Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Hurricanes' season forecast looking good

Monday night's game between Miami and Florida State was probably the best so far this season. It didn't feel quite like the old days -- Miami wasn't even ranked -- but to see the two longtime rivals looking like legitimate ACC contenders was strangely satisfying for someone who's never been a fan of either one.

I'm not ready to go all Mark Schlabach on you and declare that Miami has returned to national prominence or that this game "was nearly as good as watching Boise State pull off a hook-and-lateral and Statue of Liberty against Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl ... almost as good as watching Vince Young run into the end zone to beat USC in the 2006 Rose Bowl to win the national championship," because that's just ridiculous. It was a season opener, and until the fourth quarter, it didn't look much different than most FSU-Miami games.

But the thing that's been missing from this series for years has been offense, and the biggest news from Monday night is that both teams have one. Jacory Harris is seriously talented, and the comeback he engineered after an excruciatingly painful-looking hit on his right arm by FSU defensive back Greg Reid was nothing short of phenomenal. When was the last time you said that about a Miami quarterback?

Christian Ponder was just as good in defeat, matching Harris throw for throw and adding a couple huge QB draws that could have (and probably should have) been the difference in the game. For all the gut-wrenching missed field goals Florida State has endured, watching that final pass slip to the turf in the endzone as time expired had to be right up on there on the devastation scale.

But whether the Seminoles lost the game or the Hurricanes won it, there might not be a team in college football that feels better about its situation right now than Miami, and not just because of Monday night's victory. What once appeared to be an absolutely brutal stretch against four straight ranked teams -- Florida State, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Oklahoma -- looks significantly more manageable after the first week of play. Georgia Tech's running game will be a different kind of test for Miami's defense, but Virginia Tech looked so abysmal against Alabama that I don't think a Miami upset is out of the question. As for Oklahoma, just see my previous post. If Miami's offense plays all season like it did Monday night, they'll be able to compete with anybody.

The stars are aligning nicely for the Hurricanes, and while I highly doubt that they can get through the aforementioned stretch undefeated, a 3-1 mark would put them in great position for a 10- or 11-win regular season and a possible ACC title. That might not seem all that spectacular compared with the great Hurricane teams of yore, but keep in mind that Miami hasn't won more than nine games since 2003. Gotta go one step at a time.

On a related note, your unintentional comedy of the week comes from the New York Post, where the page designers apparently don't know anything about college sports:
I suppose the one on the left is technically Miami, but it seems like that "Gators" emblem would be kinda hard to miss.

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