MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Last season, the Tigers lost 84-0 to Oklahoma State and 55-0 to Florida State, that game ending 24 minutes early because of lightning. This year, Savannah State has already been beaten 77-9 by Georgia Southern and 66-3 by Troy, a pair of teams that went out and promptly lost their respective league openers.
So sure, a lopsided win by 16th-ranked Miami is the only logical expectation.
And that's the sort of talk that Hurricanes coach Al Golden has painstakingly tried to avoid this week.
"There's innumerable things that we're trying to fix right now that nobody is aware that they're even issues yet, and we're trying to get them fixed before they get exposed," Golden said. "I didn't worry about the spread or anything like that when we played Florida two weeks ago. We didn't worry about the other team. We trusted the process. We prepared. We made the week about us, and to be honest with you, this week is no different."
Savannah State is getting $375,000 for playing this game, though coach Earnest Wilson insists his program is going to get far more out of this experience than a nice check. For his team, it's another chance to see what the next level is all about.
"I'm not even looking for the check," Wilson said. "Like I tell everyone, we have three different helmets, we've got three different uniforms, we've got everything that everybody else has."
Then again, they also have something almost nobody else has ever had — the chance to be a 60-point underdog.
That's the spread on this game in some sports books this week. And keep in mind, Miami didn't score 60 points in its first two games combined this season — not to mention hasn't scored that many in any game since 2001, some 139 contests ago.
"I like where we're at right now," Golden said. "And hopefully we have a whole organization right now that's not worrying about spreads."
Here's five things to watch when Savannah State plays No. 16 Miami:
MIAMI'S STARTERS: How long will Miami quarterback Stephen Morris or running back Duke Johnson play? Odds are, probably not too long, though there will probably be some tough decisions for Golden to make on Saturday night. For one thing, Miami is coming off a bye, so the Hurricanes will want to get their starters some reps again. But Golden will also be weighing risk versus reward, and he doesn't seem like the sort who will give any thought to running up big individual numbers.
BOUNCEBACK FACTOR: Savannah State won a game last weekend. Miami didn't. OK, the Hurricanes were off, but still, winning a game — even against a Division II school like Fort Valley State — is a big deal for the Tigers. The Hurricanes' last outing was the emotional victory over rival Florida two weeks ago, and Golden said his team didn't waste any time putting that win in the rear-view mirror.
VANILLA FLAVOR: The Hurricanes have insisted that there's plenty in the playbook that hasn't been revealed yet. Chances are, all the secrets will remain secrets this weekend. Morris said Miami primarily ran three or four plays against Florida Atlantic in the season-opener, and this week will probably not be the right time to display some of the special stuff that the Hurricanes will want to use against conference rivals. "But I can't wait for us to get there," Morris said.
GUESSING GAME: Savannah State won't face anyone better than Miami this season, so why not try some trickery? If there's one thing the Tigers have, it seems to be decent speed, so the expectation is that Savannah State will try some gadget plays against Miami. The top challenge for the Hurricanes' defense will be reacting to schemes — three-wide, four-wide, spread formations, that sort of thing — that might be changing rapidly.
TRYOUT NIGHT: There's a handful of Miami players who might be getting either their first playing time, or at the very least their first extended playing time, of the season. The Hurricanes have as many as 11 games left to play after Saturday night. It's a chance for those second- or third-stringers to maybe work their way up the depth chart.