ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit said on Tuesday that he believes that the job that Al Golden has done at UM is just short of remarkable. He said that for someone to come into Coral Gables, staring at the problems that Golden had and to have the team playing at a high level, while securing the finest recruits in the country is just mind boggling.
"I do not think that enough has been said about the job that Al Golden has done in Miami under the circumstances," Herbstreit said. "He was from outside the circle and for him to be embraced the way he has, is really special."
Herbstreit said that one of Golden's best moves came from his opening press conference wherein he invited all former players to come back into the fold and to be part of the program once again. Bringing back coaches like Art Kehoe, who won a national title as a graduate assistant in 1983, was a move that Herbstreit liked from the get go.
"He respected what was already created at the University of Miami and embraced its past," Herbstreit said. "He has been able to do and say the right things publicly and he is a better coach for it. When this whirlwind circled his program, he blocked out a lot of things and got kids to buy into his program. Not a lot of people could do that. He has this program headed in the right direction and has a great solid foundation to work with.
"The future is very bright with Al Golden."
The Ohio native was bullish on the Hurricanes and on Golden after they defeated Florida.
"They deserve a lot of credit for beating Florida when Florida was healthy," Herbstreit said. "They created turnovers and did what it took to win the game. That is what Miami has been doing lately. They are just doing whatever it takes to win the game and you have to respect that."
Herbstreit was adamant before the NCAA sanctions were released that the UM should not face any additional bowl bans and that they should not face additional sanctions. He did, however, say that Miami should be thankful that they only lost nine scholarships and that they can proceed without missing a beat.
"If I were a Miami fan, I would count my blessings every night," Herbstreit said. "I cannot believe that they are only missing a few scholarships when people were actually talking about the death penalty. They should be very happy."
The former Ohio State quarterback said that fans at the University of Southern California should be scratching their heads after seeing how Miami was treated compared to the severe sanctions that USC received.
"USC was dealing with one player and one agent who was linked to Todd McNair," Herbstreit said. "And last week they were playing with 48-50 scholarship players. It just does not seem very consistent." It was alleged that up to 74 players were involved in the Nevin Shapiro mess.
It should be noted that Miami will never be in a position where it has less than 75 scholarship players, assuming that Golden and his staff give out the maximum number of scholarships that it is allowed.
Herbstreit said that Miami did everything right when they were under the NCAA investigation and that based upon their administration's actions while under investigation, the penalties were not more severe.
"While the whole situation is hard to understand, what Miami did the last two years by missing bowl games that they otherwise qualified for and by not playing in the ACC championship, they played their hand well and did everything correctly."
Herbstreit also said that the way that the NCAA conducted investigation might have had a bearing on the end result.
"The NCAA blew the investigation."
Looking at the game on Saturday, Herbstreit said that as a student of the game, he always respected the rivalry between Miami and Florida State, despite his mid-west and Big Ten upbringing. He said that this is a big game in the rivalry and that is will actually show how far Miami has come.
"The game this weekend is important to Miami. It is important to show the nation where the UM program is right now."
Herbstreit said that the main things that he remembers from the rivalry growing up and through present day was that the rivalry was built on speed and intensity.
"It is almost like a back yard football game where everyone knows each other and have been playing together for years," Herbstreit said.
Herbstreit said that he got his first real taste of the rivalry in the 2000 game in the Orange Bowl when Anquan Boldin, a freshman at the time, caught a ball near the UM sideline and Miami's NFL alumni were on the sideline giving him the business. He said that he remembers Bolden getting up and getting in their collective faces and jawing with them right back. That game was also remembered as a game where FSU lost due to a missed field goal at the end that would have tied the game.
"I thought that there was going to be a major brawl," Herbstreit said. "The freshman gave it right back to them. That to me was the last great memory of a UM-FSU game. Chris Weinke was trying to win a Heisman that year and Ed Reed was dancing in the secondary and I remember this freshman getting into the faces of UM alumni and nearly starting a war on the sidelines."
When addressing the contest this weekend, Herbstreit said that Miami needs to play at a higher level to have any chance to win the game, but that they are not to be counted out.
"Miami must protect the football to have any chance to win. I am sure that they are going to be telling the players all week that they are three touchdown underdogs and there is no reason to even go and play the game," Herbstreit said. "They will be reminded all week. Al and his staff will press all the buttons. He will have them ready to play."
Herbstreit said that Stephen Morris must have his best game of the season and that play action pass on first down will set the tone for this game. Trying to sit back and establish the run against FSU just will not get the job done.
"Stephen Morris has to play at a very different level," Herbstreit said. "He has not looked like himself lately. With FSU playing at a very scary level defensively, he must get very aggressive. You have to keep FSU's defense off balance. You have to run when they expect you to throw and throw when they expect you to run. You cannot sit back and expect Duke Johnson to win the game for you. It is just not going to happen. He will contribute and make big plays, but he cannot win the game on his own."
Given the spread and given the pomp and circumstance, Herbstreit still feels as though Miami has a chance to win the game.
"It would surprise me if Miami did not play well on Saturday night. I think that it is going to be a great game."
Herbstreit is currently speaking around the country and featuring a contest that Allstate Insurance is sponsoring. By registering at www.allstatecfb.com a winner could win the opportunity to attend the Allstate Sugar Bowl and the National Championship game, as guests of Herbstreit and also be able to bring three friends with them. When that is all said and done, the winner will come home and have a new SUV parked in their driveway. Whereas Keith Jackson used to say that the Rose Bowl was the "grand daddy of them all", this could be the grand daddy of all college football sweepstakes.
"This is a tremendous opportunity for the most ardent college football fan," Herbstreit said."It is a tremendous program and you can register once a day, every day. 60 seconds a day could really change your life." For more information go to www.allstatecfb.com.