JM Rieger, Staff Writer

Pat Hinkel tries to make DeMarco Paine fumble in the Pigskin Preview Aug. 21. (MICHAEL GRIGGS | The Miami Student)

As the 2010 football season gets underway, Miami University is preparing to face what will likely be their toughest game this season at Florida.

Florida enters the season ranked third in the Coaches Poll and fourth in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll, making them the highest ranked opponent that Miami has faced. The Gators enter the season having won 20 straight season openers, and another 90,000-plus sellout is expected at one of the toughest places to play in all of college football, Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, also known as “The Swamp.”

In addition, the RedHawks have lost their season openers each of the past two seasons to Southeastern Conference opponents, losing to Kentucky in 2009 and to Vanderbilt in 2008. They will try to break that trend Sept. 4. However, despite the hype surrounding this game which will be nationally televised on ESPN, Miami is preparing for this game as they would any other.

“We have intentionally prepared the same for this game as we do for any other game,” Assistant Head Coach Bill Elias said. “We think that it is a great opportunity to play at Florida and we are excited about (this game).”

The Gators are a 36-point favorite this week against Miami, and the RedHawks will have to protect the ball against a team that has been in the top 10 in total defense each of the past two seasons and has one of the top cornerbacks in the nation in junior Janoris Jenkins. Expect Miami to try to establish a running game early to take some of the pressure off of redshirt sophomore quarterback Zac Dysert and the passing game.

Dysert has been heralded as the top quarterback in the Mid-American Conference this year by most, and will be a huge focus for Florida this week. Dysert will look to senior wide receivers Armand Robinson and Jamal Rogers, but he may also have to rely on junior wide receiver Chris Givens and redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andrew Cruse if Jenkins shuts down one side of the field for the Gators.

Meanwhile, the Red and White will try to contain the Gators’ offense that has been in the top 10 in total offense each of the past two seasons. Redshirt junior wide receiver Deonte Thompson and redshirt freshman Andre Debose, who has been called the next Percy Harvin by Florida’s Head Coach Urban Meyer will likely get the start for Florida. Redshirt junior wide receiver Chris Rainey will also get a lot of playing time for the Gators after being moved from running back to wideout.

The RedHawks will look to big performances out of senior safety Jordan Gafford and from redshirt junior linebacker Jerrell Wedge, who led the team in tackles last season. Putting pressure on redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley will be key this week for Miami, as this is his first career start at Florida.

“We are going to try to put pressure on him with different blitz schemes,” Wedge said. “If we can get pressure on the quarterback, our game plan will work well.”

Look for Florida to try to balance the run and the passing game early to take some of the pressure off of Brantley and to keep Miami’s defense off balance. In addition, Florida might also play one of their four freshmen quarterbacks to give them some game experience.

“We don’t think (Brantley) will be the only quarterback that we will see,” Elias said. “We have prepared for a lot of different looks from Florida and we have a lot of schemes and plays to account for the different sets that they might throw out on the field.”

Brantley is considered to be much more of a pocket-passer compared to Tim Tebow, but Florida may still use various reverse and option plays offensively against Miami, especially with Rainey being moved to the wide receiver position.

“We still expect them to run a spread offense, but with a few option and trick plays thrown in,” Elias said. “(Florida) might also throw in some ‘wildcat’ formations with one or two of their freshmen quarterbacks, and we are prepared for that as well.”

The RedHawks have been practicing on their grass practice field this week to prepare for the playing surface at “The Swamp,” and they feel prepared both for the surface and for the environment they will face in Gainesville.

“We have been practicing on grass this week to get a feel for the different surface,” Wedge said. “We have been looking at a lot of film to help prepare for this week’s game, and we feel like we have a good game plan for Florida. (Ultimately) we just want to come out and play a physical game.”

Two of the keys for Miami will be staying mentally focused throughout the game and playing a physical game against a tough Florida team.

The game will be nationally televised on ESPN at noon Sept. 4.

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