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Early Season Tests Await Canes & ACC

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(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Miami Hurricanes quarterback Stephen Morris saw quite a bit in his first few years of college football, but the competition will definitely kick up a notch on September 7 when the Canes will welcome the Florida Gators into Sun Life Stadium.

The game will arguably be UM’s biggest game in several years, at least from a national point of view. A victory over the SEC’s Gators would do wonders in reestablishing UM’s reputation as a team ready to play on the big stage.

It would also do wonders for the Atlantic Coast Conference, which could use a big-time victory over an SEC school. The ACC is just 4-11 against the SEC over the last two years. The ACC will get several shots at the SEC’s best in the first two weeks of the season.

In Week 1, Clemson will play Georgia, Virginia Tech will play Alabama, and North Carolina will tangle with South Carolina. Then in Week 2, Florida comes south to Miami to take on the Canes.

Luckily for the Canes, UF comes into 2013 with a struggling offense. Last year, Florida ranked 10th in the SEC scoring just 26.5 points per game and scored more than 27 points just one time from the end of October until the end of the season (37 points against Florida State in a victory).

Junior quarterback Jeff Driskel is the unquestioned leader of the offense, but will need to improve his numbers from a good, but not great sophomore campaign. Driskel completed 64 percent of his passes, but threw for just 12 touchdowns and five interceptions; he also added 408 rushing yards.

On the flip side, Miami brings in a high-powered offense led by an established signal-caller who some speculate could be a top NFL draft pick next year. Stephen Morris threw for 3,345 yards, 21 touchdowns, and 7 interceptions last year, despite playing from behind many times.

The Canes’ offense could score on just about anyone, but had to because the team’s defense was, for lack of other ways of putting it, bad.

Miami’s scoring defense ranked 83rd in the nation, allowing 30.5 points per game in 2012. The team’s total defense was even worse. The Canes gave up an average of 486.4 yards per game in 2012, which was 120th in the nation.

Only four teams were worse from a statistical standpoint on defense than Miami last year, Colorado, Arizona, Baylor, and Louisiana Tech.

The Canes were especially vulnerable on the ground, giving up 2,615 rushing yards last season. If Miami is to have a chance against a grind-it-out team like the Gators the interior of the defensive line, once a strength of the program, will have to re-establish itself as a top unit.

By the time the final seconds tick off the clock in the Gators vs. Hurricanes game, we’ll know a lot about both teams. We’ll also know a lot more about both conferences and whether the SEC’s perceived invulnerability is in danger.

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