A lot of expectation has always been on the Miami Hurricanes, and this season is no different.
Now that the Randy Shannon era has mercifully come to its end, the Hurricanes can look ahead to life with their new coach. Al Golden has an excellent track record at small schools and will attempt to bring his disciplined, smash mouth, take-care-of-the-football approach to South Beach. On paper, this is exactly what the Hurricanes need.
At even strength, this has the makings to be an excellent football team. The problem, in 2010 at least, was the amount of penalties (114th in the nation) and turnovers (27 INT’s from four different QB’s), which constantly put them behind the eight-ball.
This year, Golden’s primary objective has been to cut out all this nonsense and focus on executing and playing within the rules. Of course, this is easier said in April, May and June than done in September, but Golden has proven he can coach the game of football and Canes fans should be optimistic that their almost decades long nightmare may finally end.
Looking ahead to the fall, let’s take a look at each game on the schedule and predict what may or may not happen for the Miami Hurricanes in 2011.
The Hurricanes will want to be on upset alert right away in 2011.
Maryland finished 9-4 a year ago after only winning two games in 2009. While they don’t really stand out in any particular area, you can always count on them being a well-coached bunch that will rarely beat themselves.
Sophomore Danny O’Brien has that “star-in-the-making” quality at the quarterback position, and a lot of the pressure will be on him to make the clutch throws, because a lot of his offensive talent around him is now gone. Da’Rel Scott and Torrey Smith are now NFL bound, and breaking in a host of other starters along the offense may cause some early growing pains for the Terps.
They will also be breaking in a new coach on the sidelines. Randy Edsall, the man that brought UCONN to a BCS game this past season (no, seriously), replaces long time Terp Ralph Friedgen heading into this year. He will no doubt have large shoes to fill considering the way Friedgen resurrected the Maryland program.
The atmosphere in College Park will be rockin’, and I’m not sure if the Hurricanes will be able to handle this in their first game with a new coach. Night road games are always difficult, even if you are the more talented team on paper.
Unfortunately for the Hurricanes, I see Al Golden’s first game in charge as one in the L column.
Prediction: L, 23-17
Record: 0-1 (0-1)
Wow, talk about a vulnerable opponent coming into South Beach.
I already mentioned how penalties and turnovers ruined Miami’s season in 2010, and this game a year ago would be exhibit A in that argument.
Anyone who watched Miami play in the Horseshoe knows that they belonged on the same field as the Buckeyes, who eventually played in the Sugar Bowl. Jacory Harris threw a costly (almost) pick-six at the beginning of the second half that derailed Miami’s hopes at a comeback. However, they slowed Terrelle Pryor for most of the game, and considering they lost the turnover battle 4-0 and only lost against the second ranked team in the country, they can now take a lot of positives from that heading into the rematch.
Speaking of which, the rematch could not be played under any more positive circumstances if you are a Miami Hurricanes fan. Longtime Buckeye legend Jim Tressel bolted for the exit door after being exposed as a fraud, Pryor is now driving loaner cars at his own house and a host of his teammates that loved going to the tattoo parlor are either suspended or completely demoralized.
Without Pryor and company, Ohio State has little going for them on either side of the ball. Jose Bauserman simply cannot do the things Pryor could, and I expect the entire team to suffer as a result. Miami should have enough talent and grit to take advantage of the Buckeyes situation and notch Al Golden’s first win as head coach.
Result: W, 30-21
Record: 1-1 (0-1)
An unusual out-of-conference opponent for Miami in 2011 is the Kansas State Wildcats. A middling Big-12 program against a middling ACC squad is unlikely to generate little interest nationally, but it’s vitally important to both teams. Each win is important in terms of bowl seeding and a second win from three games to open the season would serve as positive momentum for the Canes going forward.
Daniel Thomas was the entire offense for Kansas State in 2010. Now that he is gone, the Wildcats will have to find a new playmaker. Bryce Brown (a transfer from Tennessee) will likely carry the load this season because of a similar transition at quarterback. Carson Coffman graduated last year, and it's now up to Collin Klien to make the plays. Klien did not play much a year ago, and I do not believe he is the answer.
I expect the Canes to control the majority of this contest and make it back to back wins to start the home schedule.
Not much analysis required here. Miami gets a break before they begin the grunt of conference play; Cookman gets a nice trip to Miami and a hefty game check. It’s a win-win situation.
Result: W, 45-7
Record: 3-1 (0-1)
The success or failure of Miami’s 2011 will obviously depend on how they do in conference play. Unfortunately for Miami, it looks like they will start 0-2 in the ACC.
Virginia Tech is the king of the Atlantic Coast Conference and has dominated Miami over the past decade, including an 11-5 record all time against the Canes. However, the Hokies are in the midst of a transition on the field and may take a step back in 2011.
Gone is the star backfield trio of Tyrod Taylor, Ryan Williams and Darren Evans. Usually, the Virginia Tech defense would carry the load in such a situation, but they were ranked in the 50’s nationally in 2010.
It’s hard to be against Virginia Tech in the ACC, however. They have one of the best coaching staffs in the country and It’s hard to believe Miami will be able to go on the road and knock off a quality opponent.
I don’t think that Stephen Morris or Jacory Harris will be able to survive the atmosphere at Lane Stadium, despite the shortcomings the Hokies may have coming into this season.
Result: L, 19-28
Record: 3-2 (0-2)
Another program in flux is the North Carolina Tar Heels. Led by former Hurricanes coach Butch Davis, the Tar Heels have had two straight eight-win seasons but have been unable to break the Virginia Tech stranglehold on the ACC.
However, they are largely known for all the off-the-field issues currently plaguing the university. While it's unlikely they will face any punishment in 2011, last seasons problems that led to the suspensions to most of their stars which ultimately ruined the year shows that any distraction is difficult to overcome.
