Once again, the Scheduling Gods have put Miami to the test. Last year it was the seemingly insurmountable stretch of: at #21 Florida State, #22 Georgia Tech, at #15 Virginia Tech, and #5 Oklahoma. Not many were giving the young Hurricanes a chance, with most best case scenarios predicting a 2-2 start. Certainly, in August most Hurricane fans would have taken a .500 record after that brutal four game stretch. But, the Hurricanes beat both the Seminoles and Yellow Jackets, vaulting them to a #9 ranking in the country. A dismal performance in the rain against Virginia Tech brought them back down to Earth. A cornerstone victory over then #8 Oklahoma provided the biggest win of Randy Shannon‘s tenure. Certainly, the NCAA and their scheduling gurus would not subject the same school to such nightmarish match ups in the season’s first few weeks. Or can they?
After a tune up versus Division I-AA Florida A&M, take a look at what the Hurricanes are staring at:
at #5 Ohio State
at #15 Pittsburgh
at #24 Clemson
You know it’s bad when the easiest match up – according to the polls – is a game against the Seminoles. I didn’t think it could get worse than last year’s four game stretch, but it looks like this year’s tops it. Three consecutive Top 25 teams on the road? That is a lot to ask of any school, let alone one that is still trying to establish veteran leadership. Miami fared pretty well last year, but ultimately faltered against lesser opponents down the stretch (Clemson, North Carolina). If the 2010 Hurricanes are to be successful, they must fare well in this all important four game stretch and come out relatively unscathed regarding injuries. Let’s take a look at the possible scenarios:
4-0: Obviously, this is the best case scenario. The Hurricanes, finally loaded with talent and depth, upset the Buckeyes at the Horseshoe. This is not that big of a reach, provided the offensive line can gel quick enough to stave off Ohio State’s pass rush. Speed and talent edges elsewhere have to go to Miami, though mobile quarterbacks have been known to give them trouble in the past. Containing Terrelle Pryor is the key. A win at Pittsburgh in September is certainly more believable than one in late November. And though Clemson has played Miami tough as of late, they don’t have All World RB C.J. Spiller this year. If the Canes are 3-0 heading into a Florida State showdown at Sun Life Stadium, you better believe they’ll step up for that game. A 4-0 start would result in a definite Top 5 ranking (if not higher) and clear the way for a path back to the national title game.
3-1: Ask any Hurricane fan if they would take another 3-1 result and the answer will most likely be ‘Yes.’ 3-1 would allow for Miami to have the inside track on the ACC, especially if the lone loss is at Columbus. A 3-1 record would likely allow the Canes to retain a Top 15 ranking, with the toughest part of the schedule out of the way. The goal of winning the school’s first ever ACC title would be in tact and a national title run would not be out of the picture. Last year, 3-1 was a welcomed surprise. This year, it would be welcomed, but not that much of a surprise.
2-2: Hmmm. This isn’t as bad as it seems. Please don’t start calling for Shannon’s head if this team goes 2-2 in this 4 game stretch. It might seem warranted, especially if they lose the first two games and are at 1-2 heading into October. But, they would still not have lost an ACC game and could represent the Coastal division in the ACC Championship game in December. If Miami is to lose two games, they would certainly be better suited to drop the OSU and Pitt games. Losing at Clemson and then to FSU would not only cripple Miami’s national title hopes, but also put a damper on its ACC title hopes. The latter scenario could result in Shannon’s days being numbered. Again, 2-2 is not the end of the world, depending on which games comprise the losses. Losing 1 or 2 ACC games would make this .500 record a disappointment. Winning both ACC games, however, should still allow for a glimmer of hope. Any thoughts of a national title, however, would go down the drain.
1-3: OK, here’s where the clock is called on Coach Shannon’s last days. The message boards will flare up like a bad case of herpes. It doesn’t even matter which game is the win. Beat Ohio State and lose to Pitt, Clemson and FSU and the 2-3 Canes will be looking up at the rest of the ACC. Beat one of the ACC teams and an ACC title is still salvageable, but 3 losses by mid-October is simply unacceptable at Miami. No only that, but it is unacceptable with this level of talent and speed. Shannon would literally have to win out to save his job. Another 9-4 season will have the trustees pressuring Shalala and Hocutt to find a replacement.
0-4: Oh crap. There will be riots in the streets of Miami. Coach Shannon would be a prisoner in his own home, curling up into the fetal position in the corner of his bathroom as irate Hurricane fans throw rocks at his house. Well, hopefully that won’t happen, nor will an 0 for 4 run. It is hard to imagine such a loaded Miami team losing all four of these games, but it certainly is a possibility. They’ll be underdogs in Columbus and then face a Top 15 school on the road. Then, a visit to Memorial Stadium in Clemson – a team that Miami is 1-2 against in its last 3 (with the lone win being a triple overtime thriller). And of course, the always tough match up against in state rivals Florida State. 0-4 would mean no national title and very likely no ACC title. Miami would have regressed, which would put Coach Shannon on the chopping block. In all honesty, this is the least likely scenario, but a possibility nonetheless. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to this.