Miami Hurricanes Head Coach Al Golden was very optimistic about his team, and happy to talk about the newfound unity in the locker room. Aside from attitude and Coaches optimism the real question still remains. How will the 2015 Miami Hurricanes finish this season and how will they be viewed?
Expectations may be lower then they have in years past as the 'Canes had a let down at the end of last season dropping their last four games. The poll at ACC Kickoff chosen by 158 media members predicted the 'Canes will finish third in the Coastal division. Coach Golden felt the team didn't do enough and made his feelings known.
"We did not deserve to win(last season) when you don't protect the ball. We did not deserve to win by where we were in penalties. So being smarter as a player, being more disciplined as a player that's some of the criteria we asked(of our players)." Insisted Coach Golden that his team has learned from last year and is excited about moving forward and not looking back.
The media was less optimistic as poll at ACC Kickoff chosen by 158 media members predicted the 'Canes will finish third in the Costal division and sixth of seven in the "ACC Championship Votes" poll.
Here well take a closer look at what's in store for the Hurricanes in 2015:
The Nebraska Cornhuskers
We jump to the third game of the season as Miami should be 2-0 at this point barring a disastrous start with Bethune-Cookman and Florida Atlantic as their first opponents. This game is a rematch of last years contest that saw Nebraska run through Miami(literally) in a tight 41-31 game in Lincoln.
The clear difference between the teams last year to this year will be the firepower missing from stud running backs on either end(Duke Johnson-MIA, Ameer Abdullah-NEB). Nebraska rushed for 334 yards with 229 of them coming from Abdullah. Look for Nebraska to install a similar game plan against this version of the Hurricanes as personnel wise they are similar.
Miami is going to look to throw the ball and attack the Huskers D and if the team can balance that with a solid rushing attack then Miami should survive this showdown. 76 rushing yards for Miami will not translate into a victory against such a strong opponent.
Opening up ACC play In College Football
There are few rivalries that could even be compared to the intense nature of the Miami/Florida State feud. As if one of the biggest games could get any bigger, Miami's trip to Tallahassee on October 10th not only opens up ACC play but could potentially avenge the loss that crippled the team the previous season.
Rivalry, redemption and recognition are on the line. Jameis Winston is no longer in Seminole Garnett which gives plenty of teams optimism they can defeat the ACCs top opponent. Aside from Winston 10 other players were selected in the 2015 NFL draft and the turnover could disrupt chemistry on defense for the Noles. If we assume Everett Golson will be FSU's starter the dynamic signal caller could cause the Hurricanes too much trouble in a hostile atmosphere.
If victorious, this Miami team could ride that momentum to the moon and back just as the loss crippled them last year. Brad Kaaya will need to play and manage the game of his life to pull this one off.
The road trip to Tallahassee is only the beginning of a stretch of tough ACC opponents. The Hurricanes in consecutive weeks after play a young, up and coming Virginia Tech team with a dominant defense led by corner Kyle Fuller at home followed by a home against Clemson and pre-season ACC-Player of the year pick Deshaun Watson.
The fun doesn't stop there as Duke(A), Virginia(H), North Carolina(A), GT(H) and finally a battle against James Conner and the Pitt Panthers away to finish regular season play.
It's odd that the schedule focuses on Non-Conference opponents early and ACC play throughout as it wont give Miami a chance to possibly regroup in a non-conference game in order to help their conference chances.
A big advantage for Miami against these teams will be the ability of Gus Edwards to take the pressure off Kaaya and finish off games by grinding and running the clock out with Edwards' big body. What makes Gus unique is his huge 240lb frame and 4.5 40 make him a combination of strength and speed you don't often see.
What do we think?
The 2015 Miami Hurricanes are running a gauntlet. if not navigated correctly it will end in disaster and the firing of Coach Golden. His job rests on Brad Kaaya's shoulders as the team leader and Golden is confident his quarterback is going to have one heck of a season.
If a combination of Kaaya's play and the intensity on the defensive side of the ball the Hurricanes are poised to be contenders.
"Two things any coach would want going into the season. A veteran quarterback with command presence and leadership capability and a veteran defense. We're a very veteran defense, 25 of our top 30 are back." said Golden.
If those two things are what Coach Golden needs to be successful then he looks like he's found what he's been searching for entering his fifth season.
My prediction for the season is Miami finishes 9-3 in the regular season and makes their first ever trip to the ACC Championship game in Charlotte. With the quality of the defensive players as long as the coaching staff manages these players well they will succeed on their own.
Raphael Kirby commands his unit, the defensive line is more experienced to take on double teams to create spaces for the run stuffers and pass rushers. The 'Canes secondary looks like it could be one of the best in the country with possible All-American safety Deon Bush and the immensely improved Dallas Crawford to compliment senior cornerback Tracy Howard.
Teams will struggle moving the ball against one of the most elite units in college football and with Brad Kaaya's ceiling only getting higher its hard to argue against this team being successful come 2015.
Whether or not the fan base believes it, the Hurricanes locker room believes it and according to Coach Golden. "The only room that matters is the locker room"