Miami Football: Ranking the Offenses That the Hurricanes Must Battle in 2012

Stephen UrbaniakCorrespondent IAugust 21, 2012

Miami Football: Ranking the Offenses That the Hurricanes Must Battle in 2012

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    With the 2012 college football season almost upon us, one has to ask themselves, "How good will the Miami Hurricanes be in Al Golden's second year of coaching?"  A lot of uncertainty and unanswered questions surround this program.

    With the looming specter of the hammer of the NCAA still on everyone's minds, the question is how badly will the 'Canes get smacked by Sheriff Emmert and the NCAA Infractions Committee? 

    From a football standpoint, one has to wonder how "The U" is going to replace the big shoes of tailback Lamar Miller and receivers Travis Benjamin and Tommy Streeter, who all bolted to the NFL.  Stephen Morris has recently won the QB competition over Ryan Williams, and will go into the season as Coach Golden's guy to run the offense.

    Many are picking Miami to finish again in the middle of the pack in the ACC, and also add another year of failing to capture the ever-elusive ACC division and conference championships they have sought since joining the league in 2004.

    Here are the 12 offenses that the 'Canes will face this season ranked from worst to best.

1. Boston College Eagles (ACC Game)

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    The first game up for Miami in the 2012 season is a rematch of an embarrassing loss to end last season as the "highly touted" Class of 2008 was anything but that, with the 'Canes coming out flat and losing 24-17.

    Boston College has always been a team that prides itself on running the football and playing sound defense; and they bent but didn't break as they held on for an ACC win to close out their otherwise dismal 2011 campaign, closing with a record of 4-8.

    Miami will look to get a better rhythm going as they try to exact some revenge from last season.  They feature a new starting QB in Stephen Morris, a familiar face at RB in senior Mike James and wideout Allen Hurns (who will be counted on to step up to replace personnel losses.) 

    Defensively, the 'Canes need to be able to play more disciplined football, stop the run and force turnovers to get off the field and give the offense more opportunities.


2. Bethune-Cookman Wildcats

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    A non-conference opponent that until last season hadn't faced a big-time football program in its 86 years of existence, Bethune-Cookman was destroyed by Jacory Harris and the Miami offense en route to a 45-14 Hurricanes victory in Miami last year.

    Harris completed 12 of 17 passes for 175 yards and Lamar Miller scored two touchdowns and rushed for 102 yards as the Hurricanes started slow, but then caught fire and lit up the Wildcats after they took an early 7-0 lead.

    This season, Miami needs to get started more effectively and go for the throat from the opening kickoff and not let teams hang around and get back into the game.  Stephen Morris will have to be able to run the game plan and limit his mistakes, or Miami may again find themselves in a dogfight with a lesser opponent.

    OFFENSE RANK: 10th

3. Duke Blue Devils (ACC Game)

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    The Duke Blue Devils.  They aren't known as well for football as they are for basketball.  They have been the bottom-feeder in the ACC for a long time as they went 3-9 with a 1-7 record in the ACC last year.

    Led by QB Sean Renfree and RB Juwan Thompson, the Duke offense is often based on a solid running game and last season it wasn't very effective.

    Miami blew out Duke last season 49-14 behind a complete effort from Lamar Miller, as he became the first Miami 1,000-yard rusher since 2002, and the 'Canes scored on their first five possessions to hand Duke its 44th ACC loss on the road in the last 48 road contests.

    This season, Miami needs to establish balance offensively and control the game from the opening kickoff to prevent this team from hanging around too long and possibly sneaking an upset.


4. N.C. State Wolfpack (ACC Game)

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    An ACC team that pundits and experts don't take seriously, the N.C. State Wolfpack are a well-coached team led by Tom O'Brien.  They were the 2011 Belk Bowl champions last season after beating Louisville 31-24.

    The Wolfpack lean on QB Mike Glennon on offense, who threw three touchdown passes in the bowl game last year; and they will no doubt look to the junior quarterback again to lead the team into the coming season.

    Miami doesn't have a lot of history with N.C. State, and for that reason they should not be taken lightly.  Miami's young secondary led by five-star CB Tracy Howard will be tested by the aerial attack of the Wolfpack.  Look for Miami to pressure Glennon into making mistakes and making him beat them with his arm.


5. South Florida Bulls

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    An in-state rivalry game, the South Florida Bulls are an improving team that also shouldn't be taken lightly.  Miami held on to win in an ugly 6-3 game last season that made the 'Canes bowl eligible, but was later declined as part of a bowl ban imposed by Miami in light of the Nevin Shapiro mess.

    Last season was a back and forth kind of game, as the two teams couldn't really get into a rhythm until Miami's Jacory Harris made some key third-down conversions to set up Jake Wieclaw's game-winning 36-yard field goal as time expired to give Miami six wins on the season.

    In order to avoid another close game, Miami needs to be able to establish the run to set up the pass.  This will enable them to control the tempo of the game and keep South Florida on their heels the entire game.


6. North Carolina Tar Heels (ACC Game)

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    Once this ACC game rolls around there will be a lot on the line for both teams.  Miami beat the Tar Heels at Kenan Memorial Stadium last year by a score of 30-24, after being 0-4 there.

    Giovani Bernard is the workhorse of the Heels offense, rushing for 110 yards in the losing effort, and will look to make his presence felt as the Heels will again look to spoil Miami's drive for that first division title.

