By Dave Bagchi Writer


Miami Pass vs. BC Pass Defense
EDGE: Boston College
Miami's QB Brock Berlin has improved steadily during his first three starts. But this is still September and the young passing attack is inconsistent. For Miami, this is a rather in-opportune time to face a Frank Spaziani coached BC defense. Spaziani's troops got into the head of Penn State's QB Zack Mills and Connecticut's Dan Orlovsky, both very talented passers, and both of these games were on the road.

BC will use a lot of movement before the snap, a common tactic used against inexperienced quarterbacks. The Eagles will stick primarily to two-deep zones, but drop in and out of blitz packages with their back seven as they did to cause four Miami INTs in 2001. Traditionally, Miami loves to counter this type of defensive scheme with a lot of short passes to their backs. Although this would play into BC's plans, it does put a lot of pressure on the Eagle front seven. LB Josh Ott is a sure tackler while potential star DE Mathias Kiwanuka should have a big day creating pressure on Berlin through the pass-rush. Although relatively unknown, Kiwanuka is a tremendous talent and at 6'6 will be a big-time match up problem for Miami's tackles.

Where the Hurricanes will have an advantage is against a youthful BC secondary. The Canes will need big plays from speedy Roscoe Parrish and Ryan Moore downfield. Look for Miami to try moving to a more vertical passing game by the game's third quarter, also taking advantage of Berlin's arm strength. It was interesting seeing them go strictly vertical against East Carolina last week, perhaps an exercise to prepare for this game. The deep ball will put immense pressure on the BC corners, especially under-sized Larry Lester.


BC Pass vs. Miami Pass Defense
EDGE: Miami
So far this season, QB Quinton Porter has been a pleasant surprise for the Eagles. He has avoided turnovers and brought more of a vertical passing attack to the offense. Most of Porter's success has come off the play-action going straight down the middle of the field. And while going up against the Miami defense will certainly be a tough test, Porter did seem calm and poised at Happy Valley.

The Hurricanes have the nation's top pass defense two years running. So far in 2003 the unit still looks strong, especially All-American FS Sean Taylor and DB Antrel Rolle. Rolle is pure lock-down and combines rare speed and size. Taylor is Miami's defensive playmaker and seems to be in on every play. BC needs to attack the other side of Miami's secondary, where early in the season there has been some confusion and missed assignments.

Expect the majority of Porter's pass attempts to be towards TE Sean Ryan or either running back out of the backfield, Derrick Knight or Horace Dodd. It will be difficult for the slower BC receivers to get open against Miami's corners. If Porter can get time, look for Ryan and Knight to run seam routes, trying to isolate on Miami's linebackers in the 10-15 yard area. Porter may not complete a high percentage of his attempts but needs to throw the ball away and avoid any mistakes or sacks. The role of the BC passing attack will be simply to keep the Hurricanes from keying on the run. All this is easier said than done for the first year starter as Miami's back seven could be the best in the country.


Miami Run vs. BC Run Defense
EDGE: Miami
As the passing game tries to come into its own, Miami relies heavily on RB Frank Gore. Gore has excellent balance and vision and has been a workhorse thus far this season. Despite not being the fastest back, Gore explodes to the hole- sometimes too quickly, not allowing his blockers time to lead properly. This is one of the reasons he has not had the big run(s) everyone anticipates. Also, Miami's injury problems along the offensive front have slowed the running game. Those injuries are beginning to subside, though, and a healthy Carlos Joseph at tackle could be the key. While Gore has improved productivity each week, you get the feeling he too is still waiting for a breakout performance. This could be the game, as Chestnut Hill provides a fast surface and Gore is still feeling the sting of a fumble that almost caused Miami the game at BC two years ago.

Miami will start the game by running out of the I-formation, and the pressure will be on the fullback. So far, this position has been a revolving door for the Hurricanes, between Quad Hill (injured), Kyle Cobia and Talib Humphrey. Cobia is the most talented of the group, but Humphrey had a big day versus East Carolina last week. When they are in the game, look for Cobia to primarily be a blocker while Humphrey gets a few carries.

The BC run defense struggled against Wake Forest, was never really tested against Penn State, and played so-so against Connecticut. Conclusion - the jury is still out. The linebackers are solid and the defensive line is blossoming, but under-sized. There is depth along the front so expect the Eagles to rotate players and go after Gore with fresh legs. While the Eagles typically do not give up the big running play, they are susceptible to grinding, methodical run-plans. Miami's offensive line typically begins taking over late in games, so don't expect early struggles to stop Miami from handing the rock to Gore.


