The University of Miami Hurricanes have had their share of highs and lows this season. From the Nevin Shapiro scandal that still hangs an inauspicious cloud over the program, to the heartbreaking ACC loss to the Virginia Cavaliers, the Hurricanes have had a roller coaster start to the season.
This group of players and coaches has stuck through the adversity and remained committed to each other and the goals that are still out there for them to achieve.
Al Golden and his coaching staff have been committed to restoring a winning tradition and a sense of swagger to Coral Gables, Fla., and even with the pending NCAA sanctions looming over the program, the Hurricanes are definitely on the right path in year one.
From Miami's scandal ordeal to the impending departure of stars such as Jacory Harris and Sean Spence, there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the program, but here are five reasons why the schedule favors Miami, and why they won't lose again during the 2011 season.
Al Golden was hired by Miami to take the place of the fired Randy Shannon with a hope that Golden could inspire the same turnaround at Miami that he did at Temple.
Miami is used to having winning seasons and competing for conference and national championships. Since joining the ACC in 2004, the Hurricanes have not even come close. Their main roadblock almost every year has been Virginia Tech.
Golden has made a difference, as Miami has wins against then-ranked Ohio State and Georgia Tech. A lot has been made of the team's last-second losses to Maryland, Virginia Tech, Kansas State and the recent loss to Virginia.
Golden and his staff are the right fit for Miami, and with a little time and patience, he will get the Hurricanes back to the BCS and contending for national championships.
With most of the Hurricanes' major tests out of the way, the rest of the schedule favors the team, and they should be favored to win in the remaining contests.
The Hurricanes have Duke, Florida State, South Florida and Boston College remaining on their schedule, and they should be favorites or slight underdogs the rest of the way.
The game in Tallahassee will be a great one, because when it's Miami/FSU you always have to throw out the record books, because it will be a street fight that Miami has a reasonable chance of winning.
An improvement in Miami's running game and defensive improvement should be able to open things up and enable the 'Canes to not leave any points on the board and actually win close games.
If they run the table, they would be 8-4 on the season and may again fall short of the ACC Championship Game, as their three ACC losses have pretty much put them out of contention for the division championship in order to make it to Charlotte, N.C. for next month's championship game.
Lamar Miller has been the best running back in the ACC and near the top in the nation, as he had at least 100 yards rushing and a running play of at least 40 yards in the first quarter of the season.
He has been mentioned as an outside Heisman candidate for his efforts this season, and with good reason. Miller has been exceptional this season, not counting the past few games.
He teams with junior RB Mike James, and they form one of the more dynamic running back tandems in the country, and with better run blocking by the offensive line, there should be improvement in the team's running game for the rest of the season.
The much heralded and talked about QB in recent ACC history, Jacory Harris has been a hero and a goat to many Hurricanes fans.
From the heroic comeback against Florida State in Tallahassee in 2009, to the last-minute failure to score a TD from one yard out against Kansas State, Harris has had his share of moments as a member of the Hurricanes.
He has been ridiculed for his penchant for making critical interceptions, and he has been called out for his sometimes inept decision-making at critical times in games.
Harris was highly regarded when he came to Miami as a part of their highly-ranked 2008 recruiting class, but has failed to deliver even an appearance in the ACC Championship Game, and barring any wild finishes this season, he will fail to deliver a division championship.
Harris has been resurgent this season, as he has been more patient in the pocket and trusting his teammates to do all the heavy-lifting, realizing that he doesn't have to do it all himself. Better protection from the offensive line will enable Harris to rebound from the loss to Virginia.
A hallmark of Miami's teams have been dominant defense. They have had stars such as Sean Taylor, Ed Reed, Vince Wilfork and others.
Miami has had a defense that has been able to create turnovers and get pressure on the quarterback. A key to any game is to control the opposing offense and make them earn every yard.
A lot of people have said that the key to winning championships is a great defense, and Miami has some pieces this season in Sean Spence, Vaughn Telemaque and Brandon McGee.
The defense has been struck by injury, as Ramon Buchanon and Marcus Forston have been lost for the season due to various injuries, and suspensions to Olivier Vernon and Ray-Ray Armstrong have set the defense back at various points this season.
For the rest of the season, there has to be marked defensive improvement in order for the defense to get off the field and enable the offense to make an impact and win these close, one-possession games.