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An off-season of “Cheap Thrills”

The Miami Hurricanes had another hype-filled off-season, but it was just a few months of cheap thrills.

Bethune-Cookman v Miami Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Miami Hurricanes have come out to a 2-2 start to the 2022 season, the first of the Mario Cristobal Era. Coach Cristobal was a splash hire, and immediately hit the ground running with facilities improvements, big name hires, and transfer portal depth additions to bring hype to his first season in Coral Gables.

Mario Cristobal brought us all “Cheap Thrills” as the folksy-country music artist Kate Rhudy says in the finale to her debut album, “Rock n’ Roll ain’t for me, I decided.” The press machine eating up Cristobal’s “accountability” speeches, Feld’s mustache, Jason Taylor’s being around (but missing a scrimmage for a TV gig) and whatever Ed Reed’s job is- the hype just ain’t for me, I decided.

I was leery of a few of those hires, starting with his Strength and Conditioning Coordinator Aaron Feld. But Feld, more of a recruiting tool than a coach, brought on a few highly regarded assistants and that eased a little of my anxiety. And then I saw clips...

However, Cristobal’s “bully ball” mentality tightened me back up. Josh Gattis and Cristobal were looking to close down and pound the Big Ten style into South Florida and that might be a square peg in a round hole. I wasn’t sure how Kevin Steele and Charlie Strong would co-exist, either.

I truly believe Miami is still recovering from fall camp. It happens when programs want to focus on the wrong things. 150 play scrimmages, getting ‘bigger,’ and ‘stronger, and fake mental toughness are showing up on the injury sheets and on the stat sheets as MTSU’s wide receivers ran away from Miami defenders at all levels, and the ‘Canes are injured, slow, stiff, and depleted.

I’m not sure anyone expected much more than nine wins, even with the weak schedule Miami has in ‘22. It’s a 10-win schedule for a competent coach who adapts to his talent. Cristobal has shown that he’s a shaky game day coach, more of a program builder, and his decision to be the 2012 Alabama Crimson Tide instead of the 2020 Tide may have backfired on him.

The Doppler

Miami (2-2) is now 45th per Bill Connelly’s SP+ metric system. The ‘Canes are 42nd on offense, 61st on defense, and 13th in kicking. UNC (3-1), Miami’s opponent in two weeks, is ranked 67th overall, 10th on offense and 10th in kicking but a lowly 113th in defense. Maybe hiring old Auburn guys to be your DC (Gene Chizik at UNC, Kevin Steele at Miami) is a bad choice.

Miami is currently 103rd in the country in points per play, sandwiched between Marshall and Texas State. Michigan currently leads FBS in points per play with .755 while Miami has .278. Miami is tied for 49th in penalties per game with six. Michigan is 2nd in FBS with 2.3 and surrounded by service academies.


Tyler Van Dyke is averaging a ridiculously bad 6.9 yards per pass attempt in 2022. He’s thrown four touchdowns with three interceptions in four games. Van Dyke has completed 59% of his passes. On the other hand, Jake Garcia has completed 67% of his passes while averaging 9.7 yards per attempt.

Middle Tennessee v Miami Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images

For receivers with 10 or more receptions, only Keyshawn Smith (17.2) and Xavier Restrepo (15.6) are averaging over 15 yards per catch for the ‘Canes. Miami lacks explosive plays (Hi, Cam) on offense, and on defense.

If you take away the Bethune Cookman (FCS) game, Miami’s defense has only four turnovers in three games, with three coming against Southern Miss. Only six ‘Canes have logged a PBU and the defense has only forced one fumble in four games.

“Off” at Oregon

While at Oregon, Mario Cristobal was undefeated coming off of an “Off” or “idle” week (they don’t call them a bye week in college football). In 2018, the Ducks had two off weeks. Oregon beat USC 56-24, had the week off, and then got the win over Arizona 34-6.

Oregon also knocked off Cal before the second off week in ‘18, and then picked up the win over Washington after the break. In 2019, Oregon beat Stanford 21-6 before the off week, and then edged Cal 17-7 after. Yeah, Josh Herbert only beat Cal 17-7, so get used to the offensive slog under Cristobal!

