Humans are notoriously bad at making predictions. From the weather to the stock market, it’s obvious we’re terrible at forecasting the future. Yet, we insist on doing so with confidence. In the spirit of human arrogance, here is a bold prediction for the 2017 Miami Hurricanes: The Canes will win the ACC Championship and advance to the Sugar Bowl. Before you cheer or pooh-pooh that statement, know that this prediction is scientifically based on correlations to previous data sets. Therefore, it must have a high probability of occurrence. Right? Don’t believe me? Let’s examine closer.
This upcoming season will be Mark Richt’s second at the helm of the Hurricanes. Miami had meddled in mediocrity for years before the hiring of Richt, and a similar situation occurred at his previous place of employment, University of Georgia. Ray Goff and Jim Donnan were UGA’s parallels to Randy Shannon and Al Golden where they would stamp a season record anywhere from 6-6 to 8-4. Enter Mark Richt; his first year at both programs propelled the football programs upward. Although those first season win-loss records may not have reflected instant impact, the momentum and a closer examination did. For Georgia, Richt’s hiring spelled a championship in season two, and that’s good news for the Canes because there are some subtle similarities between 2002 Georgia and 2017 Miami.
Firstly, let’s talk offense, Richt’s forte. The quarterback situations between UGA and Miami slightly mirror each other. In 2002, UGA had an older quarterback David Greene and a dynamic dual-threat redshirt freshman DJ Shockley. Richt elected to utilize these two in tandem, and it worked beautifully. Greene was SEC Offensive Player of the Year after throwing for nearly 3,000 yds and 22 TDs. Shockley was used in 10 games and threw for five TDs including a signature 37-yard toss in the Sugar Bowl against Florida State.
Evan Shirreffs and Malik Rosier aren’t quite on David Greene’s level, but I wouldn’t be entirely shocked to see a similar strategy play out for Miami. An older QB like Shirreffs could win the starting job merely by having playbook knowledge and extensive practice reps. He would play the part of David Greene, while freshman N’Kosi Perry would play the part of DJ Shockley. N’Kosi could master a specific play package, come in every third series, and bolster the offense with a spark of athleticism. Coach Richt has proved that this can work, so not the worst plan if you ask me.
Lining up behind the UGA quarterback in 2002 was Musa Smith. This guy was a real bulldog at 6’1” 225lbs and ran for 1324 yds, 5.1 avg, 8 TDs. We know our boy Mark Walton can provide the same run support. Last year he tallied 1117 yds, 5.3 avg, 14 TDs, and I hear he’ll be bigger, stronger, faster in 2017. Richt loves a powerful, 3 down running back capable of not only keeping the chains moving but also occasionally breaking a big play. Walton’s carries may be rationed because of depth concerns, but there is no questioning his ability to be Richt’s guy.
Secondly, let’s compare the defenses. Legend says they win championships, and in 2002 it was true for Georgia. The Bulldogs had the number 4 total defense in 2002 which consisted of names like David Pollack, Robert Geathers, Boss Bailey, and Tim Jennings, and those guys only let up an average of 15 points per game. Now listen to this exciting coincidence. The Georgia defense improved to that number four ranking from the 17th ranked total defense in 2001 (Miami was #1 btw). The 2016 Canes defense, like the ’01 dawgs, had a top 20 defense, and can absolutely improve to be a top five defense in 2017. Thomas, Norton, McIntosh, Jackson, Quarterman, Pinckney, McCloud, and I’ll stop before I get to the secondary because you get it. Richt. Has. Done. This. Before.
The Georgia Bulldogs finished 2002 at 13-1. Their only loss was to their biggest rival, the Florida G*****. They won their first SEC Championship since 1982 and their Sugar Bowl matchup against Florida State. If you continue to indulge in my stretch comparison, I would gladly take a 2017 regular season loss to rival FSU if it meant Miami’s first ever ACC Championship and a Sugar Bowl berth. I’m no fortune teller, so I can only go off what the past has brought to light. The past has proved that Richt turns the magic on in season two, so prepare yourselves for a potential instance of déjà vu.