The Miami Hurricanes are 5-0 for the first time since 2004, and for the first time since then, I’m buying into the Canes finally turning the corner.
I know this week we’ll hear fans, radio hosts, analysts and so-called experts ask if Miami is back. Well, it’s a silly question, since being back would mean winning at least a conference championship. That can’t happen right now, so I’d caution fans and media to just slow down. Let's see how the season plays out.
Yet, I’m starting to believe Miami is ready to get back into the national spotlight, and Duke Johnson is a big reason why. He carried Miami in the 2nd half over Georgia Tech on Saturday. Every single one of his 184 yards was needed to put away the Yellow Jackets. He should get some Heisman buzz if he keeps playing like this.
But, Johnson can’t do it alone, and the Canes have a veteran quarterback in Stephen Morris, and a deep group of talented young receivers. It will help if Morris can get his gimpy ankle healthy during the bye week, but this offense can put up points regardless.
Moving over to defense, this is where the question marks still remain. During the first quarter of the win over Georgia Tech they looked like the 2012 version of the Canes defense. They got shredded and allowed the Yellow Jackets 17 points. But, as the game wore on you began to see why this defense is clearly improving. They adjusted to the triple option, and more importantly they were flying around the football causing turnovers. Look at the great defenses around the country. The one thing they have in common is the ability to force turnovers. The Hurricanes are far from great on defense, but their knack for getting the ball is allowing them to change games defensively. That’s something that’s sorely been missing over the last few seasons.
Finally, the schedule is set up for Miami to make a run at a major bowl. I’d slow down on any national title talk. They still have to travel to Tallahassee on November 2nd, and they also host an always tough Virginia Tech team. This team must also prove they can avoid their annual let down losses against lesser opponents before fans expect anything more than a conference title shot.
But, this could be the year that conference title chance finally comes. They had it last season, but probation stripped them of that chance. Let’s face it though, that team was a product of a bad division in the ACC. This year’s team is separating itself as one of the top teams in the conference and the nation.
It’s all set up for the Canes to make an ACC title run and potentially be a Top 10 team playing in a major bowl. That would be a huge step for a program that has been lingering around mediocrity for almost a decade.
Mark it down. With North Carolina and Wake Forest up in their next two games, Miami will likely go into FSU with a perfect 7-0 record and in the Top 10 in the country. It doesn’t get much more exciting than that.