Before the 2009 college football season began, the concern surrounding the University of Miami Hurricanes was how they would fare during their first four games.
Opening the season with four straight ranked opponents is not a recipe for success for any team, much less a young UM team that was outclassed in their last game of the ’08 season.
Now that the No. 11 Hurricanes have survived that stretch with a 3-1 record and solidified their spot as a BCS contender, the hard part begins.
THERE ARE STILL EIGHT GAMES ON THE SCHEDULE
Starting this weekend against Florida A&M, the Hurricanes should be favored in every game they play. While this does not seem like such a daunting task, consider that Miami’s biggest opponent the rest of the season will be themselves.
There is no doubt that the Canes can get ready for big games. After losing at Virginia Tech and rebounding with a win against Oklahoma, there is little doubt that these Canes can respond to negative hype as well.
However, we have not seen how well this team can perform when the national television spotlight is not shining on them. We do not yet know how a less than capacity Land Shark Stadium will affect the young egos of this talented bunch.
We do not know how the Canes will react to being the “hunted”.
“LEARN FROM HISTORY OR YOU WILL BE DOOMED TO…”
The Canes cannot fall victim to the same trap that always seems to strike at the most inopportune times.
Every year, highly ranked teams that have only to “take care of business” fall to weaker teams that consider the game their own “national championship.”
While the Canes are not necessarily in the driver’s seat—UM needs Virginia Tech to lose two conference games just to get to the ACC Championship—they certainly have all chips in place for a major bowl game and, perhaps, a shot at the main prize: their sixth National Title in 27 seasons.
WHAT WE DO KNOW
Randy Shannon has silenced his critics and gained the trust of most of UM nation.
A.D. Kirby Hocutt has been quoted as saying, “Randy Shannon is going to be with our football program for a long, long time.” (Miami Herald)
This is good news for the Canes. With one National Title as a player, one as a graduate assistant, and one as defensive coordinator, Coach Shannon is the epitome of UM.
As a young coach at a program where rebuilding is a four-letter word, Shannon has experienced the lows (51-13 loss at Oklahoma in 2007) and the highs (21-20 win vs. Oklahoma last Saturday night).
While Shannon was always considered an excellent recruiter and defensive coordinator, he must now be considered an up-and-coming coach whose best years are ahead of him.
His success is directly correlated with the team’s success on the field. But his main satisfaction is leading a group of young men who excel off the field as well.
One of those young men is quarterback Jacory Harris. The turbulent ride this true sophomore has experienced is more than most players can handle in four years, much less four games.
From an unproven college starter, to a Heisman Trophy candidate, to a product of the hype, to “maybe he isn’t that good” after throwing two interceptions on UM’s first two drives vs. OU, to player of the game against OU, Harris has the image of a grizzled veteran.
His composure and poise during this portion of the schedule will play a major factor in how the team responds to a possible early deficit on the road at Wake Forest or a bad call versus Clemson.
While these two leaders of the new and improved Canes have exhibited the qualities necessary to bring UM back to the top, their performance the rest of the season will be the true barometer as to how far we’ve got to go.
True championship teams are able to play at a high level every game, rather than play down to the competition.
Complacency and over-confidence are two factors that contribute to a team taking a play or, even worse, a week off.
After these first four games, is there any reason to think that Shannon and Harris will allow that to happen?