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Why The Miami Hurricanes Will Not be a “Surprise” Team in 2018

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The expectations are too high for the Hurricanes to be considered a surprise at the national level.

Notre Dame v Miami Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Getting a surprise is a two-fold event. There’s the actual moment of surprise where the rouse is revealed, and then there’s the reaction, the unpredictable portion of the entire event that can range from a smile and grin to becoming the latest in the long line of memes and GIFs in pop culture. Last summer, with numerous media publications predicting a good year for the Hurricanes, the team went out and surpassed any reasonable threshold those publications had in the pre-season. From Phil Steele to the Athlon Sports of the world, Miami was predicted to take the college football world by storm in 2017.

After setting the world on fire with the introduction of the Turnover Chain who raced out of the gates to 10 straight victories to start the season, Miami held the FBS’ longest winning streak, with 15 straight wins dating back to the 2016 season. Led by head coach Mark Richt, the ’Canes won the ACC Coastal Division for the first time since the program moved to the conference in 2004. It was also the first time that Miami qualified to play in the ACC Championship, though the result did not go exactly the way the team had hoped. However, it was another season of improvement, with the Hurricanes making strides toward answering the proverbial question, ‘Is the U back?’

Last season was great, but it’s now in the past.

There are still questions that linger as the Hurricanes work individually in summer before returning for training camp in August. With preparations for the 2018 season ongoing, there is one thing that is certain:

No opponent will be caught off-guard by the Hurricanes next season.

This notion has more to do with the national coverage of the team than anything, with fans putting faith in the coaching staff and the roster to contend for the divisional and conference title. After flirting with a top four ranking in the College Football Playoff standings last year, that milestone has gone from a pleasant surprise to another goal atop the season list for the team.

Entering next season, a solid case can be made for Miami starting ranked within the top 10 after being ranked 18th in both the Coaches and AP poll last preseason. It would be naive to believe that their opponents don’t already have Miami circled on the calendar from a previous meeting—we know you can’t wait to see us, Georgia Tech!

If last year was a leap, then the Hurricanes have a couple more steps to make along the staircase to that elite tier of programs in the nation. Being content with a top 10 ranking is not disrespectful in any sense, but the mission is much, much bigger than that now. As fellow SOTU staffer NYCanesGuy mentioned in ‘A New Set of Expectations in the Richt Era’, there are some areas on the roster that need improvement. However, after his recent extension and posting a combined 19–7 win-loss record combined in his first two seasons at the helm in Miami, the expectations for the 2018 ’Canes have ascended to an even higher peak entering the season.

Virginia v Miami Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

In the third season of his past life as head coach at the University of Georgia, Richt led the Bulldogs to a 11–3 record in 2003. The team would wind up winning the Capital One Bowl and reaching as high as 4th in the AP poll after starting 11th in the preseason. It’s likely the reason why Richt stated on the Joe Rose Show a couple weeks ago that “If you come to Miami, you better come to compete and earn your playing time because we’re gonna have some boys that can ball out.” It harkens back to a past where future NFL stars were busting their tail off in practice just for a chance to shine in the game each week. You could even go as far as saying that some ’Canes alum would attest that those practices were more competitive than the games themselves.

The common thread among those past UM teams and this 2018 squad is that opponents will be prepared to get the Hurricanes’ best shot—a quality that was missing from Miami football for over a decade. With the dark cloud of sanctions behind them and rebuilding the depth at a majority of positions on the roster, the program is beginning to live up to the lofty expectations the fanbase projects for the program.

There is room for improvement, particularly in the play along the offensive line, communication in the defensive secondary and just getting some key contributors healthy for the start of the season. Yes, improved play behind center would also be a winning ticket for Miami. All of those areas are attainable goals before the season, or as the ’Canes figure out their identity in the early portion of the season. This is a concept that the coaches know, the players can feel and opponents should be wary of.

The Hurricanes won’t be a surprise team selection for media outlets in consecutive years. It’s because those same national outlets have caught on to the wave Miami fans held for oh-so-long. Low expectations are not tolerable when it comes ’Canes football. It’s just not how the city or program vibe. For the non-believers and continued detractors, you’ll be the only ones surprised come the end of the 2018 season.

IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT THE U!