This is a game that can go either way. A year ago, Miami dominated the Heels en route to a 33-10 victory, but North Carolina has been a tough opponent for the Hurricanes over the past few years. However, the is the type of game that Miami is likely to blow, but I will predict a narrow victory over their former coach to notch the first conference win of the season.
Result: W, 24-23
Record: 4-2 (1-2)
It's a good thing that offensive execution is more important that confusing your opponent, because when you play the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets you know exactly what you are getting.
The 2009 ACC champs are led by offensive guru Paul Johnson, who specializes in running the triple option to perfection. Last year was a bump in the road as a 6-7 record and a bowl loss to Air Force was a major disappointment after such a successful 2009 campaign.
They have to replace longtime starting quarterback Joshua Nesbitt, who lost most of his senior season due to injury. Tevin Washington and Synjyn Davis are currently battling for the starting spot, but both are unproven.
Defensively is where the Yellow Jackets could really struggle in 2011. They have to replace their entire secondary and overall they lack the talent to compete in this conference. Their best form of defense will be their offense
This should be a pretty easy day at the office for Miami. They dominated the Jackets in last year's matchup, completely controlling the line of scrimmage and not allowing touchdowns when Georgia Tech had some sustained drives. This year's game could play out the same way.
Result: W, 34-14
Record: 5-2 (2-2)
Two of the most embarrassing moments in recent Miami football history came at the hands of the Virginia Cavilers.
The last game ever played at the old Orange Bowl was a 48-0 whitewash in favor of the Cavs. This was one of the lowest points in Miami football and probably one of the best wins in Virginia history.
Last year was another such catastrophe. Virginia was 3-4 heading into the game and Miami had just re-entered the top 25. Five turnovers (shocking) and a Jacory Harris-turned-almost-amazing-Stephen Morris-comeback later and the Cavaliers had pulled off the stunning upset.
Virginia is often looked as the laughing stock of the ACC, but second-year coach Mike London has made the Virginia football program accounted for. They were competitive in many games.
That said, revenge will be on the minds of the Miami players and I would not expect a repeat of last year's disaster. Look for the Canes to make it three conference wins in a row and demolish the Wahoos.
Result: W, 41-14
Record: 6-2 (3-2)
Talk about the easy part of the schedule.
Miami concludes their stretch of three conference games in a row at home against the Duke Blue Devils. As a recurring theme in this article, the Hurricanes were completely sloppy in a 28-13 win over Duke last year. The Blue Devils turned over the ball seven times and Miami were unable to capitalize and complete a dominating win.
This year shouldn't pose as much of a problem. At this point in the season, Al Golden should have his men playing disciplined football which will allow the talent to be on full display. Look for Miami to look by multiple touchdowns.
Result: W, 34-10
Record: 7-2 (4-2)
Florida State are a darkhorse contender for the BCS Title picture heading into 2011, and there are many reasons why fans can realistically hope their championship dreams can come true.
The Noles have been dominating the recruiting trails for the past several seasons, stockpiling talent capable of becoming a perennial power that they once were in the 1990s.
The Seminoles have playmakers at virtually every position. Chris Thompson and Ty Jones lead a devastating rushing attack, Bert Reed, Willie Haulstead and Rodney Smith are outstanding go-to receivers and quarterback E.J. Manuel has the potential to be an all-conference leader of the group.
No more trips to the Gator Bowl for the Noles. They can think about a conference title and a BCS appearance.
Florida State proved in last years matchup that they are the most talented team in the state of Florida.
Look for the Noles to repeat last years dominating performance and destroy the Hurricanes for the second year in a row, putting up a lot of points in the process.
Result: L, 40-17
Record: 7-3 (4-3)
2007 was some sort of parallel, demonic universe.
Now referred to as the "year of the upset", a host of unheralded teams cracked the top five and for the first time a team with two losses (LSU) captured the BCS Championship. South Florida made it to number two in the BCS standings, only to lose three straight, plummet from the rankings and settle for a Sun Bowl appearance.
South Florida hasn't had much national success since, but they can take solace in the fact that they are a young university without any history and have only been playing competitive football for 13 seasons. They have won eight games for five straight seasons and are slowly building a program that has a chance to dominate the Big East for years to come if they can capitalize on the rich recruiting grounds of their home state.
Last season, the Bulls surprised many by defeating the Hurricanes in overtime after struggling through their Big East campaign. A big part of the problem was the lack of development of QB B.J. Daniels, who many believed would take a quantum leap in his sophomore season.
The loss to the Bulls at the end of 2010 probably sealed Randy Shannon’s fate, which could turn out to be a blessing in disguise. This could be filed under the "revenge" column and I wouldn't be surprised if the Hurricanes run ragged over their less-talented Florida neighbors.
Result: W, 31-10
Record: 8-3 (4-3)
In what comes as a surprise to many, Boston College has been one of the most consistent members of the ACC since joining in 2005.
The Eagles have amassed a 30-18 record in six seasons despite rarely ever getting the four and five-star recruits.
A lot of the momentum of the program has evaporated now that former coach Jeff Jagodzinski has left and former standout QB Matt Ryan are plying his trade in the NFL. Frank Spaziani has decades of experience but it's hard to imagine at this point that the Eagles will be able to be anything more than a 7-8 win, mediocre program.
While it seems unlikely that this game will be of much importance to either team, the Miami Hurricanes would like to finish off the season strong and have a chance to reach the double-digit win mark with a victory in their bowl game.
The Canes should be a polished bunch by this point and be completely able to put away the Eagles. BC usually plays to their competition, so I wouldn't be surprised if this was a close affair.
Result: W, 27-20
Record: 9-3 (5-3)