The Miami Hurricanes are back in the title hunt for the first time since 2002.
Mark Richt was outed as head coach for Georgia but quickly found his way back to familiar territory. From 1979-1982, Richt was the backup quarterback at Miami, and he now finds himself leading the Hurricanes as their head coach. After an 8-5 season under Al Golden, Miami won nine games in Rich’s first year, and are on their way to achieving much more this season.
When the Canes started off this season 7-0 many questioned how good they really were. Even more questions arose when it seemed like Miami struggled to beat lesser opponents. Against the likes of Florida State (3-6), Georgia Tech (5-4), North Carolina (2-8), and Syracuse (4-6), Miami won by an average of only 4.5 points. However, when it mattered most, the Hurricanes showed the country what they were all about.
Virginia Tech went down to Miami as the 13th ranked team in the nation and got beat up on both sides of the ball. Hurricanes’ quarterback Malik Rosier was picked off three times but threw two touchdowns while also running for 84 yards and another touchdown. Miami accumulated 429 total yards and their defense forced the Hokie offense into four turnovers in a 28-10 blowout.
Miami passed their first test, but a Notre Dame team with a Heisman-hopeful running back was supposed to be a different story. The Irish went into the game last week as 3.5-point favorites but the Canes were ruthless in their dominance. Running back Travis Homer didn’t score but ignited the offense with 146 rushing yards.
The talk of the game was again the Miami defense. Against a Notre Dame team that went into the game with only seven turnovers, the Canes forced four Irish turnovers, including a 65-yard pick-6 at the end of the first half. Miami didn’t stop there and blew out the third-ranked Irish 41-8.
So Miami passed their first two tests with amazing results and was rewarded heavily by the CFP committee by rising to third in the CFP rankings. It’s official the U is back, but with a second-year head coach, how did the Canes get so good so fast? Recruiting has been a big part of the early success.
During Richt’s transition to south Florida in 2016, the Canes had the 22nd best recruiting class with instant-impact players like Homer, linebacker Shaquille Quarterman, receiver Ahmmon Richards. In 2017, Richt brought in the 12th best class with receiver Jeff Thomas and running back DeeJay Dallas leading the way and already making a mark their first years.
While watching the matchups against Virginia Tech and Notre Dame, it’s easy to see that the defense brings the passion to this new-look Miami squad. While the turnover chain is the talk around Coral Gables and the country, there’s more to the defense than just that. Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz has installed a mindset in his defense that’s reminiscent of the Miami teams from the ‘80s.
playing fast, being very physical, playing violent on the field, because that really was the identity of that program back in the day, and that’s really what you saw whenever they played [and dominated] in matchups vs. physical, power-running teams like Notre Dame.
The past two weeks this is exactly how the Hurricanes have played. Notre Dame went into the game averaging over 200 yards on the ground per game, but the Hurricanes held them to just 109 yards on 30 carries. It was obvious just how far this defense has come in such a short time.
Miami has what should be easy games against Virginia and Pittsburgh before taking on Clemson in the ACC title game. The Tigers are probably the most complete team the Canes will play this season. If Richt can guide this young up-and-coming team to an ACC championship, then they will get their shot at their first championship since 2001.
Edited by Brian Kang.
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