It’s been 22 long and frustrating seasons since the Miami Hurricanes were last crowned College Football champions.
If you want to be an optimist you can knock a few years off that tally if you include the 2002 trip to the BCS Title game where they fell to Ohio State, or the 11-2 season in 2003 where the team squeaked by Florida State for a win in the Orange Bowl. The fact of the matter remains - the Miami Hurricanes’ glory years of the early 2000’s is a thing of the past and this fanbase has been eagerly awaiting the Hurricanes to take the College Football Playoff by storm.
The Miami Hurricanes enter this season with a sense of optimism that has not been felt in Coral Gables, Florida for two decades. The Hurricanes were able to lure Mario Cristobal out of his Nike compound in Oregon in hopes he would be able to rekindle the magic he was a part of during his four years at Miami where he won two National Championships for two different coaches.
Does his past playing success mean he’s the right man for the job? Only time will tell, but in Cristobal as a coach, the Hurricanes are getting a career 62-60 coach that is just 3-3 in bowl games. He was named the Sun Belt Coach of the Year in 2010 with FIU, and again in 2019 when he led the Ducks to a Rose Bowl appearance. Cristobal has been known to be an excellent recruiter of talent and his impact was felt immediately as he took a recruiting class that was ranked outside the top 50 all the way to 16th overall.
Getting recruits to commit to your program is half the battle, and right now Cristobal is succeeding, but how will the on-field product fare this season?
Well, Miami does have a bit of momentum heading into this season as they finished last year 7-5 while winning five of their last six games. Quarterback, Tyler Van Dyke was not expected to see the field much last year, if at all, but he was thrust into action early in the season. His first two starts were poor, but something clicked, and he reeled off some incredible performance including wins vs NC State and Pittsburgh.
Keeping the momentum going during the season is one thing, but after a lengthy offseason, with a ton of new voices on the sideline and without two of your top receivers from last year, I’m not so sure Van Dyke is up for the challenge.
If Van Dyke struggles, and the rushing attack - which was ranked 12th in the ACC at 127.7 YPG - does not improve, I don’t care if Nick Saban is calling the shot for The U… it’s just not going to work.
Defensively, this team returns five starters from last year’s unit that was middling at best. Yes, they dealt with injuries and yes, they were one of the most inexperienced units in the country, so perhaps there is only one way to go, and that is up. The recruiting talents of Mario Cristobal was able to land a handful of starters including much-needed help on the defensive line.
Cristobal’s presence is also being felt by the defensive in the way they conduct themselves. He’s implemented a ban on the infamous Turnover Chain that captured the attention of college football fans across the country. The turnover chain was flashy, and it was completely unnecessary for a team that has not made an ACC Championship game appearance in 20 years.
I’m all for creating a fun experience on the sideline and motivating your players to make big plays and do great things, but isn’t the defense’s job to stop the opposition and create turnovers?
Good riddance turnover chain, you will not be missed.
If Cristobal was hoping to be eased into life in the ACC, he picked the wrong team to join. Miami has one hell of a schedule, having to go to Texas A&M, and Clemson. They must also play Pittsburgh, Florida State, and North Carolina. On paper, that looks like 1-4 at best. The good news is that they have three very winnable games in the first four weeks against Bethune-Cookman, Southern Miss and Middle Tennessee. They do also play Duke and Georgia State, so if we give our best-case scenario, perhaps a 6-6, maybe 7-5 season, once again. Unacceptable.
Is The U Back?
I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, it is not Hurricane season. Until the team gets better on defense, and we see Van Dyke perform well despite teams now having plenty of tape on him, the Hurricanes will be nothing more than a light breeze. Unlike recent hires for Miami who’ve had the pressure on them right from the start, Cristobal is likely to be given an extended honeymoon period because of what he’s accomplished as a player for the program. Batten down the hatches, Miami, you’re in for another long and frustrating season.