Middle Tennessee v Miami Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images

During the whacky COVID season of 2020, Oregon dropped back to back games to Oregon State and Cal before an off week because of a canceled game against Washington. The Ducks slid into the Pac-12 Championship Game and beat USC for the boat, technically after an off week.

Last season in 2021, Oregon dropped that ugly game to Stanford in OT, 31-24, before beating Cal 24-17 after a week off.

This leaves a lot of promise that Cristobal knows how to regroup and rally the troops coming off of an off week. The Manny Diaz Era was plagued with post-off-week losses, especially memorable ones to UNC, which is the team Miami faces in two weeks.

“It’s a rebuild”

This is NOT a rebuild. I put these points in the comment section of the Film Review on the MTSU butt kicking. It’s never been easier to “fix” a program than it is in 2022.

Miami specific

1- Miami already had a Blue Chip Ratio above 50%. Talent is in the building unlike at FSU which had painfully glaring holes when Mike Norvell took over, or at Georgia Tech for whoever takes over for Geoff Collins where the cupboard is bare.

2- Tyler Van Dyke was on fire to end ‘21, and was a Heisman Trophy candidate and projected 1st round NFL Draft pick before his epic meltdown against MTSU on Saturday. Most rebuilds don’t have a franchise QB already on the roster. Oh, and Jake Garcia is at Miami, too, he’s no slouch.

Middle Tennessee v Miami Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images

3- Manny Diaz was terrible, but over the previous two seasons he was losing to Power 5 teams, not Group of 5’s. Diaz also left five-star players on the roster that needed to be developed into reality from potential.

4- Miami’s admin chose to finally break the piggy bank open and spend some dough. Miami hired a real Athletic Director in Dan Radakovich and increased the football staff in all facets. Dr. Bryan Mann was brought in as an academic in the sports science department. Dr. Mann is one of the leading minds on Velocity Based Testing in Strength and Conditioning. Eric Renaghan is another highly regarded sports scientist who is overseeing football specifically.

The issue is, Mario Cristobal has to be willing to adapt to the times and listen to these industry leaders. Running Bama’s 2012 program that Bama doesn’t even run anymore is ridiculous.

For everyone

1- Everything about transferring is easier in ‘22 than ever before. The Transfer Portal. a free transfer year, and the graduate transfer year are all cemented in place. Players can move around, almost like NFL free agency. Miami brought in plenty of talent from other programs including Oregon, West Virginia, and UCLA.

2- The players have more experience in a college system than ever before. The COVID year in addition to the newer four game redshirt rule makes for older, more mature talent on the field.

3- NIL enticements make a place like Miami, with plenty of money and nightlife, to be a sought after college experience. You want ‘em? Pay ‘em!

4- It’s easier to get in touch with handlers, high school coaches, and players than ever before. Zoom meetings, FaceTime ‘calls’ and texting make it easy to contact unhappy players, even if it has to stay off the books. And film is just a click away via Pro Football Focus, XOS, YouTube, and Hudl.

5- The world is your internet oyster. There’s more access to new information, new sports and exercise science research, new drills, new small sided games, etc to develop players like never before. It’s out there, Josh Gattis and Charlie Strong just need to put a GA in charge of digging up new resources to upgrade their practice styles and training.

The Wrap

As fans- we’re frustrated, and rightfully so. No one thought of Texas A&M as a surefire win before the season, but it was the nine points and the way Miami lost that was frustrating. Penalties, kicking game failures, and an inability to score TD’s made it tough.

The MTSU loss is unacceptable. It is the second worst loss in program history- and you have to hope it opens Mario Cristobal’s eyes to a need for change. Coach Cristobal needs to see what Alabama is doing in 2022, not what they did in 2012.

I hope that this off week, and the practice week heading into playing a high scoring, bad defense like UNC, is a wake up call. If Miami can’t stop MTSU’s offense, they’ll easily give up 60 to Drake Maye and Josh Downs. Maybe an experienced head coach like Cristobal needed younger coordinators with fresh ideas, instead of retreads?

Times change, adapt or die.