Posted: Wednesday December 21, 2005 4:32PM; Updated: Wednesday December 28, 2005 12:52PM
Bowl Breakdown: Peach
No. 9 Miami (9-2) vs. No. 10 LSU (10-2)
Dec. 30, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Georgia Dome (71,250)
SI.com's Stewart Mandel analyzes the matchup.
Breaking down Miami
Miami QB Kyle Wright will be tested by Bo Pelini's physical defensive front.
The 'Canes were led this season by a dominant defense which finished No. 3 nationally in yards allowed (252.1). A strong front four, led by tackle Orien Harris, allows coordinator Randy Shannon to get bring pressure while sticking to his preferred Cover 2 formation. Cornerback Kelly Jennings is one of the best cover men in the country, and safety Brandon Merriweather excels in run and pass coverage.
Miami's offense is adequate, but not overpowering. First-year starting quarterback Kyle Wright struggled early, but progressed over the course of the season. Tailback Charlie Jones is a bruiser who took over for the injured Tyrone Moss. Eric Winston leads a solid line that dominated in a 27-7 win over Virginia Tech, but struggled to contain blitzes in losses to Florida State and Georgia Tech. The 'Canes will be without their third-leading receiver, Ryan Moore, who was suspended for violating team policy.
Breaking down LSU
With star quarterback JaMarcus Russell out with a separated left shoulder, the Tigers will likely lean more heavily on tailbacks Joseph Addai and Justin Vincent. LSU coach Les Miles stresses balance, however, so Russell's replacement, Matt Flynn, who has seen significant game action in the past, must be able to throw the ball downfield and make plays. The Tigers boast a stable of athletic receivers, most notably Dwayne Bowe and Early Doucet, but the group has been plagued by dropped passes.
Coordinator Bo Pelini's aggressive defense was fifth in the nation, allowing 276.3 yards per game. The Tigers get great inside penetration from their standout tackles, Kyle Williams and Claude Wroten, making it hard to run on them. LaRon Landry is one of the nation's top safeties, and linebackers Cameron Vaughn and Ali Highsmith move well laterally. Skyler Green is a dangerous punt returner.
This should be a defensive struggle and field position and a couple big plays here or there could make the difference. Neither team played particularly well toward the end of the season, and much will depend on their respective mindsets. It's unwise to pick against the 'Canes, though -- they've won seven of their past eight bowl games.