BOULDER - When University of Colorado football coach Gary Barnett reviewed the 2005 schedule with his players Aug. 3, one game jumped off the page. September 24. At Miami. More than the opener against in-state rival Colorado State, more than a trip to national championship contender Texas and more than visits from Big12 power Texas A&M and longtime rival Nebraska, a date with Miami — arguably the most successful college football program of the last quarter-century — created a buzz. “This is one of those games where you just have to tell the guys when the bus leaves and they will be ready and anxious to play,” Barnett said. “I think playing it down there even adds a little more excitement for our players.” Forget for a moment that the Hurricanes are 1-1 and needed a comeback and three overtimes Saturday to notch their first victory. Forget that they have a rookie quarterback. And forget that they may be a notch below some of the national title contenders before them thanks to the steady stream of standouts who have been flowing into the NFL in recent years. It’s still Miami. A program that, since 1983, has the nation’s best winning percentage (.828) and five national championships. A program that, in the last 20 years, has sent more players to the NFL via the first three rounds of the draft than any other school. Miami. Cocky enough to refer to itself as “The U,” and successful enough that those outside the program have adopted the nickname too. “You think of a team that’s been on top forever,” Colorado sophomore linebacker Jordon Dizon said of the Hurricanes. “You think of a team with great talent, great speed. And you look forward to playing because that is one of the top teams you’ll play in your college career.” Facing a team and a tradition like Miami at a place like the Orange Bowl — with the game on ABC on a split-national basis — gives Colorado an opportunity to put itself back on the nation’s radar. The Buffaloes have not beaten a top-15 opponent since 2002 over then-No.13 Iowa State, and they have not been ranked since early September 2003. “For us (playing Miami) is going to be just a tremendous barometer of where we are as a program,” quarterback Joel Klatt said. Respect has been hard to come by recently. In addition to its mediocre on-field performance — the Buffaloes are 15-14 since defeating Nebraska late in the 2002 season — Colorado’s program has made the wrong sort of headlines off the field. There were the accusations of sexual assault and seedy recruiting practices before the 2004 season, and Barnett’s contract situation remains unsettled. The Buffaloes, however, might be catching the Hurricanes at the perfect time. Colorado will have had two weeks to prepare since beating New Mexico State 39-0 Sept. 10. Miami, meanwhile, has played two straight difficult road games — losing to rival Florida State, 10-7, and then beating Clemson in triple overtime Saturday. “We talk about our schedule being difficult — when you start with Florida State and Clemson right out of the chute, that’s a heck of a schedule,” Barnett said. “They’ve had to play two very emotional, very physical games against two really good defenses.” Still, the Buffaloes know they will have to be at their best in Miami. The Hurricanes are two-touchdown favorites over Colorado and 104-9 against unranked opponents. “We have to be as perfect as possible,” cornerback Terry Washington said. CONTACT THE WRITER: 636-0365 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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