As part of the dwindling offseason, SOTU will preview each game on the Canes' schedule. During the season there will be much more in-depth previews the week before each game, but these will serve to get you ready for what is to come. Enjoy!
The 2015 Miami Hurricanes football season will start as many do for Power 5 teams: by playing and FCS school. This year, the Canes schedule gets started with a team who has been the early season matchup several times in recent years, when the Bethune Cookman Wildcats visit a partially renovated Sun Life Stadium on September 5th.
No longer an FCS pushover
Let me start with this: Miami is going to win this game. More likely than not, by a sizable margin. But, if you're looking at this game like we did when Savannah State was on the schedule a few years ago, I'm here to tell you that Bethune Cookman is better than you think.
Former Head Coach Brian Jenkins was the head man at Bethune Cookman for 5 seasons. And, in those 5 seasons, the Wildcats were very successful with 4 MEAC championships, 3 trips to the FCS playoffs, and a 46-14 record (34-6 in conference). When you consider that Bethune Cookman had 3 MEAC championships IN THEIR HISTORY before Jenkins too over, that run is even more impressive.
That impressive resume made Jenkins a top job candidate for coaching jobs around the South. He left to become the Head Coach at Alabama State University in December.
While they're not the powerhouse that Appalachian State was when they beat Michigan in 2007, Bethune Cookman is a solid team and has a roster filled with players from Florida. And, they have come to Miami and beaten FIU the last 2 years in a row.
And, though there may be a slight change in performance with a new coaching staff in place for this season, former assistant Terry Sims was promoted to Head Coach, one thing can be said about the Bethune Cookman Wildcats:
pushovers, they are not.
As I said before, the Wildcats have come to Sun Life Stadium to play Miami, but not until recently. The Wildcats' first football season was 1925, the year the University of Miami was founded, but the teams did not meet on the field until 2011. And, when the match-up finally happened, the results were predictable. The Hurricanes won the 2012 game 38-10, and the 2011 game 45-14.
So, in 2 games, the aggregate score is 83-24 in favor of Miami. And, before you say "well, that's when Bethune was bad", let me also tell you that the Wildcats were a combined 17-6 in those 2 years, with 3 losses each season. Again, this is a good FCS team, but a clear step down from the likes of Miami.
Here are the highlights from the 2012 game
Bethune Cookman runs a spread on offense, but the focus is creating space to run.
They run multiple fronts on defense, but adapt to the situations of the game (time and score) like most teams do.
I'm keeping this short because regardless of the scheme, I don't think Bethune has the athletes to compete with Miami for more than a quarter, at best.
This game is about the Jerry's and Joe's, not the X's and O's, if you get what I'm saying.
Players to Watch
The offense is led by QB Quentin Williams. He was Florida's Mr. Football in 2010, and won that award over former Alabama and Colorado State RB Dee Hart, and former 5-star recruit and FSU RB James Wilder Jr. So, it's safe to say that Williams has talent. He's a bit undersized at 6'0" 185lbs (the reason he's at Bethune Cookman and not a higher profile school in my opinion), but he plays with a chip on his shoulder and is the perfect trigger man for the Wildcats' offense. A true Dual Threat player, Williams threw for 130 yards per game on 61% completions, and ran for another 25 yards per game when you factor in sack yardage.
Other offensive players to watch are WRs Michael Jones and Frank Brown, the latter of whom was a fringe prospect for Miami back in the class of 2013.
Bethune lost most of their top defensive players from 2014, including former Miami DB Thomas Finnie, who was dismissed from UM in 2013. The Wildcats have another former Cane on their roster in DL David Perry.
The Wildcats have 25 players on their roster who hail from South Florida. These players played with and against the Canes players in HS, so there will be some familiarity in the game. I'm sure the Wildcat players will do their best to show the Miami players and staff why they should have been recruited by the Canes.
Bonus: THE BAND
In case you didn't know, one of the biggest draws for HBCU football games isn't the team, but rather the band. And, I'll bet 75% of the Bethune Cookman fans who come to this game are coming in support of the Band.
The Band, like the team, wears uniforms. And, like the team, each section has their own specific function. They practice long hours to hone their skills. They are a group of individuals recruited from around the State of Florida and the Country. And, when things come together and everyone is performing to their best, the result can be magical.
Some say that Bethune Cookman has the best HBCU band around. Others, Florida A&M. No matter where you stand on that debate, I'm sure you'll be able to appreciate performances like these.
Bring it on, Marching Wildcats!
Brian Jenkins has the Wildcats at a very good FCS level. They are without peer in the MEAC, and figure to make another trip to the playoffs this season. What they aren't, however, is competition for the Canes.
Much like the 2 previous meetings between these teams, I'm fully expecting a 35+ to 14 (or less) score line.