Should the season end today, the Miami Hurricanes would be in a bowl game.
This in itself should not be considered a great success for a program which expects excellence; however, for this team and this coaching staff, it can be considered a huge accomplishment.
First, compare six wins through nine games this season to the five total wins last season, and one has to call this season an improvement.
This is just looking at hollow numbers and not taking into account the “quality” of the three losses, all of which Miami was extremely competitive in and was in the position to win games against teams that outgunned the Canes.
It also leaves out the fact that Randy Shannon is starting to get the hang of just how a head coach does his job. Clock management is better, and so are the adjustments that are being made at halftime.
Secondly, think about the position Miami has played itself into. With three games left, Miami can win out and guarantee a New Year’s Day game; with a little help, they can also contend for a Bowl Championship Series (BCS) spot.
For a team that is supposed to be two years away from being a true contender, that is a pretty big accomplishment.
Last season, the Canes were in the exact same position: win the last four and play on New Year’s Day. They lost all four and finished out of the bowls completely. To make matters worse, they looked almost resigned to defeat in each of the four games.
This year’s team fought off a similar start, but then bested Virginia in a classic fourth quarter battle and is now starting down the right path.
At this point, the worst case is that Miami goes 0-3 down the stretch. Even then, the team accomplished exactly what they were projected to and receives some extra weeks of practice to get ready for the bowl (this is of unspeakable benefit to a young team).
Reasonably, Miami should be expected to beat Virginia Tech at home under the lights and a weak North Carolina State on the road. The Georgia Tech game could go either way, but even if Miami loses, they have a realistic shot of playing in either the Gator or Music City Bowl against a solid opponent (a Notre Dame or Ole Miss sounds about right for those games).
If Miami should win out and get the help required (a North Carolina loss, always a possibility in the ACC), then a trip to Tampa for the ACC championship and a probable rematch with Florida State waits.
Does this team have the constitution to succeed, where last year’s failed?
We shall see over the next month or so. However, one thing is for certain.
Being bowl eligible is not just an accomplishment for this team, but possibly a small bump in the road on the way to something much bigger.