BC Run vs. Miami Run Defense
EDGE: Miami
The way to beat Miami's defense is run quick traps and draws inside and have a quarterback who can make things happen on the run. Just how mobile QB Quinton Porter will be could be the key to this game for Boston College because RB Derrick Knight fits the bill. Right now Porter's mobility is relatively unknown. However, the diminutive Knight is off to a great start in 2003 after rushing for 1,432 yards a season ago. One of the country's more underrated players, Knight is shifty and has a quick burst inside. Despite averaging less than three yards a carry in two previous games against Miami, Knight has still been able to keep the defense honest and helped to open up the play action passing attack. Also, look for backup RB Horace Dodd to get at least a third of the carries as his bigger size will create a nice one-two combo.

Miami will protect the inside with big DT Vince Wilfork and a rotation of DT Santonio Thomas and Orien Harris along the front and MLB Jonathon Vilma on the second wave. Over-pursuit is the Hurricanes primary weakness as they have a tendency to shoot the wrong gaps on running plays. Miami will need patience as their front should win the majority of battles and force make the Eagles to run piece by piece rather than in big chunks.

If Miami can show patience, the key will be how well the BC offensive line holds up. This is an experienced group that, like Miami, seems to get stronger as games progress. The BC O-line can both run- and pass-block, and has had success against Miami the past few tries, especially early in games. Guard Augie Hoffmann will have the challenge of blocking Wilfork and his performance could dictate the outcome of this game.


Special Teams
EDGE: Miami
Miami has one of the most dangerous return games in college football lead by Roscoe Parrish and electrifying freshman Devin Hester. Look for BC to kick high, short and towards the sidelines. This may prevent major damage, but would still hurt the Eagles in the field position war.

Both teams are fielding new punters, both of whom are struggling in the season's early goings. However, they both also have strong punt coverage units and neither team does a particularly good job of rushing the punters. That being said, the punters should have time to make things happen.

At kicker, Sandro Sciortino provides the Eagles with an experienced, strong-legged weapon while Miami's John Peattie is new and has attempted only four kicks in his career. Peattie seems to have a weaker leg and is new to pressure situations.


Final Thoughts
Despite the early season heartbreak to Wake Forest, Boston College is still looking for the magical ten-win season plateau that has recently eluded this program. Over the past few seasons, while winning eight or nine games, BC has defeated Arizona State, Pittsburgh, Georgia and Notre Dame, and still not received Top 25-love. In their final year in the Big East, Miami has become the stepping-stone for this BC program- one that the Eagles have been unable to traverse for the past two decades. Miami is looking to get back to the promised land, and this is the first of four very difficult road hurdles for the Canes, winners of 37 of 38. BC, on the road, is a formidable opponent and the Canes are looking to regain their dominance.

Patience, patience, patience is the key for Miami every week because of their superior athleticism. Turnovers, penalties, over-pursuit and lack of discipline seem to be the formula to every Miami struggle. This game will be close as it always is in Chestnut Hill between these two. A close game would not be a major surprise - the Hurricanes are young and BC has built a solid program. Luckily for Miami, the weather should not be a factor this early in the year, but the Eagle fans will be.

The key to how this game plays out may be in the opening stanza. Miami has struggled early in games, and BC needs to take advantage of this youthful enthusiasm by using play-action to cause confusion in the Miami backfield and keeping the crowd in it. The last few seasons Miami has allowed BC to make their games a struggle. The Hurricanes ran away late in the Orange Bowl game, but both games at BC stayed tight throughout. Miami players blame it mostly on the deafening crowd noise, but the prepared game-plan of BC's coaches should not be taken lightly. This program goes up against more talented teams all the time and still comes out on top.

Early on, expect Boston College to get out in front and maintain a 3-7 point cushion into the third quarter. Look for Knight to frustrate the Hurricane D, and Kiwanuka to have his coming out party along the defensive front. Miami will guess and check a lot of different options on offense before finally they find the right formula and the Hurricane offensive line begins wearing BC down. Expect Frank Gore to get 100+ rushing, most of it in the second half and outside the tackles where he has not run much. Brock Berlin will struggle in his first major road test but do not expect his coaches to let him be a major part of the game plan. The Miami defense will step up in the fourth and their pressure will cause a key Quinton Porter mistake. Expect a big tackle day from Vince Wilfork along the front and look for Miami to play that patient game and hold off the Eagles when it counts most. It won't be pretty but…


PICK: Miami-20 Boston College-16