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Will the Hurricanes finally win the Coastal Division?
The ACC Coastal is one of the toughest divisions to project in 2013. Miami is considered a slight favorite by most, but Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and North Carolina aren’t far behind.
The Hurricanes are still searching for their first trip to the conference title game and haven’t recorded a season of double-digit wins since posting 11 victories in 2003.
Coach Al Golden seems to have Miami back on the right track, and the Hurricanes return 12 starters from last year’s 7-5 team. The cloud from the ongoing NCAA investigation still hangs over the program, but Miami should have a resolution on its penalties before kickoff on Aug. 30 against FAU.
There’s no question Miami’s offense should score plenty of points, but the defense is a major concern after allowing 30.5 points a game in 2012.
What will Miami's record at the end of the 2013 regular season? Athlon’s panel of experts debates:
Miami's 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions
|9/21 Savannah State|
|9/28 at USF|
|10/5 Georgia Tech|
|10/17 at North Carolina|
|10/26 Wake Forest|
|11/2 at Florida State|
|11/9 Virginia Tech|
|11/16 at Duke|
|11/29 at Pittsburgh|
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
The ACC Coastal is one of the most wide-open leagues in college football this season. Miami, Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Virginia Tech all have a strong case to be picked as the preseason favorite, and three of those teams (Miami, North Carolina and Georgia Tech) all tied for the top spot at 5-3 in conference play last year. The Hurricanes are still searching for their first ACC Coastal title, but there’s plenty of reasons to like this team in 2013. Assuming there’s a seamless transition to new coordinator James Coley, the offense should rank among the best in the ACC. Running back Duke Johnson has a standout line leading the way, while quarterback Stephen Morris should build off a solid 2012 campaign (3,345 yards, 21 touchdowns). Miami’s defense is in need of major repair after allowing 486.4 yards per game last year. However, this unit should get a boost with another set of offseason practices to develop some of the younger players like safety Deon Bush and linebacker Alex Figueroa. The schedule is manageable, as Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech visit Sun Life Stadium, and the Hurricanes play at North Carolina on 11 days of rest. I wouldn’t be shocked to see a tie atop the Coastal, but I’m taking Miami to represent the division in the conference championship game.
John Cassillo, (@JohnCassillo), Atlantic Coast Convos
Miami's schedule gives us ample opportunity to figure out who they are early on. The Hurricanes' matchups against Florida and Georgia Tech in their first five games should be the barometer. Beat Florida, we're looking at a top-10 squad. Lose to the Gators and beat Georgia Tech, maybe they're just another eight-win team. Obviously, Duke Johnson and Stephen Morris will lead this group, but it'll come down to whether the defense can improve from last year. If they don't, it could serve as their downfall once again, despite what should be an even better offense.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
I’m probably wildly optimistic about my projections on Miami’s season, mainly because in our previous game-by-game picks to pick the Canes to upset Florida and Florida State. Those are bold projections, particularly if Florida State’s Jameis Winston becomes a superstar and Miami’s defense shows little improvement from last season. That’s why I’ve picked Georgia Tech and North Carolina to defeat Miami this season. Few other teams on its schedule are as certain on offense as those two. Georgia Tech’s option is always trouble, and North Carolina has skill position talent that’s been in Larry Fedora’s system for a season.
Ryan Tice (@RyanTice), TheWolfpacker.com
Miami, which boasts 19 returning starters including 10 on offense, is looking for defensive improvements this year. However, they might be able to outscore the majority of their opponents regardless, thanks to the return of quarterback Stephen Morris, running back Duke Johnson, a solid wide receiving corps led by Phillip Dorsett and an experienced group up front. The schedule is also favorable with two of the three toss-up games — Florida, Florida State and Virginia Tech — on the slate coming at home. It’s possible they could even go 0-3 in that trio of games and still represent the wide-open Coastal Division in the ACC Championship game, as long as they take care of business the other nine weeks. The two most important games in the division race will be vs. Virginia Tech and at North Carolina. The ceiling for this season is extremely high in Coral Gables, which is probably why the Canes self-imposed sanctions and sat out last postseason for the second-straight year despite a possible trip to the ACC Championship contest on the line when the decision was made.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
There are a lot of reasons to be pessimistic about the Miami Hurricanes. This is a deep and competitive division, Miami is dealing with severe off-the-field turmoil, the defense was horrendous last year and the team is still very young. However, there is much to like about this team as well. Al Golden might be the best coach in the conference, all those young underclassmen are one year older and the despite being very competitive, the Coastal Division is very winnable. With Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech both coming to South Florida and Clemson noticeably absent from the schedule, the Canes are the pick to win the division and have an outside chance at 10 wins. Keep in mind, had this team played four easy non-conference games last year instead of Notre Dame and Kansas State on the road, it would have won nine games.
Miami has re-entered the ACC championship discussion, although the NCAA could pull the rug out from under its feet before the season starts. Until then, however, the Hurricanes have to at least be considered a potential title contender with all-purpose dynamo Duke Johnson leading what could be an explosive offense. The 'Canes' success will likely come down to how much improvement a young defense, one that finished near the bottom of the national rankings in the main defensive categories last season, shows. The defense will be what holds Miami back from beating either Florida or Florida State and it also will cost them at least one ACC game. To that end, the key conference swing games to watch are on the road against North Carolina and Pittsburgh, along with home dates with Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech. Even then, there is more than enough talent on both sides of the ball for Al Golden's team to contend for supremacy in the ACC Coastal division and its first trip to the conference championship game.
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