For the second time in 5 years the University of Miami football team is heading up north to face the Fighting Irish. Except this time they'll be invading South Bend instead of Soldier Field.
2015 Record: 8-5
F/+ Rank: 62
S&P Rank: 51
FEI Rank: 65
Wins: Bethune-Cookman, Florida Atlantic, Nebraska, Virginia Tech, Duke, Virginia, Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh
Losses: Cincinnati, No. 14 Florida State, No. 2 Clemson, No. 15 North Carolina, Washington State
Knowing what we've seen from Temple in recent years those of you who questioned the rising stardom of Al Golden have been proven right. Ultimately, the former Temple head coach was never able to make a dent in the reclamation project in Coral Gables and didn't make it into the month of November with his job this past fall.
The Hurricanes were coming off a 7-loss season in 2014 (tied for the most since 1977) and following a run-in with eventual ACC Champion Clemson it was all over for Golden.
In steps former Miami player Mark Richt and his 15 years of experience leading the Georgia Bulldogs. The Dawgs had seemingly flat-lined in recent years but Richt still walks away with 2 SEC titles and 145 wins.
I don't know if many are expecting big things, at least right away, but there's plenty of talk that Richt is going to be the one to finally turn around the program and put it on the map as an ACC power. Amazingly enough, since leaving the Big East the Canes have never been able to at least put their stamp of dominance on the ACC so perhaps that's the first big step.
I'm sure the worst loss in school history should qualify here, no?
Miami welcomed Clemson to Sun Life Stadium (is it still called this?) on the afternoon of October 25th and Al Golden would not go to sleep that evening with his job. The Canes were out-gained by over 400 yards and lost the first down battle by 27 on their way to an embarrassing 58-0 loss.
In the end, it was like a band-aid being ripped off and it might as well have happened in October as Miami was able to take their time making a new hire.
Home: Florida A&M, Florida Atlantic, Florida State, North Carolina, Pitt, Duke
Away: Appalachian State, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Notre Dame, Virginia, NC State
This seems like a friendly enough schedule, especially without Clemson anywhere to be found. The road slate especially sets up well. It's possible Miami is favored in 5 of those games away from home and wins them all.
Even the home schedule isn't all that daunting. Am I talking myself into a 10-2 record for Miami this year!??
S&P Projected Rank: 30
However, I don't know if I buy Miami jumping 21 spots from last year. Still, look what I was just saying about their schedule and with a great quarterback so much is possible for a program in the ACC.
Predicted Kickoff Spread: Notre Dame (-4.5)
Miami is fast on its way to becoming the hot program to watch out for this fall which on one hand I agree with but I'd also pull back on that a little bit. There are still plenty of question marks on defense, for example, and outside of Kaaya the offense isn't shaping up to be enormously scary.
Nevertheless, I'm a believer that Mark Richt is going to have Miami on the Doing Good ThingsTM express sooner rather than later. I wouldn't go so far as to say he's the perfect fit (I mean, what could Saban do surrounded by all that South Florida talent?) but he's an excellent hire that is realistic and made a lot of sense.
You can see how Richt will understand what it takes to turn Miami around as a former player and that he'll be really committed to that goal. At the end of the day maybe they still finish 8-4 but I'd bet on something closer to 10 wins and that this will be a tough game for Notre Dame following the matchup with Stanford.