The Miami Hurricanes have been dealing with a lingering bad taste in their mouths ever since the team was blown out 62-26 at home by the North Carolina Tar Heels. Now, the Hurricanes will finally have their chance to put it behind them.
Up the road in Orlando, Miami will play the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the Cheez-It Bowl on Tuesday.
"Our guys want to finish the season," Hurricanes head coach Manny Diaz said. "They want to finish for each other. It's been a long haul. But we have a chance to end it on a podium.
"We have a team that has a bad taste in their mouths from the way they finished. They do not think that's representative of who they were the rest of the year."
Oklahoma State comes into its bowl game 7-3 on the season as the Cowboys won their last game 42-3 against Baylor on Dec. 12.
Miami (8-2) will come into the bowl game 1-2 against ranked teams this season. The Hurricanes' only win against a Top 25 team came against Louisville when the Cardinals were ranked No. 18 on Sept. 19. Oklahoma State is 1-1 against Top 25 opponents, having defeated Iowa State on Oct. 24.
This will be only the second time Miami and Oklahoma State have played each other. Their only other meeting came in 1991 when the Hurricanes defeated the Cowboys 40-3.
Cheez-It Bowl: No. 18 Oklahoma State (7-3) vs. No. 21 Miami (8-2)
Kickoff: Tuesday, Dec. 29 at 5:30 p.m. ET
Where: Camping World Stadium (Orlando, Fla.)
Spread: Oklahoma State -2
When Oklahoma State Has the Ball
Miami's defense will catch a bit of a break as they will not face Oklahoma State star running back Chuba Hubbard. Earlier this month, Hubbard announced that he would opt to skip the bowl game to start preparing for the 2021 NFL Draft.
Last season, Hubbard was a unanimous All-American as he rushed for 2,094 yards and 21 touchdowns. In 2020, Hubbard ran for 625 yards and five touchdowns. He also hasn't played since Nov. 21, when he suffered an ankle injury.
In Hubbard's place, the Cowboys have had a 100-yard rusher in each of their past three games. It started when Dezmon Jackson ran for 235 yards and three touchdowns in a 50-44 victory over Texas Tech. Then in the loss against TCU, Jackson rushed for 118 yards.
In Oklahoma State's last game against Baylor, Dominic Richardson ran for 169 yards and three touchdowns.
The Cowboys also have a dynamic passing attack as Spencer Sanders has posted 3,767 yards and 26 touchdowns over the last two years. He also has 19 interceptions in the 19 games he has played for Oklahoma State.
Miami defensively will be without star defensive ends Jaelan Phillips and Quincy Roche, who are both skipping the bowl game to prepare for the draft. Phillips and Roche combined for 30 tackles for a loss and 12.5 sacks in the regular season.
When Miami Has the Ball
Before the bowl game, the Hurricanes received a bit of good news when quarterback D'Eriq King announced that he was returning in 2021. King was instrumental in the Hurricanes' turnaround this season as he has completed 64 percent of his passes for 2,573 yards and 22 touchdowns while rushing for another 520 yards and four scores.
"I don't think D'Eriq has ever been in the same offensive system two years in a row," Miami head coach Manny Diaz said. "And so, just to be able to come back and have the continuity of staff and players around him would be an immense benefit."
Miami is surrounded by a ton of talent offensively, including running back Cam'Ron Harris and wide receiver Mike Harley. Harris leads the Hurricanes in rushing yards with 591 and nine touchdowns, while Harley enters this game with 49 receptions for 730 yards and six touchdowns.
Tight ends Brevin Jordan and Will Mallory also have combined for 48 receptions, 742 yards, and nine touchdowns.
The Cheez-It Bowl should be one of the more entertaining bowl games of the season. Miami's defense should play a lot better than it did against North Carolina when the Hurricanes gave up 554 rushing yards and nearly 800 total. But not having Jaelan Phillips and Quincy Roche will hurt facing an Oklahoma State offense that likes to sling the ball down the field.
For Miami's offense, D'Eriq King should be able to use his legs and arm to move the ball against a Cowboys defense that is ranked 40th in the nation at 365.7 yards allowed per game.
Miami has had lousy luck in bowl games recently, but this is an excellent opportunity for them to get off the schneid.
Prediction: Miami 41, Oklahoma State 38
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— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post and is a reporter for Pro Player Insiders. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.
(D'Eriq King photo courtesy of @CanesFootball)