.”

Translation, any back-slapping ESPN commentators believe is going to Miami’s head—Richt and staff are waiting with a cold pail of water to douse any unnecessary praise.

Knowing that, the focus when an upset-minded Syracuse comes to town is less about the Orange pulling a fast one on the Canes and more about Miami’s mental preparation and overall execution.

The entire nation saw Clemson pantsed on national television last Friday night and what an underdog was capable of doing on their home turn. Underestimation isn’t an option at this point of the season. Everyone is bringing their best showdown after showdown. There are no “off” weeks.


The Canes get a bonus this week with the return of receiver Ahmmon Richards, as well as cornerback Sheldrick Redwine, linebacker Michael Pinckney and right guard Navaughn Donaldson—though cornerback Dee Delaney remains sidelined (and running back Mark Walton out for the year.) A necessary dose of depth and normalcy for a team that had to rely on patchwork and heart last weekend against the Yellow Jackets.

Miami will need every part of Redwine in the secondary as Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey and top receiver Steve Ishmael—out of North Miami Beach High—have hooked up 62 times this season for 802 yards. The Orange sport a dozen kids from South Florida on the roster; all looking forward to this homecoming and a shot at the mighty Canes.

Dungey also has the effective Ervin Philips as a target; the senior with 56 receptions for 569 yards and three touchdowns.

A high-octane offense, a smart quarterback not afraid to take a hit, a few top-flight receivers and a head coach who knows how to get after a defense—Manny Diaz and the Canes will have their hands full on that side of the ball. The second-year defensive coordinator told the Miami Herald days back that he plans to rotate in every defensive player in order to keep his unit fresh against an Orange offense that has run more than 90 plays in three of it’s seven games.


Still, lost in the shuffle regarding any upset-fueled narratives this week; how the Miami offense will react. All the chatter has been about Babers’ play-calling and Dungey’s abilities—but minimal chatter about the workhorse Homer has become, as well as Rosier coming into his own as a gamer.

Homer quietly rolled for 170 yards and a touchdowns on 20 carries last week against Georgia Tech—as well as a clutch, head-up touchdown reception before the half; reaching over the pylon while getting tackled out of bounds, cutting the Yellow Jackets’ lead to 14-13. The sophomore also played big at Florida State, notching two runs of 10 and 14 yards on the Canes’ final game-winning drive.

Meanwhile, Rosier just keeps on rolling—hot or cold, yet fearless and seemingly never overwhelmed by the moment. Slow starts never seem to get the junior gunslinger down, while calm demeanors have been the norm in a few come-from-behind victories. Whatever Rosier might lack in star-power, he makes up for in grit and passion.

Toss in the return of Richards, the next-level play of Darrell Langham, the emergence of guys like tight end Chris Herndon and receiver Mike Harley, and the Canes’ offense should be a bigger part of this week’s match-up with the Orange.

Rosier and Homer are the keys offensively, while the Miami front four is tasked with rattling Dungey and forcing some mistakes. The Canes currently rank third in the nation in tackles-for-loss per game (8.6) and fifth in sacks (3.4). Time is ripe for big games out of guys like Chad Thomas, Trent Harris, Kendrick Norton and Joe Jackson—with Diaz dialing up some blitzes for the likes of Pinckney, Shaq Quarterman or Zach McCloud.

For all the hype Syracuse received over the Clemson upset—lost in the shuffle; the fact that Tigers’ starting quarterback Kelly Bryant was knocked out late in the second quarter with a concussion. The Orange led 17-14 at the half and were tied up 24-24 thanks to the Tigers’ second-string quarterback. Clemson whiffed on a 38-yard field goal mid-fourth that would’ve given them the lead, while Syracuse connected on a 30-yarder the next possession.

Impressive win? Absolutely, but for underdog hype-sake, seems some details were left out of the story to add some extra spice.

Miami isn’t loaded and hasn’t been dominant, but the Canes are consistent, don’t quit and haven’t been easily rattled—even with backs to the wall. There’s a healthy respect for upset-minded Syracuse and a fast-paced offense, as well as Miami’s own undefeated record and quest for a Coastal Division title—but the Canes know a home win over the Orange is in the cards, barring they execute and take care of business.

Squeeze the Orange just like those old Big East days. Winnable game that keeps the momentum going for Miami—and a chance to make some noise, opposed to ekeing one out.

Miami 30, Syracuse 24

Chris Bello has been covering University of Miami athletics since the mid-nineties and launched soon thereafter. After being poached away by BleacherReport as a featured columnist, Bello launched to scratch that orange and green itch. In his day-to-day Bello works with icon Bill Murray and humor website theCHIVE on the William Murray golf apparel line—but all free time is spent reminding the masses that it’s a Canes thing and they wouldn’t understand.

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