Earlier this summer, I looked at one coach in each Power 5 Conference who was on the hot seat entering the 2015 season. And no seat is hotter than that of Miami's Al Golden. Can UM win enough to save his job? We examine with 5Dimes odds.
Canes Have One Of ACC's Best QBs
Most Miami fans had never heard of Golden when the Hurricanes hired him from Temple to replace Randy Shannon in December 2010. I mean, what's a powerhouse program like Miami doing hiring a guy from little Temple? True, Golden had turned perhaps the worst FBS program in the nation at the time into a winner, but still.
For some reason, Golden has still not gotten much love from Miami faithful. It looked like the program turned the corner in 2013 when it started 7-0 and was ranked as high as No. 7 in the nation. However, then-No. 3 Florida State put the Hurricanes in their place with a 41-14 win in Tallahassee and UM finished 9-4, getting stomped by Louisville and star QB Teddy Bridgewater in a bowl game. He starred in high school and was set to attend Miami until the school fired Shannon.
Last season, the Canes again looked to be playing their best football entering the Florida State showdown. And Miami probably should have pulled the upset of the No. 3 and unbeaten Seminoles but Jameis Winston and freshman running back Dalvin Cook, who also starred in high school in the Miami area, led a 30-26 win. That began a season-ending four-game losing streak, capped by a 24-21 loss to South Carolina in the Independence Bowl. Golden still has yet to win a bowl game in his career. To be fair to Golden, the program had been shrouded in that NCAA investigation that Golden had nothing to do with. It's in the past now.
Miami linebacker Raphael Kirby said recently that UM's focus was lost after getting all amped up to face FSU and then losing. He's right.
“The past two years, after losing to Florida State, we kind of sulked, heads down,” Kirby said. “We can’t let that define us.”
By far the biggest bright spot last season was true freshman QB Brad Kaaya, who was thrown into the starting role immediately because of an injury to projected starter Ryan Williams. Kaaya started all 13 games, winning ACC Rookie of the Year honors after throwing for 3,198 yards, 26 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He's the clear leader of that team now with star running back Duke Johnson leaving for the NFL. Kaaya is +7000 to win the Heisman. UM has just five starters back on offense and six on defense.
Breaking Down Schedule
I'd say Golden needs to win at least nine games to keep his job, including a bowl. Working in his favor to keep the job is one of the best 2016 recruiting classes in the nation and already arguably the best for 2017. Golden and his staff are finally putting a fence around the south Florida region, although they are never going to be able to keep everyone.
Winning nine games will be tough with UM's schedule. Certainly the team will start 2-0 as it hosts Bethune-Cookman (+39) and then travels to neighboring Florida Atlantic, which is a 16.5-point dog. The first test comes Sept. 19 at home vs. Nebraska, a 1-point dog. The Huskers won 41-31 last season in Lincoln. Miami then closes the non-conference schedule with a tricky game at Cincinnati and the Bearcats are 1-point favorites. They lost 55-34 in Miami last season.
The start of the ACC schedule is about as tough as possible for Miami: at Florida State (-12), home to Virginia Tech (+3.5) and home to conference favorite Clemson (-4). Having to play both FSU and Clemson from the Atlantic Division frankly isn't fair. October ends with a trip to Duke (line TBA). If Miami can have just one loss at this point, things are looking great for a Coastal Division title.
November features home games vs. Virginia (+8.5), at North Carolina (TBD), home to reigning Coastal champion Georgia Tech (-1.5) and at Pittsburgh (TBD). UM has never been a great cold-weather team for obvious reasons and the elements certainly should be a factor in that Pitt game.
NCAAF Free Picks: Miami is +16500 to win the national title, +1600 to win the ACC title game and +660 third-favorite to win the Coastal. It has a wins total of 6, with the 'under' a -130 favorite. The problem with winning the Coastal is that UM probably loses to both FSU and Clemson. So can the Hurricanes win the rest of their conference games? That's likely what would be necessary. I don't think so. But go 'over' the wins as I see an 8-4 regular-season record. The bowl game will then determine Golden's fate.