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Miami Hurricanes: A Tale of Two Halves

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Two Halves of a Seasons, Two Halves of a Game and the Canes Two Faced Results

19-14 Win Versus Virginia.

2 Game Winning Streak.

4-1 in the ACC.

5-1 overall record.

No those aren’t yet MORE presidential indicators of election progress.

That is how the Miami Hurricanes ended the first half of a tumultuous, covid clad college football season.

This is isn’t the first time the Hurricanes have stared into the remaining schedule with the current status during the Richt/Diaz era.

2016 - 4-1

2017 - 5-0

2018 - 5-1

We all know how things went in 2019, which, in this 5 year range, is the outlier, standing as the only Miami Hurricanes season that didn’t start with more than 4 wins to 1 or less losses.

Each season is its own outlier if you look hard enough. the 2016 season was the only one featuring a quarterback (Brad Kaaya) to throw for more than 25 touchdowns in a season TWICE since Ken Dorsey’s sophomore and senior seasons. 2017 was the only one to feature a quarterback (Malik Rosier) to account for 30 or more touchdowns, EVER, in a Canes uniform. Even 2018 has its outlier, owning the largest margin of victory over a Canes opponent in Canes history (Savannah State, 77-7).

Its the similarities, however, that are abundant for these five Hurricane teams. What are they? What can separate this team from its predecessors, and become the winningest Hurricane squad since an .846 winning percentage in 2003?


Different, but the Same

The four predecessor to the current 2020 team had as many similarities as differences. If you read my articles often enough. you’ll notice most year to year comparisons are of the last 4-5 years. That’s because I believe in the power of sample size. Too small a sample and you have no choice but to widen your search. The Hurricanes, however, have a unique situation where a major leader has been with the team for five seasons in one Manny Diaz. Comparing the teams within this time frame to each other provides more accurate and telling comparisons than hopping between regimes.

With that we have our biggest similarity, Manny Diaz. His defense is has proven to be consistently predictable each year. A closer look at performance during the hot starts for each team and how they finished are pretty interesting.

  • Each year from 2016-19 Manny’s defense has given up more points in the games after their hot starts than during, with the exception of 2017, going from 18.6. down to 18.
  • Conversely, the Hurricanes scored less points per game in the second half of each of the last 4 seasons.
  • Manny’s defenses have given up more points, per game, than the previous year during the first 5-6 games of each season, except for 2017 to 2018:

2016 - 12 per game, first 5

2017 - 18.6 per game, first 5

2018 - 18.5 per game, first 6

2019 - 19.2 per game, first 6

2020 - 22.2 per game, first 6

  • Aside from 2018, the Hurricanes have improved Turnover Margin each season in the second half of the season.
  • In three of five seasons including this year, the Hurricanes performance in the first half of games has been a major indicator on whether they have won or lost that game.

In 2016, They won the first half 9 times, lost 3 times and tied once. They went 9-4.

In 2018, they won the first half 7 times, and lost 6. They went 7-6.

This season, they’ve won the first half 5 times and lost once, matching the current record of 5-1.

  • One last similarity, Miami has been ranked in the top ten, at some point during the season, each of the 4 seasons that started 4-1 or better.
  • BONUS: EACH TEAM BEAT FSU WITH A DIFFERENT QUARTERBACK. #PETTY

Anything You Can Do, I Can Do...Differently

With so many differences, by numbers alone, one could assume these teams were completely different schools with different coaches, players and philosophies. Each of the five teams and seasons discussed have unique challenges and advantages that the others did not have the misfortune or pleasure of experiencing. Over the time frame, we have seen two head coaches, two defensive coordinators, three offensive coordinators, three quarterback coaches, four starting quarterbacks, and a slew of other unique examples. Each season, featured unique circumstances, that kept year to year consistency at arms length.

