Last season did not exactly go as planned for the Miami Hurricanes, as they struggled to a 7-6 record and fired coach Randy Shannon in what was supposed to be the year when they reclaimed their place at the top of college football.
The Hurricanes were done in by erratic quarterback play from Jacory Harris, Stephen Morris and Spencer Whipple, and were thoroughly embarrassed on their home field by Florida State.
Enter former Temple Owls coach Al Golden, who quickly established a rapport with former Hurricanes players and declared the U the most recognizable brand in college football. Golden brings with him a commitment to defense, discipline and protecting the football.
Golden, and Canes fans both expect big things from this team this year.
Last season, Miami led the NCAA in tackles for loss, and one can expect them to be near the top of that list as well this season. Gone are former starters Brandon Harris, Allen Bailey and Colin McCarthy, but the Hurricanes still return Sean Spence, Adewale Ojomo, Olivier Vernon, Vaughn Telemaque, Ray-Ray Armstrong and others from one of the nation's top defensive units.
With Golden's commitment to an aggressive defensive style, the Canes have a chance to resemble their dominant defensive teams of the early 2000s.
Honestly, if Harris looks like he's on pace for double digit picks, Golden is not going to let him keep the starting job.
The emphasis for Harris this year, as before, will be to protect the football while still unleashing the big plays we all know he can make. His decision-making in the past has been way too shaky, and this year he will be asked to look for his check-downs more often and let his talented running backs make people miss.
Everyone knows Harris has worlds of talent, but the key for this season will be to harness it into a productive offense. He came into last season as a fringe Heisman candidate, but he comes into this year unsure if he'll even be the starting quarterback. The smart money says he will, but he won't keep the job for long if he can't protect the football.
Not since the Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee and Frank Gore have the Hurricanes had this many talented players in the same backfield. By no means am I comparing this duo to those NFL stars, but they have a chance to do something special this year.
Miller is a back with breakaway speed, while James has the physicality to pound the ball up the middle. Golden and Offensive Coordinator Jed Fisch will get them both touches, and they should both be extremely productive.
Working behind a mammoth offensive line, there should be plenty of holes for these guys to create lots of rushing yards. Miller and James will both be factors in the Hurricanes' passing attack, as Golden's focus on protecting the football will lead to more checkdowns and screen passes from Jacory Harris.
This isn't the boldest prediction out there, considering the Buckeyes will be without Terrell Pryor and others when they make their trip to Coral Gables, but after the beating OSU put on the Canes in Columbus last season, it seemed like it would take a miracle to get this win.
I'll go out on a limb here and say the home-field advantage and lack of firepower from the opposition will lead to a Hurricanes victory. If they can get this win, it could be the start of a nice run of victories, as Miami won't play another ranked opponent until they travel to Blacksburg to take on Virginia Tech on October 8.
Expect lots of running the football in this game, as the Hurricanes will ride their talented tailbacks, and Ohio State won't want to put too much pressure on their backup QB against one of the top defensive backfields in football.
When Miami came to the ACC from the Big East in the 2004 season, the assumption was they would be making yearly trips to the ACC title game. Well, guess what? They haven't made a single trip there yet.
This is the year that will change, as Coach Golden will lead the Canes to their first ACC Coastal Championship, and an ACC Championship Game victory over the hated Florida State Seminoles. If the Canes can pull this off in their first year under a new head coach, maybe he can turn this into a nice career at Miami reminiscent of Jimmy Johnson and Howard Schnellenberger.