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The Miami Hurricanes open the 2013 season Friday night with a visit from some new South Florida rivals, the Florida Atlantic Owls. Both rosters are full of players from Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties, so even though the Canes 32-point favorites, they are not taking FAU lightly.
"Obviously so many of the kids know each other," said UM coach Al Golden this week. "It will be real competitive, it should be spirited, it will be a great challenge for us.
The game will also feature a special appearance from Howard Schnellenberger, the first coach in FAU history and coach of the 1983 national champion Hurricanes.
"I wouldn't say I'm excited," Schnellenberger said. "Thrilled would be more appropriate."
When the Canes have the ball: Miami returns nearly every starter from last year's squad, which averaged 440 yards and 31 points per game. Senior QB Stephen Morris put up the fourth-best single-season passing performance in school history, and he'll have plenty of weapons at his disposal against the Owls.
True sophomore Duke Johnson is chief among them. He averaged 6.8 yards a carry last season, and scored 13 touchdowns (10 rushing, 2 return, 1 receiving). He'll get plenty of work, while receivers Allen Hurns, Rashawn Scott, and Phillip Dorsett all have big-play ability.
FAU gave up over 200 yards per game on the ground, a fact that should have Johnson salivating. Morris ended the 2012 season on a streak of 139 straight passes without an interception, and the Owls produced just 8 interceptions last season while giving up 20 touchdowns through the air.
When the Owls have the ball: Miami's defense was not nearly as strong as the offense last season, giving up 486 yards of total offense per game. But that was a young squad, and the coaching staff says the pass rush should improve with the addition of freshman Al-Quadin Muhammad.
FAU lost QB Graham Wilbert to graduation, and head coach Carl Pelini has said that as many as three different passers could play Friday, including senior JUCO transfer Melvin German III and junior Stephen Curtis. One name for Canes fans to know: WR William Dukes, who caught 63 passes for 979 yards in 2012.
Something to keep an eye on for the Canes: sophomore safety Deon Bush has been cleared to play Friday but he may not see the field. He is recovering from sports hernia surgery he underwent in June, and is listed behind senior Kacy Rogers on the depth chart. Bush started ten games for Miami as a freshman in 2012.
Who has the edge? FAU will come into Sun Life Stadium, but Miami simply has too much talent for the Owls (who have lost 23 of their last 27 games) to pull off the upset.
The Pick: Miami 41-FAU 17
Kickoff is at 8:00 pm with coverage on ESPNU.