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Future opponent wish list: #8 - UCLA

Edgerrin James

This is the a series where I will be exploring future non-conference opponents that I would like to see Miami face down the road. This list is based on the likelihood of actually happening, the prestige of the opponent, and the potential benefits (i.e., recruiting exposure) that could come from it. I’m not including Florida and Notre Dame on this list because A) Miami already is set to face them in the coming years, and B) they are major rivals and I would OBVIOUSLY be in favor of facing either of them routinely.

Prior entries:

#10 - Michigan

#9 - UCF

Overview: It’s been a LONG time since Miami has tangled with an opponent on the west coast in the regular season, and it’s well beyond time for that trend to end. By my count, the last regular season trip to the west coach was to Washington in 2000, a game that ultimately (and unfairly) kept Miami out of the national championship game.

But playing on the west coast is an opportunity to showcase your brand to a different part of the country. In the case of California, it’s a chance for face time in one of the nation’s best recruiting areas. One where the Canes have pulled some of their best quarterbacks in program history. Ken Dorsey was from Orinda. Gino Torretta was from Pinole. Brad Kaaya came to UM from Los Angeles. Miami hopes that successful pipeline will continue with Jake Garcia.

But while Miami has had success at the QB position without playing games in California, it would still be useful to play games out west. Enter UCLA. The Bruins play in California’s most fertile recruiting ground in Los Angeles, and one where likely the majority of Miami fans on the west coast would either live or have easy access to come to a game. The Bruins aren’t USC from a marquee/interest standpoint (future list spoiler), but they’re a more beatable opponent.

And let’s face it, Miami and UCLA put on one of the most memorable football games of the 1990s in 1998, with Miami edging the Bruins 49-45 in the season’s final week to knock UCLA out of the national title game. That was one of the craziest, most entertaining football games of all-time, and surely no rematch would ever live up to it. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try.

All-time record: UCLA 2-1 (39-37 UCLA on 1/1/85; 31-8 UCLA 9/2/95; 49-45 Miami 12/5/98)

Last meeting: Miami 49, UCLA 45. It was a game of runs, with Miami leading 21-17 at the half on the strength of Edgerrin James’ 175 rushing yards and touchdown runs of 45 and 10 yards. But Miami’s defense fell apart in the third quarter, with the Bruins ripping off three straight touchdowns for a 38-21 lead. All seemed lost, but then the ghosts of the Orange Bowl came alive, and Miami did too. Scott Covington brought UM within 3 points on a 71-yard touchdown to Santana Moss. After the Bruins went back up 10, Covington hit Mondriel Fulcher for a 29-yard score, and the Orange Bowl was alive. After forcing a fumble, Miami drove down and scored the game’s final points with 0:50 left on a 1-yard James run. Cade McNown’s final pass from Miami’s 29 sailed through the back of the end zone, and the game was over, as was UCLA’s winning streak that dated back to September 1997. James went for a whopping 299 yards on the ground on 39 carries.

Potential for recruiting: Well, it can’t hurt, let’s just say. Again, Miami has quarterback pipeline in California, having pulled in the aforementioned stars along with Kyle Wright since the late 80’s. Miami doesn’t need to recruit on the west coast per se, given how much talent is in their back yard, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try to woo some top-100-type of players that may be out there. It never hurts to cast a wide net.

Likelihood of happening: Low. This would obviously be for a home-and-home, so you have to consider the road trip. It costs time and money for a school to travel across the country to play in the regular season, and the private University of Miami hasn’t done it for a reason (likely that reason, at least in part). Also, with the massive expansion of televised games over the last 20 years, it’s much easier for people around the country to see your product. But I think a follow up to the 1998 classic would be interesting. I think UCLA is a very winnable game against a Power 5 opponent, which I’d much rather see than witness my team get their doors blown off by Alabama in Week 1. I think it would be a great chance to generate some excitement and interest among Miami supporters in the Los Angeles area. I didn’t get the chance to go to the 2002 Rose Bowl, but I would 100% travel across the country to LA for a game like this.

For all of the foregoing reasons, I think UCLA would be a welcome non-conference addition for the Canes, and they rank #8 on my list.