Canes strive to get their first ACC title

The UM football team (5-2, 3-1) has been consistently inconsistent this year.

The orange and green showed mental toughness by beating a gritty Clemson team on the road in Death Valley and came out with energy and swagger last Saturday night in a win against North Carolina.

But these same Canes barely beat a putrid Duke squad despite the fact that UM forced seven turnovers. This close call was just after being humiliated and embarrassed against Florida State, a game that gave fans horrid flashbacks to the debacle at the final game of the Orange Bowl against Virginia in 2007.

Speaking of Virginia, that’s Miami’s next opponent, and it’s time Miami finish strong under head coach Randy Shannon. Miami has faded down the stretch in each of Shannon’s prior three years.

UM has won just five of 14 games played in November and December under Shannon. He is 0-2 in Bowl games. UM has gotten off to fast starts and had a chance at an ACC title but fell short each time.

In 2007, Miami lost its final four games of the season by an average of 23.75 points per game. The Canes failed to make a bowl game for the first time in a decade.

In 2008, Miami was coming off five straight wins heading into a Thursday night showdown against Georgia Tech in Atlanta. Miami got slapped around by the Ramblin’ Wreck’s run attack as GT ran for 472 yards against UM’s porous defense. Miami would lose to N.C. State before falling to California in the Emerald Bowl.

In 2009, Miami lost to Wisconsin in the Champs Sports Bowl 20-14 but the score wasn’t indicative of how much more dominant the Badgers were.

So what will the finish of 2010 have in store? Miami still controls its own destiny in the ACC as it looks to win its first ACC title since switching conferences in 2004. Nothing would be sweeter than to get revenge on FSU after the 28-point loss a few weeks ago.

On paper, Miami is the clear favorite over Virginia and Maryland in the next two weeks, although UM has been known to play down to its competition. Then the challenge lies when UM has to travel to Georgia Tech and play Virginia Tech the following week.

Is this Hurricane squad mentally tough? Do they have the intestinal fortitude in them? Maybe signs of maturity are showing after the team called a players-only meeting last week to try and rejuvenate each other after a couple weeks of lackluster play.

A national title is out of the question, but Miami can still salvage this season by winning an ACC crown and playing in their home stadium on Jan. 3 in the Orange Bowl.

Randy Shannon may struggle in November and December, but the verdict is still out on how we will do in January. Shannon just wants an opportunity to play in 2011.

Justin Antweil may be contacted at