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Will the "U" show up?
2010 Miami Hurricanes schedule analysis

Last season the Miami Hurricanes showed both how talented they are but also how young they were. The Canes opened the season with a 5-1 start, which included wins over ranked teams Florida State, Georgia Tech and Oklahoma. The return to prominence of the “U” appeared at hand under Randy Shannon.

However, UM finished winning just four of its final seven games, including a rather ugly Champs Sports Bowl loss to Wisconsin. Sometimes freshmen and sophomores have to learn what it takes to win consistently. And that lesson could come this season. Shannon got a contract extension this offseason and has been a great recruiter but has yet to even deliver a bowl victory.

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Overall, six starters on offense and eight on defense are due back for the Canes. Of course the offense is led by potential Heisman candidate Jacory Harris, who missed spring ball following thumb surgery. He’ll be fine for fall camp. Harris threw for 3,352 yards and 24 touchdowns last season and should be better in his second season in offensive coordinator Mark Whipple’s system. The Canes also lost Javarris James to graduation, and the other co-starting running back, Graig Cooper, blew out his knee in the bowl game. He’s still a question mark to play this season. Still, UM believes it has its best depth at running back in with players like Lamar Miller, Storm Johnson, Damien Berry and Mike James. The receiving group is full of big burners.

The offensive line needs to replace three starters from last season, including star left tackle Jason Fox. That unit had some problems as it was last year, but the Hurricanes recently got a major boost with the commitment of Seantrel Henderson, the nation’s top-ranked offensive line recruit who was released from his USC letter of intent. He will be eligible to play right away and may well start. Already he is being compared to former Miami stud Bryant McKinnie.

On defense, the line reportedly has shown much improvement this spring and that needs to be the case because Miami was only No. 10 in the ACC in sacks last year. The return of defensive line coach Rick Petri is being hailed as a big difference. And the Hurricanes also have a future NFL first-rounder in Allen Bailey at end plus a ton of depth up front. A return to health of linebacker Sean Spence will be important, while the secondary could be tremendous led by Brandon Harris and future star Ray-Ray Armstrong (think Ed Reed or the late Sean Taylor). The defense was shredded at times last season (FSU, Clemson) but also quite good at times. It should be mostly the latter in 2010.

Here is Miami’s 2010 schedule:

Sept. 2 Florida A&M
Sept. 11 at Ohio State
Sept. 23 at Pittsburgh
Oct. 2 at Clemson
Oct. 9 Florida State
Oct. 16 at Duke
Oct. 23 North Carolina
Oct. 30 at Virginia
Nov. 6 Maryland
Nov. 13 at Georgia Tech
Nov. 20 Virginia Tech
Nov. 27 South Florida

Give Miami credit as it’s hiding from no one in terms of non-conference play. Sure, the Canes will destroy Florida A&M in the opener, but then comes games at the projected Big Ten and Big East champions. If UM can sweep those, look out. Pretty sure the Canes would take a split and that’s what I think they get.

The ACC schedule sets up very nicely because FSU, North Carolina and Virginia Tech all come to south Florida. Plus UM gets a few extra days to prepare for that road opener at a C.J. Spiller-less Clemson (he practically beat Miami single-handedly last year). The toughest road game figures to be at defending ACC champ Georgia Tech, but the Jackets lost a ton from last year’s team.

Clearly the key here is Jacory Harris, as in losses to Clemson and North Carolina last he turned the ball over a combined eight times. And he wasn’t right in the Wisconsin loss, either, as he was dealing with that injured thumb. If he takes the next step, this team could – could -- be in the national title picture. Miami is +2000 to win the BCS title and a favored +240 to win the ACC. I think the Canes finish the regular season 10-2 and do advance to their first ACC Championship Game and will beat the Seminoles there to finally get back to a BCS bowl game. This team is probably one year away from contending for the national title, however.

  
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