Champs Sports Bowl: Miami Hurricanes vs Wisconsin Badgers, 8 p.m. ESPN
Since college football doesn't have anything resembling a meaningful post-season, the most you can ask for besides ending up in a BCS bowl is an entertaining season. And boy did Canes fans get it this year. There was the joy of pulling out a win in a roller coaster game (FSU), and the agony of losing in overtime (Clemson). The glory of an upset (Oklahoma) and the pain of a huge defeat (VaTech). The pride of being the only team in the conference to beat the ACC champs (Georgia Tech) and the near embarrassment of having a close call with one almost everyone else beat (Duke). At the end of all that, Miami ended 9-3 at number 15 in the country.
In a perfect world the Canes might be headed to a 16 team playoff (in fact in one blogger's utopia the Canes would have just beat #2 Texas in the first round). Instead, they're headed to Orlando to play Wisconsin in the Champs Sports Bowl. No offense to the Badgers (they're a quality, ranked team with an identical record), but it's a hard match up to get super excited about. Certainly not as exciting as those mid-season predictions that Miami would meet Notre Dame for the first time in two decades (thanks for sucking Irish), or, even if the Canes had a lesser season and met USC in the Emerald Bowl (it'd be the struggling powerhouses from sunny city private schools bowl). Regardless, there's still some story lines here, and after that season, no matter what game we ended up in, there's still reasons to be excited.
Ten Win Season
Remember 2003? It wasn't a championship season, but the Canes were
still a force to be reckoned with, finishing 5th in the nation after
beating FSU in the Orange Bowl. It was also the last time the team
finished with double-digit wins. Sure would be nice to be back to those
days, and hell, it's not impossible for the Canes to end up in the AP
top 10. If not this year, than quite possibly in next year's preseason.
Recruiting Times of Urban Uncertainty
Who knows what the ultimate consequences of Urban Meyer's temporary(?)
time away from coaching will be. Recruits sure don't. A big, decisive
win here could help any players leaning towards Florida to reconsider
Miami. I'm not a betting man, but I wouldn't feel stupid taking a wager
that the next team to bring the BCS trophy to the Sunshine State would
Return of "The U"
When the Canes opened the season with two big wins that few thought
they could pull off you could feel the excitement. It's always been
Miami vs the World, and the world may say they hate us, but the truth
is they want the Magic City powerhouse back. ESPN's The U documentary only added to that feeling. A win here lets the world know it could be coming.
The Shalala Bowl
This may not be all that exciting to sports fans, but UM president
Donna Shalala used to be Wisconsin's Chancellor. Sometime in between
she served on Clinton's cabinet, but Shalala is partially credited with
helping to turn W's football program around. In fact, before the Canes
hired Larry Coker there was some talk that Shalala would bring in
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former Badger coach and current Athletic Director Barry Alvarez in to
take the job. For better or worse that didn't happen, but while these
two teams don't have much history on the field, there are some links.