MIAMI — The Miami Hurricanes did not receive a single vote in the Associated Press preseason Top 25 poll and have moved out of the Orange Bowl. Head coach Randy Shannon has suspended seven players for tonight's home opener at Dolphin Stadium.
But Miami is still Miami to Charleston Southern players.
"Oh, definitely," Buccaneers linebacker Josh Mitchell said. "Having Miami first on the schedule kept everybody thinking, like, 'We have to work hard this offseason' and 'We have to work hard this summer.' We thought about it all through camp, that if we didn't stay focused we would get exposed."
It's a clash of two teams hoping to defy relative expectations. Miami, coming off a 5-7 season in Randy Shannon's first year as head coach, generally is picked to finish near the bottom of the Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division.
CSU, 5-6 in 2007, was fifth among six teams in the official Big South Conference preseason poll.
CSU quarterback Tribble Reese, a graduate student who transferred after spending four years as a Clemson reserve, attempted only 11 passes as a Tiger but has more college experience than Miami starter Jacory Harris, a true freshman.
"It's kind of crazy," Reese said. "We were playing ACC opponents the past four years and now I come to Charleston Southern and we're opening up against an ACC team. But it's exciting, I'll tell you that much."
The 6-4, 205-pound Reese can lean on senior receiver Dee Brown, who led the Big South last year with 69 receptions.
Harris gets the start because redshirt freshman Robert Marve is one of seven players Shannon suspended for the game. Shannon repeated this week that he holds his players to "higher standards than most teams in the country."
Marve was suspended as punishment for breaking a car mirror and evading a police officer last Halloween night in Coconut Grove. He will start next week at Florida.
Harris (6-4, 185) led Miami's Northwestern High School to back-to-back state titles.
CSU got its taste of high-profile football last season in Honolulu when it faced Heisman Trophy candidate Colt Brennan and Hawaii, which went on to play Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.
The Warriors won, 66-10.
"Except for the second half of the game, we performed and did pretty well," CSU head coach Jay Mills said. "We competed hard and I expect our guys to do the same (tonight)."
Reese also senses a different kind of CSU opener.
"These guys have been to Hawaii," he said. "I think they understand it's going to be a big-time atmosphere. It's going to be electric out there. It's a night game. It's Miami's first game, too. Our guys know and everybody's going to be amped."
Reach Gene Sapakoff at email@example.com