This is part nine of a 12 piece series examining all 12 ACC school’s 2012 schedule and making predictions based on returning players and incoming talent. Today we focus on the Miami Hurricanes.
Miami is entering its second season with Al Golden as their head coach. Last season was a disappointment by Hurricane standards, the U finished 2011 with a 6-6 record. They served a self-imposed bowl ban, trying to gain some leniency from the NCAA because of the Nevin Shapiro scandal. Despite these facts Golden has been able to continue to bring in the country’s top talent. 2012 will look different for the Canes. This is mainly due to a change at quarterback. Jacory Harris is gone and he will be replaced by Stephen Morris. Fans hope that Morris can bring a consistency that Harris never could. If Miami wants to return to the national spotlight (for the right reasons) then it will start with Morris and his play.
The Hurricanes start the season with an ACC game right off the bat. They will travel to play Boston College in Alumni Stadium. Boston College was only a 4-8 team last season and they won’t be much better this year. Miami thoroughly outclasses BC when it comes to talent, but that hasn’t mattered much to the U in recent years. They play to the level of their opponent, but Miami should still win this game (predicted Miami record 1-0).
Miami will then visit Kansas State in week 2. K-State was very good last season, they were almost good enough to play in a BCS bowl, but the Hurricanes gave them some trouble in 2011. The final score of that game was 28-24, with Miami coming up just short on the final play of the game. This will be a close game again this year but the Wildcats have home field giving them the edge (Miami record 1-1).
The U has its first home game in week 3 against Bethune-Cookman. This game wasn’t close last year (a 45-14 Miami win) and it won’t be close this time around. The Hurricanes will win this game in blowout fashion (Miami record 2-1). Miami will then hit the road again to take on Georgia Tech. Miami won this game last season 24-7, but the game was in Coral Gables. Georgia Tech will be a solid team in 2012 and the home field advantage will mean a late win for the Yellow Jackets (Miami record 2-2).
The Hurricanes will then be visited by North Carolina State. The Wolf Pack will be very good this year, they will be in the hunt for the Atlantic division title, but Miami’s history of playing to the competition means that the U will step up in this one. Miami has the home field and that gives them the edge (Miami record 3-2).
Miami then travels to South Bend to take on Notre Dame. The Irish may have some preseason hype this season, but that happens every year and Notre Dame usually disappoints. Miami is just a more talented team then Notre Dame. This will be a very tight game, but Golden and his Hurricanes will figure out a way to win in the waning moments (Miami record 4-2).
After the Notre Dame game, Miami has a three game home stretch. It starts with North Carolina. UNC is having NCAA issues of its own. When these two met last season Miami came out on top 30-24 and that game was in Chapel Hill. The Hurricanes should be able to deal with the Tar Heels and come out on top (Miami record 5-2). Rival Florida State travels to Coral Gables the following week. Florida State is favored to win the Atlantic division and there is a reason why. Florida State is good, they are better than Miami in every phase of the game. This will be a close game simply because it’s a rivalry, but the Seminoles come out on top (Miami record 5-3).
The U will then host a Thursday night game against Virginia Tech. These two played a spectacularly exciting game last year. The Hokies won 38-35 on a last minute touchdown by VT quarterback Logan Thomas. The difference between last year’s game and this one is the Hokies defense. Virginia Tech’s players on defense last season were dropping like flies. If healthy Tech’s defense will be even better than last year’s top 10 group. Virginia Tech will win this game because they have the better quarterback, better coach and a better defense (Miami record 5-4).
The Canes then travel to Charlottesville to try to avenge last season’s 28-21 loss to the Virginia Cavaliers. The Wahoos were good last season, but they will take a step back in 2012 because of a large amount of turnover on their roster. Miami will take advantage and pull this one out (Miami record 6-4). Miami will then be visited by South Florida. Last year these two played one of the lowest scoring games in the country, the final score was 6-3 in Miami’s favor. More points will be scored this time around but with the same result (Miami record 7-4).
Miami’s final regular season game comes against Duke. The Blue Devils are the perennial bottom-dwellers of the ACC. That isn’t going to change much this year, despite the fact that they have a very good quarterback in Sean Renfree. It is hard to come up with a way in which Miami could lose this game (Miami record 8-4).
Al Golden will build on the 2011 season and finish 2012 with an 8-4 record as well as a 5-3 record in the ACC. It won’t be good enough to stay in the Coastal division race, but it is good enough to show some growth in a program that desperately needs it.