Right now, the Miami Hurricanes football team is 6-3 and in position to make a run at a New Year’s Day bowl game. Raise your hand if you expected that.
Truth is, this team was not expected to do anything this season. They have far surpassed my expectations up to this point.
However, even with this unexpected success throughout the season, many fans still do not like the fact that this team does not have a true identity.
Is there one superstar that the team can turn to in the clutch for a big play? No, not yet.
Is this an offense-first or defense-first squad? Depending on what quarter it is, they can be both or neither.
Is this offense a spread or pro-style unit? Against Duke the spread was very effective; against Virginia the offense was much better when operating out of the pro set.
Hell, this team cannot even decide which quarterback is its guy.
In summation: this team really cannot point to one thing as the thing it does best.
And maybe that is why they are successful.
In this year’s ACC, nobody knows what to expect. Here’s an example: Virginia lost to perennial bottom-dweller Duke, 31-3, earlier this season. They then won four straight, including victories over Maryland, North Carolina and Georgia Tech, who most consider the three best teams in the conference, at this point.
Essentially, the ACC is college football’s equivalent of “Survivor.” From week to week, fans have no idea what to expect. One week Florida State and Miami look like the class of the conference (as it should be); the next week, Maryland and Georgia Tech are playing for a birth in the Orange Bowl.
Miami may not have a traditional identity, but in this ACC, they do not need one. They adapt. They keep it close in the first half and then rely upon talent to overcome adversity in the second half.
Miami is essentially playing asymmetrical football. They understand that they cannot match other teams’ experience right now. They don’t have the ability to play four quarters of smash-mouth football. Their offense is not yet sophisticated enough to get into a shootout.
Instead, they put the force that they have onto the opponent’s weakest point and exploit it.
The Canes have come from behind in three straight conference wins by using this style.
The Virginia game was the best example.
The Canes largely kept within striking distance for three quarters against a bigger, more physical Cavalier squad.
After absorbing blows for all this time, the Canes started to use their speed to spread the Cavalier defense out and open up lanes for Graig Cooper. They waited for the right time and then struck at their opponent’s weakest spot. Essentially, they used the Cavaliers’ game plan against them.
This is the Hurricane identity this season.
Outwit. Outplay. Outlast.