The past two weeks of college football produced an avalanche of upsets. Big name programs continue tumbling down the mountain, while those who dominate, take care of business, or simply survive, continue to their ascension.
Coming off a 7-5 campaign in 2012, Miami understandably started the season unranked. The Hurricanes earned a share of the ACC Coastal Division crown, but self-imposed a second-straight bowl ban due to pending NCAA sanctions.
As a result, the goals for 2013 were to take a proper step forward as a program and to complete for a Atlantic Coast Conference title. An offseason focus was put on conditioning, while a defense that finished 116 out of 120 Division-I teams had to find a way to improve if Miami was going to bounce back.
The early schedule laid out nicely, with Florida Atlantic, Savannah State and South Florida on the September docket. The lone challenge, a visit from Florida on September 7. Pull off the upset, ride the wave of momentum, step up regarding a few early in-conference challenges, and Miami could conceivably put itself back on the map, running the table through October.
The best case scenario continues playing itself out as the Hurricanes are 6-0 and ranked number seven in the first BCS poll released Sunday evening.
Miami hasn’t reached the BCS since the 2004 Orange Bowl. That 16-14 victory over Florida State ended a run of, four straight BCS appearances, back-to-back title games, a national championship and a dominant 34-game win-streak. Since then, a few coaching changes, a drop off in talent not much on-the-field excitement worth celebrating.
The good news at this season’s halfway point: Miami controls its own destiny regarding a run towards the BCS. Six regular season games remain, complete with a few opportunities to dazzle and continue the climb.
A road trip to Florida State (11/2) followed by a home showdown against Virginia Tech (11/9) will be defining moments for Miami this season—a win over the Seminoles putting the Hurricanes in the national title picture, while a victory over the Hokies is a must for Coastal Division supremacy.
A loss in Tallahassee doesn’t derail ACC tile game dreams, but falling to Virginia Tech arguably could as both the Hurricanes and Hokies are undefeated with few conference challenges remaining.
Miami still has Wake Forest (10/26), as well as Duke (11/16), Virginia (11/23) and Pittsburgh (11/29). The Hurricanes have also made a habit of dropping late-season games against lesser conference foes, meaning no contest is a gimmie in this bounce-back season.
While Miami is in the driver’s seat should it takes care of business the next six games, the road to the BCS Championship currently is a two-team race, barring Alabama and Oregon stay on track. Should either slip, it opens the door for the likes of Florida State, Ohio State, Stanford, or another poll-climber between now year’s end.
Six weeks of football remains, so a clear-cut forecast regarding the title game remains understandably murky, but Miami’s focus needs to remain on conference success, not a less realistic grand prize.
Same to be said for the annual showdown against Florida State. While it’s always the goal to take out the Seminoles, conference title games change the dynamic of what used to be a once-a-year opportunity and a road loss on November 2 can be rectified with a December 7 rematch, with much more on the line.
Strength of schedule hurts Miami as once-No. 12 Florida has been ravaged with injuries and is now a three-loss squad. Also the case regarding Georgia Tech (4-3) and North Carolina (1-5); conference foes expected to complete for a Coastal Division title, but instead unraveled early.
Take care of the ACC—which would mean beating Florida State twice, as well as Virginia Tech—and a 13-0 Miami squad will see it’s strength of schedule rise, allowing “The U” to make it’s claim for a return to Pasadena—the site of its 2001 national championship and the Hurricanes’ last.
Until then, one game at a time remains the blueprint, with Charlotte the ultimate destination and everything else considered a bonus.
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