2007 Miami Hurricanes a Solid Under Bet
by David Lane - 08/30/2007
Even though there's no Gino Torretta, Russell Maryland, or Ottis Anderson in particular on this 2007 version of the Miami Hurricanes, the team looks to surprise many in the talented Atlantic Coast Conference with its excellent defense, 16 returning starters, and a reliance on the ground game. While they manage to find an identity of their own, the team looks to once again be a great wager to finish consistently under the total this season. Miami's last season playing home games in the Orange Bowl before they move next year to Dolphin Stadium should be a memorable and emotional one.
After the incident with Florida International University last season and the drama that followed including the shooting death of defensive end Bryan Pata, the 'Canes in the eyes of many had reverted back to the form of being thugs first and foremost and football players second. Although new Head Coach Larry Shannon, who replaced Larry Coker, wasn't the school's first choice, he very well might have been the best one for this era in Miami football. The number of wins against the spread will be determined by a variety of factors, but I am convinced that the intangibles will weigh heavily in Miami's favor.
Coach Shannon has overcome tremendous odds in his own life and not only can relate to his players' problems but can inspire them with his perseverance. His father was murdered when he was young, three of his siblings died of AIDS through drug use in the 1980s, and another of his brothers was arrested for stealing his identity. And even though he fathered a child at age 16, he still went on to be the first in his family to graduate college, won a college national championship in football at Miami, and made it to the NFL in his playing career. As an 11th round pick in the NFL he became a starter in his rookie year -- a feat that was unheard of then and is impossible today. He'll build confidence and character in this team.
The ex-Dallas Cowboy/Miami linebacker's first order of business at 'the U' was to make everything about the team by cutting media access to players, installing new curfew rules, and by declaring every starting position open for competition -- a philosophy taken from his former coach Jimmy Johnson. During his tenure as defensive coordinator from 2001-2006, the 'Canes defense, which has always been built on speed, finished within the top 10 in the country five out of six years. The 2006 version allowed a meager 2.3 yards per carry and finished under the posted total 11 out of 12 times, including seven straight times at home and 10 in a row on grass surface. Returning studs Calais Campbell (DE) and Kenny Phillips (S) might just be the best two defenders in the country and could very well go in the top five in the 2008 NFL Draft, keeping with the tradition of those before them such as Ray Lewis, Jerome Brown and Warren Sapp.
It's the inconsistency of the offense that has caused many to overlook Miami, which is a big mistake for gamblers to make on Saturdays this season. On offense, RB Javarris James (4.2 YPC, 702 yards, 5 TDs) returns for his sophomore year to rush behind a veteran offensive line. Freshman RB Graig Cooper appears to be the real deal and could really open things up for the offense. Quarterbacks Kyle Wright and Kirby Freeman will both vie for snaps. Senior WR Lance Leggett will look to catch his fair share of passes in Offensive Coordinator Patrick Nix's pass schemes. Though they might not remind us of the days when Alonzo Highsmith, Jim Kelly and Michael Irvin attended the U, this group has stars of its own that are ready to emerge.
Last year the 'Canes managed only a 3-8-1 record ATS, but look for that to change. Although they only scored 255 points in 13 games last year, the team only gave up 181 points and still played well below its capacity. The players have matured and should have a huge chip on their shoulders as well as having something to prove to their fans, the conference, and the nation.
Strength of schedule certainly won't hurt the Hurricanes in the national polls. Road games at Oklahoma, Florida State, Virginia Tech and Boston College will breed lack of respect at the betting window. Home games with Texas A&M, Georgia Tech and Virginia won't make them favorites very often either unless they tend to surprise early in the season. Since respect from the betting public is generally earned, the 'Canes should remain a good buy for most of the season and should sneak up on quite a few teams as an underdog as well.
Since the defense is one of the best in the ACC, it won't take that much improvement from the offense to lead to dramatic results and a 10-win year. A much more positive attitude and winning perspective will help a lot in itself. Last season's firing of Coker lingered over the team for most of the year and provided them with an array of distractions. Shannon's leadership combined with stability at head coach will pay immediate results as they stay determined, focused, and hungry. Like most other versions of the Miami Hurricanes, this team is ripe with future NFL stars.
No, this Hurricane football team does not have Edgerrin James, Frank Gore, Nate Webster or Bernie Kosar. It doesn't wear army fatigues before games anymore, there won't be a match-up dubbed 'the convicts versus the Catholics' on the schedule this year, and there won't be a rematch of the brawl that occurred against FIU, although they play on Sept. 15. This team does have a ton of speed, athleticism, and pride, so winning will take care of itself as it finds itself and begins to emulate the man who is coaching it.
Since no other school has produced more NFL first round picks than the 'Canes, excellent recruiting classes have become part of the winning tradition in Coral Gables. Although they seem a little short on things such as marquee names and national recognition at this time, don't let that fool you because the talent is there as it always has been. On-field success will lead to added victories and a BCS game -- a marked improvement over last year's mediocre 7-6 record.