Miami's Matchup Against Florida Could Be the Springboard to a New Beginning

JB McCandlesCorrespondent ISeptember 3, 2008

The Miami Hurricanes have always been one of the top teams in the nation, year in and year out.  However, the past two seasons have been huge disappointments.

It isn't only the results for Miami that have hurt.  It was the brawl against Florida International and the firing of Larry Coker, who had done a great job at Miami until everything began to collapse.

Enter new coach Randy Shannon, who was the defensive coordinator under Coker.  Shannon promised to bring a new attitude toward the game and bring back the old swagger of Miami football.

In Shannon's first season, the Canes won just five games and failed to qualify for a bowl. 

To show that things were changing in Miami, the Canes left the Orange Bowl in a season that they won't hesitate to forget.  Maybe a 5-7 season is what Miami needed to realize that people don't respect them—and that they will need to prove a lot of people wrong.

Shannon's impact may not have paid off the first season on the field—after all, he did inherit the remains of Larry Coker's team—but his recruiting class was ranked number five in the nation.

It is said that Shannon has brought in the best linebacking recruits in the nation.  Arthur Brown and Shawn Spence made huge impressions by combining for three interceptions in the spring game. 

Javarris James and Graig Cooper will provide the flash in the backfield.  Together they are like thunder and lightning.

Miami will have to lead with its running game because of the lack of experience at quarterback.  Jacory Harris, a true freshman who took the starting job from Robert Marve, had a solid game last week, going 16-26 for 190 yards and a touchdown.  Granted, it was against Charleston Southern, but it was a good game for the young QB to get his feet wet.

The Miami rushing attack was good, but not dominant.  The team compiled 38 carries for 224 yards and five touchdowns. 

On defense, the Canes didn't change their ways.  They continued the blitzing style scheme.  Shannon did fire last year's defensive coordinator Tim Walton and brought in Bill Young, who was the defensive coordinator for the Kansas Jayhawks.  The Jayhawks led the nation in takeaways last year.

The Canes are fast on defense with an experienced front seven.  Eric Moncur, Antonio Dixon, and Dwayne Hendricks will lead the Miami attack.

The Canes also have a lot of youth in terms of depth, but many of the backups have shown great potential.  Defensive end Allan Brady is one of the many.  He has a strong upside, and he fits right into the Canes' style of defense with his speed and pass rush ability. 

Shannon knows a 5-7 season isn't what anyone was looking for, so he went out and recruited players who have a winning attitude.  Miami is recruiting players from championship teams.  It is an interesting method, and it should work.  All the players coming in know how to win—they are used to it and want to do it more.

Shannon is convinced that the sense of urgency will be back soon in Miami. 

The Hurricanes' schedule is tough.  Miami will travel to Gainesville for a showdown with the Gators, and they will also pay a visit to Texas A&M, which is a tough place to play.  Miami defeated Texas A&M at home last season.

Miami gets UNC, FSU, Wake Forest, and Virginia Tech at home.  They travel to Florida, Texas A&M, Duke, Virginia, Georgia Tech, and NC State.  With the exception of traveling to Florida, the Canes schedule is in their favor. 

Miami has a chance to reestablish a name for their program.  They can put their names back in the national picture.  If there was ever a big opportunity, it will be this Saturday when the Canes travel to the Swamp to take on the Gators.

This will be the first time since 2004 that the Canes and Gators will meet.  Since then the two programs have gone in very different directions.  Miami has won the last six meetings against Florida.

This Saturday could change the face of Miami football for many years to come.  A win for the Canes would put them back on the map.  Even if Miami plays a close game, people will realize that this team may be back—not back to the national championship contenders, but back in the national headlines. 

Miami is 1-0 so far this year.  I predict that Miami will win 11 games this year—and if they beat Florida, they will go undefeated.  I know that it will be very difficult with the freshman QB, but any multi-skilled QB can be successful.  Miami will run all over Florida.

Miami wins this one, 38-33.