There's no sugar-coating things: The Miami Hurricanes' loss to the Florida Gators in the season opener sucked. Losing the first game of the Manny Diaz era cuts deep, but falling to the Gators has a particular salt-in-the-wound aspect.
Life moves on, though. The Hurricanes have 11 other games to play between now and November 30. It's time for both the Canes and their fans to get over the loss, pull up their big-boy pants, and recognize that 2019 is not a lost season because of one sloppy game in August. In fact, the Hurricanes have a real shot at making August's loss their only one of the season. It's actually all set up for them to do so.
That's right — the Miami Hurricanes can and should run the table, win their remaining 11 games, and face Clemson in the ACC Championship game late this year. Here's why our forecast for the rest of the Canes' season is extra-optimistic.
5. If the Gators were the eighth-ranked team in the nation, the Canes were ninth. Listen, the Hurricanes should have beaten the Gators. Objectively, the Hurricanes blew it. Between a muffed punt that gave the Gators the ball near Miami's goal line, to drops by wide receivers on what would have been big gains, to mental mistakes that cost UM scoring opportunities, the Canes, quite literally, dropped the ball against Florida.
That being said, the Gators earned it and won. So if Miami can play with number eight in the nation, that makes them an easy Top 10 team in our book, especially when preseason polls are based on nothing other than opinion. If the Canes play to even the crappy level they did against Florida, they'll be a Top 10 team the rest of the season, which means they'll be head-and-shoulders above every opponent the rest of the way.
4. Miami's schedule is perfect for its young offense. Normally, most teams would not be big fans of a schedule with four of the last five games on the road. Miami is not one of those teams. It starts a redshirt freshman at quarterback, two freshman tackles on offense, many "new" running backs and wide receivers who haven't been through a battle yet, and coaching staff still finding its way. All that means is that playing at home five straight times after next week is a huge advantage.
The Canes won't leave home from September 8 until a few days before they travel to Pittsburgh for their October 26 matchup. They'll enjoy home crowds, home cooking, and their own beds for a month-plus. That's how a young squad turns into a team ready for the back half of its schedule. Watch out if the Canes aren't beaten again before they hit the road.
3. If Vegas had to pick today, the Canes should be favored in every one of their games. When everything else is discussed, in the end, all that really matters is Miami's opponents. Who are they? The answer to that question moving forward is almost no one. The Canes have a cakewalk the rest of the way. Teams come out of nowhere and become better, of course, but as of today, Miami has nothing on its schedule that's scary.
The usual trip to Doak to play FSU won't be easy, but Miami seems to be the better team this season based on returning players and the rest of the roster. Virginia Tech is always a tough one, but the Hokies aren't exactly Alabama or Ohio State. Outside of the usual ACC grinders, the Canes will play Central Michigan, FIU, Duke, Georgia Tech, Louisville, and Bethune-Cookman. That's easy stuff if the Canes are anywhere close to who they were last week.
The Hurricanes' hardest game might be UNC this week, a team that recently beat South Carolina. We'll get a good read on whether the Canes have a chance to run the table soon enough.
2. Manny Diaz will be a fire under the players' asses all season. In the past, the Canes would flush the rest of their season down the toilet when they lost a game. They'd drop one game, and you already knew it would take the air out of them for four weeks while they sat around feeling sorry for themselves.
Manny Diaz doesn't seem very much about that feeling-sorry-for-yourself life. The Hurricanes won't quietly go through the motions against Pittsburgh — he won't let them. A motivated, alive Hurricanes team will be tough to beat this season once the offense catches up with the defense in terms of experience and cohesiveness.
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1. The Miami Hurricanes' defense will lead the way. The old saying in football is that defense wins championships, and if that logic rings true for the Canes in 2019, they should at least face Clemson in the ACC Championship at the end of the year. Miami is loaded with playmaking stars on defense, a fact that was obvious as the squad kept Miami in the game against Florida even as the offense continually wasted opportunities.
The college football season grows long, and some lesser teams can creep up on favored schools, but Miami has the advantage of being defense-heavy, an attribute that not only carries teams to wins more often than not, but also travels well on the road and tends to come up big in close games.
Everything is there for the Hurricanes to win the remaining games on their schedule. Quite frankly, any loss would seem like an upset.