2012 Recap: Transition Year. The Hurricanes turned over more than half their starters, had a huge scandal place the program in limbo and lost Ray Ray Armstrong before the season. They went 7-5. Losses to Kansas State, Florida State and Notre Dame were perhaps a given. Two losses by a combined five points to North Carolina and Virginia. Given the circumstances, it was not a bad effort.
NCAA Stalingrad: NCAA investigators were handed the statement scandal they have been waiting for. Systemic and salacious benefits. Assistant coaches involved. This was an opportunity for the NCAA to drop the hammer and to reassert its authority. They cocked it up completely.
The NCAA had to place itself under investigation for improper conduct. Investigators attempted to co-opt the legal system to subpoena testimony and coerce testimony from others with presumption of guilt threats. The organization was shown to be trusting the unverified word of a convicted fraud artist (even trying to help him get a reduced sentence) to bust its own “student-athletes,” mostly for accepting free dinners. Instead of bowing out gracefully – settling for time served on the bowl ban and modest scholarships – the NCAA opted to pursue. Miami awaits the results of its COI hearing, expected to drop before the season.
Returning Starters: Miami has 19 of them, tied for the most in FBS football. Assuming normal progression, their loaded offense, which finished 16th nationally in yards per play in 2012, could be even better. Their defense, reliant on freshmen and sophomores last year, could progress from apocalyptic to underwhelming. In the rosiest scenario, they could be halfway decent.
Which Stephen Morris? On the whole, Miami’s quarterback had an erratic 2012. The place many are looking is the last three games, against Virginia, South Florida and Duke. Morris completed 65 percent of his passes, averaged 11.7 yards per attempt and had a 9-0 TD to INT ratio. He has looked great this summer. NFL scouts are raving about him. If he is that guy or close to it for his senior season, he could be one of the nation’s top quarterbacks.
Efficiency: The Hurricanes ranked 16th in yards per play, but only 49th in scoring offense and 47th in Offensive FEI rankings. They were productive, but not very efficient. They converted on just 39.2 percent of third downs vs. FBS teams (66th nationally). They scored a touchdown just 51 percent of times entering the red zone vs. FBS (96th nationally). They were basically the anti-Kansas State, who not coincidentally beat them 52-13. Miami will hope new offensive coordinator James Coley can help rectify that.
Ceiling: 11-1. The offense is explosive. The defense is decent. Miami drops a game, probably to Florida or at Florida State. They have a shot to return to the BCS, if bowl eligible.
Floor: 5-7. Stephen Morris regresses to the guy he was for most of 2012. Injury problems. The defense is still a sieve. Decent ACC programs give them a battle every week.
Prediction: 9-3. Miami will be formidable and fun to watch. Al Golden may not have them quite ready to compete with Florida and Florida State. Georgia Tech and North Carolina could also pose problems. The U won’t quite be “back,” but them returning there won’t seem so outlandish.
25. USC 24. Miami