The 2012 college football season is upon us, and Miami's first game up is a rematch of last season's finale against ACC rival Boston College.
The Eagles beat the Hurricanes by a score of 24-17 after picking off senior QB Jacory Harris four times to send Miami's "vaunted" recruiting class of 2008 out with a little more than a whimper.
Both teams face questions in the ACC this season, and each team will look to set the tone for a positive start to the season.
Miami will start the season with the clouds of the NCAA still hanging over the program after the Nevin Shapiro mess and the added problems of Sean Allen's deposition to the NCAA regarding recruiting violations that occurred right after the start of the season.
Boston College will look to continue the pace on defense after seeing Luke Kuechly leave for the NFL and will look to contain the solid running of Miami RB Mike James.
Here are seven keys for a Hurricanes win against Boston College:
Establishing the run enables an offense to set up the pass. A stellar running game will control the time of possession which will enable a team to dictate the tempo of the game.
Miami has the ability to do both of these things with senior RB Mike James. The 'Canes have had a rich tradition of dominant running backs, and James will look to conclude his Miami career like those who have preceded him.
The Hurricanes offense must not start slow, as they have to be able to control the pace of the game from the opening possession and not let the Eagles get into a rhythm.
Stephen Morris will need all of the help he can get to take the pressure off of himself in order to effectively manage the offense.
QB Stephen Morris was recently announced as Miami's starting quarterback over Ryan Williams, and rightfully so. He was the backup to Jacory Harris and even started when Harris was suspended by the school for his part in the Nevin Shapiro scandal.
Morris has the ability to move in the pocket to buy time and can make any throw anywhere on the field.
With the loss of Travis Benjamin and Tommy Streeter to the NFL, guys like Phillip Dorsett and Allen Hurns will need to step up and be reliable targets for the quarterback.
Against Boston College, the Hurricanes need to be balanced offensively in order to control the game from the opening possession, and Morris being able to find his receivers downfield and taking what the defense gives him will be key when Miami is on offense.
The scene in the above picture is exactly what Miami defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio does NOT want to see a repeat of.
The defense needs to play better than they did a season ago, as they allowed Boston College's Chris Pantale to score two touchdowns in a deflating loss a year ago.
Miami's defense has lost Marcus Forston, JoJo Nicolas, Micanor Regis, and Adewale Ojomo from last year's squad. They will need to be more disciplined against the Eagles offense as their offense is not to be taken lightly, even though they finished next to last in the ACC in total offense.
One of the keys to the game will be to stop Boston College on first and second down and put them into 3rd-and-long situations to better enable standout LB Denzel Perryman to lurk across the middle and keep everything from getting behind him and Miami's suddenly young defense.
Miami has had the tendency to start slow on offense, and that leads to what happens in the video. They have to be able to make the most of their offensive possessions.
The Hurricanes have an inexperienced starting QB in Stephen Morris, and they need to do everything on offense to take the pressure off of him.
Miami's offense had a third-down conversion rate of just above 43 percent last season. That isn't going to cut it if they want to compete for their elusive first ACC division crown against the likes of Virginia Tech, Virginia and the other teams in the Coastal Division.
Miami is going to need to increase their efficiency on third down in order to give the offense more opportunities to be there at the end of games, rather than having to play catch up.
Al Golden has been put through the ringer during his first two years as head coach of the Miami football team with the Nevin Shapiro scandal and the allegations made by Sean Allen, not to mention the transfers of recruits he thought were in the bag.
He has answered many questions, mostly centered around the scandal and how Miami is dealing with it.
He has remained steadfast in his commitment to the school, the program and the players that are there now, and the ones he is bringing in such as Tracy Howard, Duke Johnson and others that enabled the Hurricanes to enter 2012 with a class ranked in the top 10 in the country.
He had this to say on February 1, 2012 to the Florida-based Sun Sentinel regarding how trying it's been since he took over. Golden said:
It's been a grueling year. We've been through a lot. The allegations and events of August 2011. The subsequent suspensions and distractions. We lost the bowl game so we could move forward. We were honest with kids. We weren't responsible for the problems, but we are responsible enough to fix it. We paid a dear penalty.
Here was his statement to the Associated Press (via ESPN) after the Allen allegations:
I have been a college football coach for more than 18 years and I am proud of -- and I stand by -- my record of compliance over that span. As my colleagues and players on all of my teams can attest, I believe strongly in doing things the right way with the best of intentions. The inferences and suggestions in the Yahoo! Sports story that my conduct was anything but ethical are simply false. I, like all of us at UM, have cooperated fully with the joint NCAA-UM inquiry and will continue to do so, so that our program and our University can move forward.
Because the process is on-going, I am unable to address any specifics or answer questions on the matter.
I have personally met Coach Golden, and he and his staff have always tried to play the best players on the roster in order to give Miami the best chance to win every Saturday, They should continue to do that this coming season.
Yes, yes, yes. We know that the disgraced Ponzi schemer Nevin Shapiro made allegations against the University of Miami that has an eerie similarity to the way Luther Campbell ran his own program of paying improper benefits in the 1980s.
Shapiro called himself "Lil Luke" to Campbell's "Uncle Luke." The NCAA has been at it for almost a year investigating what claims and what proof there is to support the laundry list of violations.
Miami fans are waiting for this mess to be over, while critics are laughing and labels such as Thug U, U Suck and others are tossed around in a mockery of one of college football's most successful and storied programs.
Coach Golden said it best when he flatly told the media and his opponents on the field, to "get your licks in now."
So far, Miami has repaid over $120,000 to the bankruptcy lawyer handling repaying Shapiro's victims. They sat out last year's bowl season despite going 6-6. They suspended all of the then-current players who were named in the report and they outright kicked senior standout safety Ray-Ray Armstrong off the team after he engaged in activities with agents and boosters, which was what got Miami in this mess to begin with.
We all know the NCAA is going to come down on the Hurricanes. When, how and any other specifics are still unknown, as the investigation is still apparently ongoing. Until the NCAA rules, the Hurricanes coaches, players and fans need not worry about it until it comes.
Now for the fun part. Predicting college football games is often blind luck. A fumble on a critical possession or a game-changing interception for a touchdown are often what decides games.
The ACC has often been regarded as one of the weaker football conferences aside from Florida State and Virginia Tech. Miami was brought over from the Big East to compete for ACC titles as well as national championships, and as we all know, they haven't even come close.
For Miami to win, they will need a good, but not great game from Stephen Morris and the offense, as they will need to stay balanced to be able to sustain drives and not commit major mistakes as Jacory Harris threw four interceptions in last season's loss.
The Hurricanes defense will need to prove that they can overcome the losses of so many starters on defense and not let Boston College pick up easy yards which would lead to easy touchdowns.
The prediction for the game will be:
Miami (FL) 24, Boston College 14
Miami picks up the ACC win and sets the season off on a positive note behind a productive game from RB Mike James, and the defense bends but doesn't break as they hold off a surprisingly good Boston College offense and gets revenge for an embarrassing loss last season.