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PS4: Dolphins 17, Dallas 3: Miami ends encouraging preseason 3-1; plus FIU wins big in opener, odds on Sparano firing & more

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1aa1fripix 1aa1fripix COUNTDOWN! 7 DAYS TIL UPSET BIRD: Coming Friday, Sept. 9...

BETTING LINES ON SPARANO, DOLPHIN PLAYER STATS: Bodog has Miami's Tony Sparano the second-most likely NFL coach to be fired during the season at 7-2. The only hotter seat is under Jacksonville's Jack Del Rio at 3-1. Select over/unders for individual player stats: Chad Henne, 3,250 passing yards, 16.5 TDs, 17.5 picks. Reggie Bush, 650 rushing yards. Daniel Thomas, 550 rushing yards. Brandon Marshall, 1,000 receiving yards. Davone Bess, 750 receiving yards. And Cameron Wake, 10 sacks.

PS4: DOLPHINS 17, DALLAS 3: STARTERS SIT AS SCRUBS BOWL ENDS PRESEASON: FINAL: Not many conslusions to draw when starters don't play, but Matt Moore looked great and solidfied himself as a strong backup QB. Reserves on pass defense looked shaky. Two big questions to be answered: Did veterans Larry Johnson (22-yard TD run) and Will Allen (four solo tackles) show enough to win roster spots? All in all, this 3-1 preseason registers as mostly encouraging for Miam. ..... 4Q: Cowboys miss meaningless FG with three seconds left. ..... Dolphins denied on 4th and goal run from two by Nic (Eleanor) Grigsby. ..... Successful Dallas challenge wipes out apparent Miami sack and fumble recovery. ..... Dan Carpenter 50-yard FG for 17-3 lead with 10 minutes to play. ..... Cowboys miss 48-yard FG on first play of fourth. ..... 3Q: Matt Moore TD pass to TE Jeron  Mastrud and Miami up 14-3 mid-third. ..... 2Q: Dallas with a field in final seconds of half. ..... 1Q: Veteran RB Larry Johnson, fighting for a roster spot, channels 2006 on 22-yard scoring run. LJ's first TD of any kind since '08. Miami up 7-0. ..... Tyrone Culver end-zone interception for Miami thwarts Dallas drive. ..... Pregame: Dolphins announced virtually every starter is scratched tonight, mostly only scrubs and bubble-guys playing. Same with Dallas. Unusual. Thought starters woiuld get maybe one series. ..... Light rain and very sparse crowd. Original post: four preseason games each have a particular niche. The first is to get the bugs out and starters don't play much. The second is for fine tuning and the starters play a little more. The third is more of a legitimate dress rehearsal and the starters play quite a bit. And the fourth -- that's tonight, here, vs. Dallas -- is to tie up loose ends and the starters don't play much. The loose ends? Settling any starting positions still in contention and judging the "bubble" guys on the edge of making the final roster or not. The only real starter battle left is Reshad Jones vs. Chris Clemons at safety. Bubble guys include veteran DB Will Allen, veteran RB Larry Johnson, and Marlon Moore vs. Roberto Wallace for the final WR spot. Miami's game-planning is focused not on tonight but on the Sept. 12 opener vs. the Patriots. The fact the Dolphins also face Dallas during the regular season only underlines the fact Miami won't show much. Winning is not a priority tonight, so take the result lightly. Your thoughts welcome before, during and of course after tonight's game.

FIU OPENS SEASON WITH SUCCESSS IN NEW ROLE: FAVORITE: Final: FIU 41, North Texas 16. Nice start for Golden Panthers at home, and for T.Y. Hilton with seven catches for 132 yards including a 60-yard TD, plus 49 yards rushing and 102 on returns. ..... Original post: The doormat days are done. Coach Mario Cristobal's 1aa1fiunt squad -- the Mario Brothers -- begin the season as Sun Belt co-favorites along with (not Helen, but) Troy. Tonight the Golden Panthers are 14-point faves opening at home vs. the splendidly nicknamed Mean Green of North Texas. Let's see how The Int'l deals with its new role as expected winner after last year's 7-6 season included a conference title and Little Caesars Bowl win over Toledo. Goldcats ended 7-2 after a rough start. Tonight not only is a better-win matchup for FIU but also a big stats-padding opportunity for T.Y. Hilton, whose yardage and TD numbers need to be, well, not less than staggering if the school's underdog Heisman campaign for him is to gain any traction nationally. Pick: FIU 38, North Texas 20.

SPECIAL SECTIONS GALORE!: Out today: The Miami Herald's annual special football sections for NFL, NCAA and High Schools. Ah the "special section," an enduring newspaper evergreen. My trident contribution:

NFL 32-team rank: I slot every team, best to worst, based on how they look on paper entering the season. My top five: Pats, Pack, Eagles, Steelers, Chargers. Dolphins: No. 17. Click HERE.

Dolphins' bad moves, bad luck: I columnize on the team's post-Marino litany of bad decisions and bad luck that leave a fan to think the fates owe Miami a bleepin' break already. Click HERE.

Start of college season a needed break: Scandals from Miami to Southern Cal and too many places in between made for an awful offseason for the sport. At last, the games! Click HERE. 

TODAY MARKS RETURN OF 790's [BLEEP] PREGAME SHOW: Beginning today at 5 p.m. I'm back on 1aa1dol790 790 The Ticket's pregame show centering around a certain local NFL team that hosts Dallas tonight in its final exhibition -- a team whose nickname the station can't use in the title of the show because it doesn't own broadcast rights. I wonder what team that could be! It's a second season of me with the station's Eric Reed and former Dolphin Oronde Gadsden. Uh oh. I said "Dolphin"! We'll have some fun. Tune in. And click 790 [Bleep] Pregame Show for the station site, where podcasts will be available.

JACK AND ICP: Interesting collaboration: Jack White and Insane Clown Posse. Click here. I'll take my Jack from the White Stripes days or with Raconteurs. He started to lose me with Dead Weather. Brilliant talent, though.