Miami Football: Will the Hurricanes Make a Bowl in 2012?

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Stephen Morris takes over for Jacory Harris at quarterback.

<p> Will the Miami Hurricanes make a bowl in 2012?</p>

The college football season is a couple of months away, but the countdown to 2012 has officially begun. Athlon Sports’ 2012 preseason annuals will be hitting newsstands in early June and its official top 25 countdown will begin on May 1. Picking the order of finish in each conference and compiling the top 25 is no easy task. Each day leading up to the release of No. 25 on May 1, Athlon’s editors will tackle some of the top preseason debates and question marks facing the teams and conferences for 2012.

Will Miami Make A Bowl in 2012?

Gary Ferman, CaneSport.com
The Miami Hurricanes will become bowl eligible in 2012, but it won't be an easy road as the team looks to replace two classes worth of top players. A mass exodus of top underclassmen, such as running back Lamar Miller, receiver Tommy Streeter and defensive end Olivier Vernon, sent the Canes into rebuilding mode earlier than Al Golden possibly expected. But the ACC doesn't have a dominant team and Miami should have enough coming back to match or exceed last year's 6-6 record and go bowling. The major key will be the play of quarterback Stephen Morris and his offensive line, which must carry the load while the young kids develop around him. 

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Normally when all of team’s losses are decided by less than a touchdown, I’d say that team as a good chance to bounce back. A team like Miami, which started its season mired in controversy and suspensions and lost to hapless Maryland in the opener, would seem to be a prime candidate to turn a 3-5 ACC season into a 5-3 season. I just don’t see it for Miami, though. The Hurricanes are rebuilding at the offensive skill positions without Jacory Harris and Lamar Miller. Meanwhile the defense is hoping for breakout seasons for Denzel Perryman and Ray-Ray Armstrong. That’s a lot to ask for a team that plays four of its first six games away from home, including Kansas State on the road and Notre Dame in Chicago. By the time Miami faces Florida State, Virginia Tech, Virginia and USF late in the season, what will the Hurricanes have left in the tank, especially if the bowl carrot is gone by then?

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Al Golden worked a minor miracle in the face of a sensational scandal to land a top 10 recruiting class this cycle. The problem with 2012 Miami, however, is that Golden may be counting on many of his 33-man class to contribute right away. This will give The U one of the youngest rosters in the ACC to surround a relatively unknown commodity at quarterback. On the heels of only the third non-winning season since 1979, Miami will have a tough time returning to the postseason this fall.

Road non-conference games against Kansas State and Notre Dame (in Chicago), to go with a visit from USF, offers no breathers to Golden’s bunch outside of ACC play. Within the conference, Miami faces Florida State and NC State — two of the top three teams in the Atlantic Division — in crossover play. It also has to visit Georgia Tech and Virginia within the division as well as hosting Virginia Tech and North Carolina. There are two clearcut wins on the Canes schedule in conference play (at Boston College, at Duke) and one easy win in the non-conference (Bethune-Cookman), so if Miami expects to return to the postseason, it will have to pull off more than a few upsets. And since I believe the NCAA will make this entire argument a moot point by banning the Hurricanes from a bowl in 2012 (after the self-imposed bowl ban from 2011), it's easy for me to say no va a suceder to Miami postseason aspirations.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
The biggest unknown facing Miami in 2012 is still the possibility of NCAA sanctions. Although the Hurricanes served a bowl ban last year, there’s a chance the program is banned from postseason play in 2012. Regardless of a NCAA ban or not, Miami will have a tough time getting to six victories.

Considering the Hurricanes return only 10 starters off of a 6-6 team, can they really be any better in 2012? Gone are All-ACC performers in running back Lamar Miller, center Tyler Horn and linebacker Sean Spence. The losses don’t end there, as Miami’s depth on the defensive line and receiving corps was depleted.

Miami doesn’t get any breaks on the schedule, as it has to play NC State and Florida State from the Atlantic, and plays swing games against Virginia and Georgia Tech on the road. Non-conference matchups against Kansas State, Notre Dame and South Florida could all easily be losses.

Coach Al Golden is doing a good job on the recruiting trail, but the youth and inexperience will hurt the win column in 2012. Although the schedule is tough and the personnel losses are heavy, I’m going to guess Miami finds a way to win six games and qualifies for a bowl. I wouldn’t be shocked if this team gets better as the year goes on, especially as some of the young talent gets more experienced. Considering there are no standout teams in the ACC outside of Florida State, Clemson and Virginia Tech, the Hurricanes can pull off an upset or two and somehow finish the year with six or seven wins.

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
Miami likely will play in a bowl game in 2012, but I don’t envision the Hurricanes winning more than six games during the regular season. There are issues all over the field for Al Golden’s club: Can Stephen Morris emerge as a consistent quarterback? Is Mike James ready to step in as the every-down back? Will the offensive line, which lost three starters, be serviceable, especially early in the season? And can the defensive front get pressure on the quarterback?

Golden appears to be the right man for the job at Miami. He has recruited very well — especially considering the recent NCAA troubles — and the talent level will increase in the coming years. But for now, the 2012 Hurricanes look to be, at least on paper, very average. My guess is this team wins between five and seven games. 

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
I’m not sure the Hurricanes make the postseason. Obviously the NCAA could make this debate moot by ruling Miami ineligible for a bowl, and I think the cloud of potential sanctions could affect this season negatively. Al Golden’s bunch looks like a 6-6 team, but a below-average offense has me concerned about UM’s ability to win enough tossup games (Kansas State, Georgia Tech, NC State, North Carolina, Virginia, USF) to make a bowl. Finding an answer at quarterback is a huge issue, and the Canes lost three starters from the offensive line. The running trio of Mike James, Eduardo Clements and highly-touted freshman Duke Johnson could possibly replace Lamar Miller, but this offense does not have many athletes to fear in 2012. There are some positives on defense like linebacker Denzel Perryman and end Anthony Chickillo, and a full season from safety Ray-Ray Armstrong will be a boost. The linebackers look solid, but they will be challenged by significant losses on the defensive line. Overall, Golden is doing a quality job but the Canes are a year away from climbing up the ACC standings.

Where will Athlon predict Miami to finish in the 2012 ACC final standings? Check back on May 1 as the 2012 Top 25 countdown will be released one team a day. 

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