Most pundits would agree the Miami Hurricanes look like a pretty good football team, but perhaps not elite level. Why is that?
It's early in the season, but Miami's record is where everyone expected it to be: 2-1. The media experts largely picked Ohio State to beat the Canes, and that's exactly what happened. Then Miami went on to dominate the Panthers in Pittsburgh.
Now the Baby Canes (freshmen no more) are going to start their ACC play. This sometimes gives fans pause: Miami has consistently lost a few games in conference they weren't supposed to lose. One of those games last year was to Clemson in Miami. This year the Canes are taking a trip to their place.
Miami is gunning for a BCS game, and wants to be a dark horse for the national title (playing against whoever wins the SEC Championship, of course). That all starts with this game. Miami needs to start winning every week, and start winning now.
What has to occur for that to happen? Looking at the statistics, it's pretty simple. It's something Hurricanes fans don't really like to talk about.
Jacory Harris has so far thrown as many interceptions as he has touchdowns. He has the second highest number of interceptions amongst FBS quarterbacks.
Eliminate interceptions and look at other statistics. Harris boasts a 64% completion rating, along with a good chunk of yards, and six touchdowns. Damien Berry is on pace for a 900-yard season. Ditto Leonard Hankerson in receiving yards. The offense is very good, and those are stats despite six interceptions in two games against quality FBS opponents. They could be elite if Harris cut those down.
And the defense?
Sean Spence has returned to form, brilliantly so, with 6.5 tackles for loss. Ray Ray Armstrong is looking like another #26 Canes fans once knew, years ago.
The Canes held Ohio State to five field goal attempts. Two of these occurred directly after Jacory threw the ball to the wrong helmet. They were the ones who kept it close until late. A game in which Miami gave up the ball four times compared to Ohio State's none. They consistently stepped up to the plate and prevented the Buckeyes from running away with the game.
Stop giving opponents good field position, stop putting the defense in those situations, and they play like they did at Pitt. They prevented the offense from scoring a first down until the fourth quarter. They play like they have in Miami's two wins in which they held two opponents to a total of three points. This defense could be extremely dominant.
This whole team could be dominant.
Except for that dreaded word. That word that Canes fans heard and made them groan in frustration. He was supposed to cut down on those. He was not supposed to throw six interceptions in two games.
Like he did last year with seven interceptions against North Carolina and... Clemson.
Excuses can be made, of course. Benjamin didn't run his route. He didn't catch the ball right. And some of those may be valid to a point.
However, in the end it doesn't matter how the interceptions come down. Turnovers lose games. Miami will lose games if they continue to turn the ball over. But over the course of a few games it appears they have everything else in place.
Cause and effect: If Jacory Harris cuts down on his interceptions, the Miami Hurricanes will run the table and win the ACC Championship.
They are favored over every opponent right now. If they continue to win, they will continue to be favored. An ACC Championship and BCS berth a very real possibility. Only one thing has to happen for it to become reality.
It has to start now or Hurricane fans will be, once again, forced to be on the outside looking in while reminiscing about bygone days.