Beating Florida could earn 'Canes share of national title
By PEYTON BERG
The Miami Hurricanes, still seething from Bowl Championship Series rejection despite beating Florida State in October, can win a share of the national championship via the AP Poll. If not for a September loss at No. 4 Washington, Miami would be at home in the Orange Bowl.
In 1995, the University of Miami handed current head coach Butch Davis a broom with instructions to clean up former head coach Dennis Erickson's mess — a series of recruiting violations, academic fraud and brushes with the law — and restore integrity to the once-proud program. Davis dealt with scholarship restrictions by playing true freshman and sophomores. The Hurricanes struggled and lost the swagger that once defined them.
That was then, this is now.
Those same not-ready-for-prime-time freshmen blossomed into current All- Americans Santana Moss and Dan Morgan. Along the way, Davis effectively recruited in Florida and loaded his roster with impressive young talent.
Miami defeated hated rival Florida State 27-24 this season, thus signaling the official return of Hurricane season.
Sophomore quarterback Ken Dorsey had a season that reminded many of former Hurricane greats Jim Kelly, Vinny Testaverde and Steve Walsh. He threw for 25 touchdowns with only five interceptions and led his team to a crucial fourth quarter touchdown against Florida State.
Senior tailback James Jackson adds balance with his 933 rushing yards. Moss is always a threat, and tight end Dan Smith has emerged as a capable receiver.
The old Hurricanes won with defense, and this team is no exception. Linebacker Dan Morgan leads a fast, aggressive unit that can cover the entire field. Safety Al Blades is the resident hitter in the secondary, which will be tested by the Gators' passing attack.
Florida beat Auburn (again) in the SEC Championship 28-6.
It has flourished in part by capitalizing on the other team's turnovers. The Gators lead the nation with an impressive plus-40 turnover ratio.
Wide receiver Jabar Gaffney had the best season by a freshman wide receiver in Gator history, and the running game is coming around thanks to the efforts of tailback Robert Gillespie.
This game has all the makings of an offensive shootout. Both offenses come in firing on all cylinders, but the defenses could make things interesting. Look for big plays on both sides of the ball, and the winner needs at least 28 points.
All Sports Stories for Tuesday, December 12, 2000