2008 Emerald Bowl Preview - Miami vs. Cal
Cal's Jahvid Best & Miami's Javarris James
Cal's Jahvid Best & Miami's Javarris James
Posted Dec 20, 2008

The X factor. With all the athletes and all the talent Miami is amassing, is it ready to come up with a big road win against a team like Cal? Jahvid Best is worth the price of admission, but he'll have to go against an athletic Hurricane defensive front. Check out the CFN 2008 Emerald Bowl Preview & Prediction.

2008 Emerald Bowl

Miami (7-5) vs. California (8-4)

Dec. 27, 8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN

$750,000 to $825,000   Location: AT&T Park, San Francisco CA

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National Rankings
Miami California
Total Offense
88th  327.08 ypg 46th  379.17 ypg
Total Defense
25th  315.75 ypg 24th  315.42 ypg
Scoring Offense
46th  27.92 ppg 22nd  33.33 ppg
Scoring Defense
56th  24.17 ppg 28th  20.17 ppg
Run Offense
78th  130.08 ypg 30th  183.67 ypg
Run Defense
  69th  146.42 ypg 25th  122.50 ypg
Pass Offense
76th  197 ypg 79th  195.50 ypg
Pass Defense
13th  169.33 ypg 43rd  192.92 ypg
Turnover Margin
101st  -0.75 6th  1.17
Char South. W 52-7
at Florida L 26-3
at T A&M W 41-23
No Carolina L 28-24
Florida St L 41-39
UCF W 20-14
at Duke W 49-31
W Forest W 16-10
at UVa W 24-17 OT
Va Tech W 16-14
at Ga Tech L 41-23
at NC State L 38-28
Michigan St W 38-31
at Wash St W 66-3
at Maryland L 35-27
Colorado St W 42-7
Arizona St W 24-14
at Arizona L 42-27
UCLA W 41-20
Oregon W 26-16
at USC L 17-3
at Oregon St L 34-21
Stanford W 37-16
Washington W 48-7
Position Ratings
relative to each other
M 5 highest
1 lowest
3 Quarterbacks 3.5
4 RBs 5
3.5 Receivers 3.5
3 O Line 4
4 D Line 4
4 Linebackers 4
4 Secondary 4
4 Spec Teams 4
4 Coaching 4

It’s been seven years since Miami has even played a game on the left coast. The ‘Canes could care less how far they have to travel this month; they’re just thrilled to be back in the bowl picture after falling short a year ago.

Miami has taken a baby step in the rebuilding process under Randy Shannon, going 7-5 a year after going 5-7. The coach roped in a dynamite recruiting class in February, and then put a slew of his youngsters in charge of getting the program closer to the glory days. Because there are so many underclassmen dotting the Hurricane two-deep, this experience, including the 15 practices that come with it, will pay enormous dividends in 2009 and beyond.

Miami was actually close to breaking through and winning the ACC Coastal division before dropping its final two games, including a backbreaker to Georgia Tech in the next to last regular season game. The coaching staff recently named Matt Bosher the most valuable player of 2008. Now, the sophomore is a terrific talent, but when a punter/placekicker is the MVP, you know the program has some growing up to do on both sides of the ball.

One of these years, Cal is going to break through and end USC’s Pac-10 dominance. Or maybe not. While it’s important to point out how far the Bears have come under Jeff Tedford this decade, it should also be noted that the school has lost at least four games in five of the last seven seasons and is still waiting for that elusive return to the Rose Bowl. This year’s edition was unbeaten in Strawberry Canyon, yet only went 1-4 on the road.

Although the Emerald Bowl won’t be in Berkeley, it’ll take place just 10 miles down I-80 in a dream come true moment for the bowl organizers. For the most part, the first six Emerald Bowls have been mediocre and uneventful, but for Miami and Cal, it should be a jumping off point to a big 2009. Both teams should be stronger next year, both teams have talent, and both teams should put on a decent show.

Players to watch: If nothing else, the Emerald Bowl will provide a wonderful platform for much of the country to get its first good look at Cal RB Jahvid Best, an early 2009 Heisman contender and one of the most electrifying players in America. Second only to Missouri’s Jeremy Maclin in all-purpose yards, he capped the regular season with a school-record 311 yards rushing and is a threat to go the distance whenever he jets past the first line of defense. Best need not worry about getting overworked. His sidekick, redshirt freshman Shane Vereen, has been an ideal complement throughout the year, running for 679 yards and four scores.  

The Bear defense has been one of this year’s pleasant surprises, embracing the new 3-4 and ranking in the top 15 in pass efficiency defense, sacks, and turnover margin. Each line of defense has its signature performer. Up front, 6-3, 290-pound DE Tyson Alualu provides the pressure, leading all linemen with 10.5 tackles for loss and six sacks. In the middle, LB Zack Follett is capping a brilliant Bear career with 19 tackles behind the line, playing with the same level of passion and intensity when he arrived four years ago. And in the secondary, Syd’Quan Thompson is emerging as one of the league’s feistiest cover corners. All three are members of this year’s All-Pac-10 squad.

As running back tandems go, Miami feels Cal has nothing on it. The Hurricanes are home to the thunder and lightning pair of Javarris James and Graig Cooper, respectively. While Cooper has some of the flash and dazzle of Best, James was never able to fully strut this fall. Nagging injuries got in the way until November. With a month to rest, he’ll have his best chance of the year to be the focal point of the offense. Considering Miami’s struggles to throw the ball with freshmen Robert Marve and Jacory Harris, James and Cooper could get 15 carries apiece if the scoreboard permits it.

Start talking about DE Marcus Robinson and LB Sean Spence now. You’ll look like a genius by the middle of next year. The teens, both Freshman All-Americans, have been poster children for the success Shannon has had on the recruiting trail. Robinson became a blur off the edge toward the end of the year, collecting three sacks in the win over Virginia Tech. He’s capable of disrupting the Cal passing game, especially if the heavy-legged Longshore is behind center. Spence has been tearing it up since April, playing with tremendous range and delivering more pop than your typical 6-0, 211-pounder.            

Miami will win if... James and Cooper run the way everyone expected they would before the season began. Forget about the passing attack. The inconsistency of Marve and Harris coupled with the thievery of the Cal secondary is a poisonous recipe for the ‘Canes. If they’ve got any hope of scoring beyond the teens, it’s incumbent upon the two backfield horses to move the chains on a Bear D that has struggled at times against the run. If James and Cooper can somehow match Best and Vereen, Miami will have a good shot of delivering the upset.          

Cal will win if... it can pressure the Harris into mistakes. When the Bears have picked off at least two passes in a game this season, they’re a cool 7-0. Marve and Harris have been rather generous this season, throwing 19 interceptions combined, which has the Cal defensive backs salivating. With Marve suspended for the game and the offense falling on Harris’ shoulders, the pressure will mount. The key will be to force the Hurricanes into obvious passing situations and flushing Harris out of the pocket. If he has to throw on the run or with someone in his face, Thompson or someone else in the back seven will take it back the other way.          

What will happen: Better days lie ahead at Miami. It just might not be so obvious on this night. Any chance that Cal would be disinterested in the Emerald Bowl went away when the ‘Canes were announced as their opponent. The underrated Bear defense will shut down Miami, chipping in a touchdown of its own on an interception return. Best will take care of the rest on offense, accounting for 175 yards from scrimmage and igniting the partisan crowd with a couple of bursts up the sidelines. In the end, the Hurricanes won’t have enough playmakers on offense to mount a second-half comeback.

Cal -7 ... CFN Prediction: Cal 31 ... Miami 16 

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