EIGHT IN 08? A CANES PREDICTION
After finishing 5-7 in Randy Shannon's first season as the Canes' head coach, the million-dollar question is this: How many will UM win in Year Two?
Since I am the eternal optimist, you probably have to subtract about three wins from my prediction to arrive at UM's actual record. Last season, for example, I predicted Miami would win 8 or 9 games.
This season, I am optimistic as usual. The just concluded recruiting season appears to have been a huge success. We'll find out in the next few years, of course, but for right now at least, the program is on a positive track.
And the 2008 schedule, released Friday, is not terribly difficult. Only the trip to Gainesville to play Florida appears to be a sure loss. And since that is a rivalry game, I would not put a Canes upset as an impossibility.
The only thing that is really sure is that the Canes will win their opener at home vs. Charleston Southern. That will mark the Canes' debut at Dolphins Stadium.
Next up are the hated Gators, which nearly every neutral observer would chalk up as a loss.
The next 10 games are anybody's guess. About the only game you can be fairly sure about is that Miami will beat Duke. But even that game is not a lock since it is at Duke, and last year the Blue Devils gave Miami a game at the Orange Bowl.
Miami plays Florida State and Virginia Tech at home this season, and both games will be huge. Miami beat FSU last season, and that is annually the Canes' biggest game. .Tech, which is the Canes' second-biggest annual rival, will come to Dolphins Stadium on a Thursday night. A rowdy crowd is a safe bet.
The Canes also play a Thursday night game the next week at Georgia Tech.
OK, here are my guesses, game by game:
Win - Charleston Southern (a virtual exhibition game, which the Canes' young team needs)
Loss - at Florida (I hate to say this, but the Gators have the talent to blow UM out)
Win - at Texas A&M (Miami crushed the Aggies at home last season)
Win - North Carolina (Canes beat their former coach, Butch Davis)
Loss - FSU (Seminoles get revenge for last season)
Win - UCF (A Knights win is a real possibility)
Win - at Duke (can't see Miami losing to Duke)
Win - Wake Forest (Deacons are improved but should not be able to beat UM)
Loss - at Virginia (Cavs embarrassed UM last year at the OB)
Win - Va Tech (night home game vs. tough team, this will be UM's biggest win)
Loss - at Georgia Tech (this game will be close, but on the road, at night, UM falls)
Win - at NC State (Canes finish regular season with a road ACC win)
FINAL REGULAR-SEASON RECORD = 8-4
Granted, that might be overly optimistic considering that Miami will start a freshman quarterback, does not return a proven receiver, tight end or a 1,000-yard running back.
The defense is coming its worst season in years and lost their best players in DE Calais Campbell, DE Vegas Franklin, DT Teraz McCray, LB Tavares Gooden, CB Glenn Sharpe and S Kenny Phillips.
The special teams will break in a freshman kicker and has yet to come close to replacing Devin Hester as a kick returner.
And the Shannon coaching staff has yet to prove that they have the right formula to win. They added some great recruits, now they have to put their talent in the position to win. Offensive coordinator Patrick Nix and new defensive boss Bill Young will be scrutinized closely. The same goes for Joe Pannunzio on special teams.
So, given all the question marks, why am I still 8-win optimistic?
Because I believe in the Canes' talent and speed. Yes, the talent is young and largely unproven, but this team has the players that could be a couple of years away from making national noise.
As a fan, I am just hoping that freshman QB Robert Marve can do in 2008 what freshman QB Bernie Kosar did in 1983 - which is to run the table after an early loss to Florida and win the national title.
Hey, I am not predicting that, just hoping!