Miami Football: Hurricanes Solidify Status as ACC Contender with Rout of USF

Mike HoagCorrespondent IISeptember 28, 2013

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - SEPTEMBER 07:  Stephen Morris #17 of the Miami Hurricanes celebrates a touchdown during a game against the Florida Gators at Sun Life Stadium on September 7, 2013 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Romping a winless USF team won’t get the Miami Hurricanes much respect in the polls. The decisive win, though, is another solid indicator that this year’s team is a legitimate ACC contender.

While the final score reads 49-21, the Canes’ win was much more lopsided. After taking a 35-7 lead into the half, coach Al Golden sat most of his starters after the intermission. The Bulls still only scored seven points on offense in the second half and finished with 288 total yards. Their second touchdown came on an interception return of backup Canes quarterback Gray Crow.

The Hurricanes’ consistent high level of play has been one of the better stories in the conference this season. Last year, if you remember, the Hurricanes self-imposed a second straight bowl ban on themselves while allegations continued into their compliance practices.

The NCAA has not yet ruled on any potential sanctions for the school, but ACC commissioner John Swofford said that this summer he’d be “surprised and disappointed” if the NCAA levies any additional penalties against them.

It’s a good thing the Hurricanes made that preemptive sacrifice, too, because they’re a team that appears on the verge of taking the next step in the ACC this season.

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - SEPTEMBER 21: Stephen Morris #17 of the Miami Hurricanes throws the ball prior to the game against the Savannah State Tigers on September 21, 2013 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

They have already scored a signature win against in-state rival Florida to prove that blowing out cupcakes isn’t all this year’s team is capable of.

During their first three games, the Hurricanes have shut down opposing teams to just under 10 points per game—seventh best in the nation. That defense bent but didn’t break against the Gators, forcing five turnovers, including a critical fumble recovery to set up their winning touchdown.

With an offense that is averaging 450.7 yards per game, the Hurricanes appear to have a well-balanced, competitive team that will give the ACC fits in the coming months.

Not having to play Clemson Tigers this season doesn’t hurt their chances, either.

And even if the talented Hurricanes can’t find a way to overcome the No. 8 ranked Florida State Seminoles on Nov. 2, they could still likely end up in the ACC title game, as the Tigers and Seminoles are both Atlantic Division members.

Looking ahead is never wise, especially for a young and hungry team like the Canes. But they have proven to be up to the challenge each week, no matter who is on the other side of the field.

If they can continue to win the turnover battle and minimize mental errors—like the drops we witnessed in their Week 1 win over Florida Atlantic—the Hurricanes should be able to give any team in the ACC a run for their money.