Miami Football: 7 Reasons Canes Should Be ACC Coastal Favorites in 2013
The Miami Hurricanes will enter the 2013 season as the defending Coastal Division champions even though they never played in the 2012 ACC Championship Game against Florida State due to self-imposed bowl sanctions.
So who's to say the Canes couldn't repeat?
I honestly believe next year's team will be much improved and have the athletes and coaches to prove to the entire country that the 2012 season wasn't a fluke.
Here are my seven reasons the Hurricanes should be ACC Coastal favorites.
Returning Coastal Champions
One of the main reasons why the Hurricanes should be favored is because they will be the reigning Coastal Champions.
The Hurricanes would have played Florida State for the ACC Championship but were ineligible due to the university self-imposing a second straight bowl ban. Georgia Tech ended up facing FSU and lost, 21-15.
With 20 starters coming back for the Hurricanes and the rest of the division returning far less, the Hurricanes should no doubt be the favorites heading into the 2013 season.
Duke Johnson and Stephen Morris
The first reason the Hurricanes repeat will be the play of quarterback Stephen Morris and running back Duke Johnson. Both players will return after having stellar 2012 seasons.
Morris had a remarkable year throwing for 3,345 yards, 21 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. It was a huge turnaround from Morris' first two years in which he threw more interceptions (11) than touchdowns (7).
Duke, on the other hand, had an unbelievable freshman season that landed him on multiple All-American teams and the All-ACC team while being honored as the ACC Rookie of the Year.
He finished the season with 2,060 all-purpose yards, the second most in school history and the most ever by a Hurricane freshman. Not bad considering he wasn't even the starting running back.
Both players should have a tremendous 2013 campaign and will be the key contributors of Miami winning back-to-back Coastal Division championships.
Before the 2012 season started my main concern was the offense. The Hurricanes lost their two leading receivers (Tommy Streeter and Travis Benjamin), leading running back (Lamar Miller) and the starting quarterback (Jacory Harris).
All in all, Miami had just four returning offensive starters. Fortunately for the Canes it was a blessing in disguise as the offense proved to one of the best in the ACC, finishing fifth in the ACC in total offense averaging 440 yards per game (No. 38 in the country).
It should only get better next season as all but one player (running back Mike James) will be returning.
I honestly believe the Hurricanes offense can put up over 40 points per game next season, and if it does, the Coastal Division will be Miami's.
The Rest of the Coastal Is Losing Too Much Star Power
The Hurricanes will have a legitimate chance to win the Coastal with two losses in the ACC. I don't see North Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Duke or Georgia Tech finishing better than they did this season.
Virginia Tech (4-4 ACC) also doesn't scare me at all. Quarterback Logan Thomas said he would return for his senior season, but the offense is in such shambles that I do not see the Hokies winning more than four ACC games for the second-straight year.
Duke (4-4 ACC) will be losing the most and could very well sink to the bottom of the division. The Blue Devils graduate their starting quarterback (Sean Renfree) and their best wide receiver (Conner Vernon). I just can't see a new quarterback doing as well as Renfree did over the four years he was at Duke.
Georgia Tech (5-3 ACC) will be in a similar situation that Duke is in. The Yellow Jackets will be without quarterback Tevin Washington and primary running back Orwin Smith. Both players combined for 2,755 total yards of offense and 31 touchdowns. Ouch.
North Carolina (5-3 ACC) will most likely lose one of the best running backs in the country in Giovani Bernard. Bernard is the heart and soul of the Tar Heels, and if he leaves, I see UNC losing at least three conference games.
If Bernard doesn't leave for the NFL, the Tar Heels could certainly fight the Hurricanes for the Coastal Division Championship.
Another team that may contend with the Hurricanes will be the Virginia Cavaliers. Yes, the Cavaliers.
They already play Miami very well and have beaten the Hurricanes three straight times. They return almost everyone on offense and should be able to finish conference play with a 5-3 record.
Plethora of Returning Players
The 2013 Miami Hurricanes should return 22 starters on both offense and defense. The only hit the Hurricanes will take on special teams is the graduation of kicker Jake Wieclaw.
Other then that, the Hurricanes return a lot of talent. Just as important as the talent is the fact that so many players got on the field this season, which will be extremely helpful to the Hurricanes depth chart.
Miami should be set on the offensive side of the ball already, and if the defense can be even 50 percent better than it was last year, the Hurricanes should coast to a division championship.
Defense SHOULD Be Better
Another key to the Hurricanes being the Coastal Division champs is how well the defense will improve over last season.
We all already know the Canes finished ranked No. 116 (out of 120) in total defense. The bright side of this is that it can't get any worse—right?
Well, let's hope not anyway.
Even with poor coaching schemes by defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio, the Hurricanes should vastly improve on the defensive side of the ball.
A lot of freshmen got playing time this season, and it should help them this upcoming season. My only concern is the defensive line. If it plays as bad as it did this season, the Hurricanes could struggle winning the Coastal Division.
Off-Field Distractions Should Be Eliminated
The NCAA should be handing out punishment to Miami sometime soon, if not in February. Once that happens the Hurricane coaches and players can finally lift the weight of their shoulders.
For the first time in two years, they won't have to field questions regarding the NCAA allegations—they will finally be able to move on.
I know it doesn't seem to be much of a distraction to the team based on what they say, but deep inside it killing the the team, especially head coach Al Golden.
Once the punishment is handed down, a big sigh of relief will finally be able to be let out—even for me.