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'Canes ready to take step up in ACC, but good enough for title?

Will Manso says Richt is man to get it done, but strength of team is defense

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MIAMI – Another season is set to begin for the Miami Hurricanes, and it’s another season in which the 'Canes and their fans are hoping UM can finally win the Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division.

It seems like such a modest goal for a tradition rich program, but it’s a necessary step for anyone to claim "the U" is back.

It's at least once a year that we hear that term, "the U is back!" And normally, a few weeks later, the 'Canes suffer a disappointing ACC loss to a lesser team and everything comes crashing back down to mediocrity.

Yet, last season things started to feel a little different. Mark Richt started that change. 

While Miami didn't win the Coastal in Richt’s first season, they did win a bowl game and finished with nine victories. Again, modest steps, but for a program with a fan base desperate to get back to its glory years, it was a good step back to relevance.

I can admit, I'm one of those fans. I desperately want the 'Canes to be a top 10 team and national title contender again. I truly believe Richt is the man to lead them back to that eventually.

I'm just not sure that big step comes this season.

I have some concerns with this Miami team, and most of it centers on the offense. They have a quarterback without much game experience in Malik Rosier. He had to beat out newcomer N'Kosi Perry to claim the spot. 

All reports from camp are that he was solid, but not many will tell you he was spectacular or is the type of QB who can win you big games. That's still to be seen.

To me, Rosier seems like the safest choice Richt could have made. If he stays away from mistakes, he should be fine. My concern is that "fine" may not be enough in big games. The 'Canes have a play-making running back in Mark Walton, but I'm worried about the depth behind him.  Also, UM lost a major weapon on offense in tight end David Njoku.

I'm just not sure how anyone thinks this offense got better from last season to this year. Maybe they did, and maybe the returning players will be even better and more comfortable in year two under Richt. I just don't feel comfortable saying that entering the season.

Let's face it: this isn't your old Miami team. This doesn't appear to be an offense that will light up the scoreboard weekly, but they may not have to.

Miami's defense is what will carry them most weeks. This unit has the potential to be one of the best in the country, and that's not me being a homer. This D is truly that talented.

Another season of young standouts like Shaq Quarterman in Manny Diaz's system is an exciting prospect.

The 'Canes can absolutely play defense against just about anyone in the country. 

For Miami to finally win the Coastal, that defense can't disappoint. They may have to win some 20-17 or 17-10 games this season, and that's fine.

The schedule certainly can help Miami. While traveling to Florida State is never an easy proposition, they get Virginia Tech and Notre Dame at home, and they don't seem to have any really daunting games on the schedule, outside of FSU.

That is a good recipe to finally win the Coastal Division.

Again, I worry a stumble on offense here and there can cause Miami to lose that unexpected ACC game they can't seem to avoid losing over the years, but luckily the Coastal isn't that strong.

The 'Canes will be in the race until the end and have a chance to make some school history. Just don't expect it to be a coast to the Coastal.

Regular season record prediction: 10-2


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