The Good, The Bad And The Ugly: The 2013 Miami Hurricanes


So, hell hasn’t risen from underneath the grounds at Coral Gables. Oh, right, the NCAA is too busy being … the NCAA.

When we rolled out this series a year ago, the entire staff here — and the nation — wondered if the Miami Hurricanes would soak in all of the sun South Florida has before Mark Emmert and company channeled their inner Les Grossman. Somehow, someway (and probably thanks to some kid in College Station), the NCAA put the alarm on snooze for the past year.

And for now, the boys play on.

Outside of the even more serious rebuilding job Bill O’Brien as done for Penn State, Al Golden (a Penn State alumnus) has done wonders for a program in a bizarre limbo. Not only have the 'Canes played inspired, us-against-the-world football on most days, but they’ve recruited well enough to start curtailing players away from Gainesville (Florida) and Tallahassee (Florida State) again.

As correctly predicted last year, Miami finished 7-5 (5-3 record in the ACC), and the self-imposed postseason ban kept the Hurricanes out of bowl season. That was pretty simple considering that the cupboard wasn’t completely bare and the ACC isn’t exactly challenging the SEC or even the Pac-12 for supremacy.

Now comes the fun – or hard – part. Can The U win the Coastal Division as predicted? Can it make a run for a BCS bowl for the first time in 10 years? And most of all, can they stay outside and play before the NCAA gets a clue?


The Good (A Balancing Act on Offense): This is probably the only time in the history of The U that the name “Duke” is said with a hint of happiness. Despite the brutal month of October where Notre Dame, North Carolina and Florida State contained him to 96 rushing yards combined, Duke Johnson was named a Postseason Freshman All-American thanks to 10 scores and a 6.8 yard-per-carry average (947 rushing yards in 12 games). No defense is good without stopping the run and those three teams had more success against Johnson than most teams Miami faced last year (save for Kansas State).

There may have been other rushers with far more eye-popping stats in 2012, but a majority of them were essentially the lone offense of their programs. Johnson had to grow at the same time as now-senior Stephen Morris, who has already moved himself up the Hurricane record books. Morris’ junior season ended with the fifth-best passing yardage season in Miami history and second most completions. In what was a pass-happy offense in 2012, Johnson had to block far more than expected as the 'Canes tried to throw themselves back into lopsided games.

Oh, one more good: the all-important offensive line. The “smallest” starting lineman is center Shane McDermott, 6'4" and 296 pounds. As stated in the Palm Beach Post, the Hurricanes’ linemen average 6'6" and 320 pounds. What the what?!?!

The Bad (A Repeat Performance on Defense): The Hurricane defense held back what was a pretty good QB-RB combination in Morris and Johnson. Ranked not only in the bottom tier of the ACC, but among one of the statistically worse in the nation, Miami can at least claim youth and inexperience as a reason for the ghastly numbers.

So pick your poison. Was it stopping the pass or stopping the run? Miami couldn’t really do either in 2012. The pass defense got the 'Canes in a whole lot of trouble on its own as quarterbacks completed nearly 61% of their passes last year. Of course, that stat is pulled up somewhat by the two beatdowns by Kansas State and Notre Dame, but even against North Carolina State, Virginia and Duke (DUKE!), the secondary had their heads on a swivel and the pass rush was rarer than meeting a Miami Marlins fan.

Rushing defense? That was a problem, too, and probably more than defending the pass — 217 yards allowed per game on the ground. If a team can’t stop the run, it can’t even think of stopping the pass, which is how the Hurricanes finished 120th (out of 124) in the nation in total defense.

A full season under the fire helped mold this young team late in the year, but if the defense starts off playing on its heels as it did for 2/3 of last year, what the group improves on in November won’t matter much, as Miami will be out of BCS bowl contention long before then.

The Ugly (Besides the NCAA, the Injury Fears): So there’s the obvious ugly in the somehow STILL ongoing investigation. Expected to have heard from the NCAA in June, Miami still awaits its fate from the blockbuster Nevin Shapiro scandal as it starts the season against Florida Atlantic. Unsurprisingly, Al Golden has not only kept the Hurricanes focused on the job at hand, but still isn’t thrilled with being asked about the impending (maybe) doom.

However, the impactful ugly right now is the off chance that either Morris or Johnson gets hurt at any point and for a significant amount of time. Because of the youth of the team overall, an injury to either or both will put relatively untested players (junior QB Ryan Williams, sophomore RB Dallas Crawford) on the field. Williams looked decent in relief duties last year, but comparing 20 passes to Morris’ 421 doesn’t make much sense. Though Crawford played in every game in 2012, he was mostly a special team player and had just 12 carries in three games.

An injury to either Morris or Johnson, and (call me crazy) the North Carolina Tar Heels might smell blood in the Coastal. Oh, wait, it’s not that crazy because UNC had the eighth-best scoring offense in Division 1, 1A, whatever the heck it’s called these days.

What one should appreciate about Miami is that for the second year in a row, it hasn’t ducked a major program in early September. Last September 8, it got trucked in Manhattan (KS) by Kansas State. This year, game 2 is at home against Reeta’s title-contending Gators. Though it’ll return to softies later in the month, that Golden wants to test his team early speaks plenty about the faith he has in his guys. With that said, Kansas State wrote much of the blueprint on the Hurricanes, Notre Dame followed suit and Florida State (whom the 'Canes will visit November 2) happily flaunted. Ending this season in Pittsburgh will be interesting if that game helps decide who plays in the ACC Championship, but it’s the Panthers in November, so feel free to pencil in a W.

With a decent shot at a BCS bowl game, Miami will finish 2013 at 9-3, including 6-2 in the ACC because of possible letdowns in late November until the trek to Pitt.

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