First and Second Summary: Seasons and Games

2016 OC/DC/QB PPG OPPG 1H OFF 1H DEF PT DIFF 2H OFF 2H DEF PT DIFF TO MARGIN
2016 OC/DC/QB PPG OPPG 1H OFF 1H DEF PT DIFF 2H OFF 2H DEF PT DIFF TO MARGIN
FIRST 5 GAMES Richt/Diaz/Kaaya 41.0 12.0 21.4 5.2 16.2 20.0 7.0 13.0 0.0
LAST 7 GAMES Richt/Diaz/Kaaya 29.7 23.3 11.7 15.4 -3.6 18.0 7.9 10.1 0.7
2017 OC/DC/QB PPG OPPG 1H OFF 1H DEF PT DIFF 2H OFF 2H DEF PT DIFF TO MARGIN
FIRST 5 GAMES Richt/Diaz/Rosier 34.6 18.6 12.8 9.0 3.8 21.8 9.6 12.2 0.0
LAST 6 GAMES Richt/Diaz/Rosier 29.7 18.0 13.7 7.2 6.5 16.0 10.8 5.2 0.7
2018 OC/DC/QB PPG OPPG 1H OFF 1H DEF PT DIFF 2H OFF 2H DEF PT DIFF TO MARGIN
FIRST 6 GAMES Richt/Diaz/Rosier/Perry 41.5 18.5 19.3 10.7 8.7 22.2 7.8 14.3 0.7
LAST 6 GAMES Richt/Diaz/Rosier/Perry 20.3 19.1 12.2 11.3 0.8 8.2 6.5 1.7 -0.3
2019 OC/DC/QB PPG OPPG 1H OFF 1H DEF PT DIFF 2H OFF 2H DEF PT DIFF TO MARGIN
FIRST 6 GAMES Enos/Baker/Williams/Perry 29.5 19.2 12.5 9.5 3.0 17.0 9.7 7.3 -0.2
LAST 6 GAMES Enos/Baker/Williams/Perry 26.2 21.2 16.2 11.7 4.5 10.0 9.5 0.5 0.2
2020 OC/DC/QB PPG OPPG 1H OFF 1H DEF PT DIFF 2H OFF 2H DEF PT DIFF TO MARGIN
FIRST 6 GAMES Lashlee/Baker/King 32.8 22.2 17.7 8.3 9.3 15.2 13.8 1.3 0.2

2016

NCAA Football: Russell Athletic Bowl-West Virginia vs Miami Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

In the oldest of these examples we witnessed the union of a new coaching staff headlined by Mark Richt and Diaz, a very good and experienced quarterback in Brad Kaaya, and a defensive unit starting multiple freshmen (including all three linebackers) and new starters. The team struggled with its consistency, winning 4, losing 4, then closing with 5 wins. The contrast of the new group early on to the middle is pretty stark. That’s because Miami started the season with Bethune Cookman, Florida Atlantic, Appalachian State and Georgia Tech. Once the true ACC slate start Miami stumbled to a 4-4 finish. If not for the experience at quarterback this season could have been disastrous.

2017

NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Miami Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Ahhh 2017, it feels like so long ago. A record setting performance by Malik Rosier highlighted the most improbable run by a Hurricanes team in recent memory. Improbable largely due to the teams inept start to games and blistering finishes, highlighted by:

  • FSU

0 First Half Points

24 Second Half Points

  • Virginia

14 First Half Points

30 Second Half Points

and

  • Toledo

10 First Half Points

42 Second Half Points

The team was magical for so many reasons but when you granulize the year, looking at these performance, who was under center and add on the fact that Miami was trailing in 4 of 11 regular season games, the season feels more trick than treat.

2018 and 2019

NCAA Football: Florida at Miami Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

These teams were true to the flux and limited leadership for both teams. Each team suffered from tangible and ineffective leadership from the offensive coordinator positions and quarterback positions, all despite prior success for all included. The ineptitude on offense was the only way to stop an other wise strong and effective defense. Despite limiting teams to less than 10 points a game in the second half, showing general resolve and adjustments, the offense too often put them in difficult positions, as shown by the low turnover margins each of these season in comparison to 2016 and 2017.


2020 Vision - What Does this mean for the rest of the season?

Miami v Louisville Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

What we have learned about Miami is rather straight forward. Whether spectacular or not, the defense will be fine. A very solid group, the defensive unit should continue to put up strong displays and, according to the numbers above, should play even better in the second half.

The biggest question mark will be how the offense responds. The reason for the defense ppg declining is due to a shrinking turnover margin, which means the offense is turning the ball over more in recent years, while the play calling has shown to be dependent on who is under center.

For the Hurricanes of 2020, it should be a very successful back half of the season. 2016 and 2017 shows us that an experienced, above average quarterback will give us a chance to win every single game. Furthermore, if King continues to display great protection of the ball the offense will slowly catch up to the level of consistency we have seen on defense.

Though history shows that even with a solid quarterback, Miami is prone to a let down game, if the offense falters.

  • Since 2016, Miami has only two losses of more than 2 scores during the regular season - this year versus Clemson and 2016 versus Virginia Teach.
  • Each were top 30 defenses and road losses
  • None of the remaining teams on schedule are in the top 30 in defense
  • None of the remaining teams on schedule are in the top 40 on defense.
  • In Home Highlight Games, featuring marquee matchups, Miami is 7-3
  • Miami is 3-1 in Homecoming Games

All things considered recent history favors Miami to at worst go 9-2. The lone blemish history would allow is an away blemish versus a team that ends the season in the top half of scoring defense, which falls into the the category of Wake Forest.

With history on its side and trustworthy complement of parts at quarterback and offensive coordinator, Miami should challenge for 10-1 and its best winning percentage in the regular season since 2003.

Go Canes