    Miami must be able to stop the run on defense and not let North Carolina dictate the pace and flow of the game.  The secondary must be able to come up with turnovers to give Stephen Morris and the offense every opportunity to put the game away early.


7. Virginia Cavaliers (ACC Game)

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    The Virginia Cavaliers have always been in the shadow of their rivals in Blacksburg.  Last season, they were on the Hokies' heels for the Coastal Division's bid in the ACC Championship Game after finishing second.

    Led by coach Mike London and quarterback Michael Rocco, the Cavaliers are an up-and-coming team that must not be taken lightly.  They rely on controlling the clock on offense and limiting their mistakes—something that Miami will have to exploit to turn their fortunes around against the Cavs.

    Last season, Miami was beaten 28-21 by a seemingly-good Virginia team which made it two straight losses to the boys from Charlottesville.

    Miami must contain Rocco and not let the Cavs gash them on the ground as Perry Jones did a year ago.  The defense needs more discipline against the run to limit big plays.


8. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

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    A team that Miami has A LOT of history with since the 1980s "Catholics vs. Convicts," the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are a team that is up and down.  They last met in the 2010 Hyundai Sun Bowl, with the Irish dominating the boys from Coral Gables, FL by a score of 33-17.

    The 'Canes had no answer for WR Michael Floyd in the last matchup, and will look to contain QB Tommy Rees and limit his options in order to prevent the game from becoming a shootout, which Miami would lose.

    Miami will need to play better coverage to make Rees find another way to beat them, as they also have RB Cierre Wood who can make some defensive coordinators stay awake at night with his elusiveness.


9. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (ACC Game)

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    Yet another ACC game that will decide Miami's destiny in the conference, pending any NCAA punishment.  The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets are a well-coached team that runs the triple option offense that can gas any team, anywhere.

    Last season, Miami was able to hold the Jackets' vaunted offense to only 211 yards, and had tallied three straight victories over the Yellow Jackets after their 24-7 victory.

    As always, the triple option offense is lethal if you can get the play to set up, and if you can catch the defense off guard.  Miami will need to watch for Tevin Washington as he can be an effective runner if given the room and the time.

    Miami has won their last three games against the Yellow Jackets by a combined score of 92-34 and I expect the 'Canes to add a fourth straight victory over an ACC rival.

    OFFENSE RANK: TIED for 4th with ND

10. Kansas State Wildcats

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    The next game features Miami playing against a surprisingly good Kansas State team that needed a fourth-and-1 stop at the goal line of Jacory Harris last season to beat the 'Canes 28-24.  It was a highly contested matchup that saw the Wildcats blow an 11-point lead but hang on after stopping Harris with less than a minute left.

    Kansas State returns QB Collin Klein and RB John Hubert, who single-handedly guided the Wildcats' offense to that win that they had to earn in the last 90 seconds of the game.  

    Miami needs to contain the solid running attack led by Hubert, who gained 166 yards against the Canes' usually solid rushing defense.  They need to also keep an eye on Klein, who had 92 yards on the ground in last season's contest.

    Even though this is an out-of-conference game, the 'Canes need to be prepared.


11. Florida State Seminoles (ACC Game)

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    The date every Miami and Florida State fan, student, follower or just college football fan have circled.  This rivalry has more bad blood then any other in the country.

    Wide Right, Wide Left, The Miami Muff, The Labor Day Miracle in 2009, Jimbo Fisher's First Win Against Miami.  There have been too many classic games to count.

    Deion Sanders, Peter Boulware, Ray Lewis, Michael Irvin, Chris Rix, Anquan Boldin, Andre Johnson: These names have battled on many occasions in the NFL.  But before the draft, before the money, before the Super Bowl rings for some of these guys, it was the Miami Hurricanes vs. the Florida State Seminoles. 

    These teams were often highly ranked and almost always in the national championship picture back in the day. And every time Florida State won the national championship, they had to beat Miami to get there.

    Not so much championship hype now, but when these two meet, it's a downright street fight.

    Last season, Miami fell victim to the power of Seminole Nation as they were beaten 23-19 off of an effective night by QB E.J. Manuel and an 83-yard punt return by Greg Reid. 

    Miami made it close with two Mike James touchdowns in the fourth quarter, but ran out of time as the Seminoles captured a key ACC and rivalry game win over their most hated rival in the famed "Battle of the Sunshine State."

    This season, Miami must be able to keep containment on Manuel and limit his options down field.  He will try to test the 'Canes young and unproven secondary early and often.


12. Virginia Tech Hokies (ACC Game)

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    A Hokie-sized roadblock.  That's what Virginia Tech has been to Miami ever since the two joined the ACC.  There have been games important to the Hurricanes breaking through in the ACC, but none more important than when the Hokies from Blacksburg, VA come to town.

    The most recent game that derailed Miami's hopes was in 2009.  Miami had just come off of huge wins over Georgia Tech and Florida State, and came into Blacksburg ranked No. 9 in the country, their highest ranking since 2005.  Miami was floored by the tough Hokies defense in a rain-soaked Blacksburg by a score of 31-7.

    Rainy conditions and an opportunistic defense were what did Miami in then. Last season, it was the late heroics of QB Logan Thomas that saved the day as Virginia Tech fended off a tough Miami team that scored 21 points in the fourth quarter to win in the final few minutes of the game by a score of 38-35.

    Time and again, the Hokies have been in Miami's way in the ACC.  With Logan Thomas returning and Bud Foster still the defensive coordinator for the Hokies, expect a tough game when Virginia Tech comes to Sun Life Stadium.