With win vs. Duke, Miami only left with 'what if'
NOV 24, 2012 6:13p ET
It is a reasonable assumption, and they are certainly justified in thinking that way. After all, with the Hurricanes' 52-45 victory over Duke here at Wallace Wade Stadium on Saturday, they would have won the Coastal Division with a 5-3 league mark (7-5 overall) and earned a spot in next week's ACC championship game.
Instead, Georgia Tech, which was blown out 42-10 at Georgia on Saturday, will play Florida State despite owning an overall 5-3 ACC mark and 6-6 record.
Yes, Miami is a better team than Georgia Tech. Not only did the Canes win in Atlanta back in September, which would have given them the tiebreaker, but they are just a better club at this very moment. Maybe North Carolina, which won at Miami in October, would have been a worthier opponent to FSU in the title game, but the Tar Heels are also banned from the postseason by the NCAA.
But Hurricane Nation can't worry about any of that. In the long-term view, it's not all that important because the odds would have been against the Canes defeating FSU. An ugly loss would have been the most likely outcome. A mediocre bowl versus a so-so opponent would have followed.
There is no doubt coach Al Golden would love to have the extra 15 practices afforded to prepare for bowl games, especially given the tremendous amount of youth on his team. But that's also a reason Miami made the right decision. And even though the Canes had some ugly moments against the Blue Devils, Saturday's win is something the program can build on.
"We've given up a lot," Golden said. "We gave up a bowl game last year. We've given up a bowl game this year, now we've given up a postgame in Charlotte, a championship game in Charlotte. We've given up three games in the postseason to right the ship, and (we're) really grateful to the team and the seniors.
"I'm not surprised it was this type of game. I just told the team, it was such an emotional week. If you think about the range of emotions on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and then when (Duke) came storming back and just the way they did it . . . I'm proud of them."
It wasn't exactly a new experience to give up so many points and 583 yards to Duke. The Devils have veteran skill guys and have moved the ball on a lot of teams. And, Miami hasn't stopped many clubs.
With only one senior starting on defense, those issues can be fixed in the spring and next summer, hence the smart decision. The Canes have a chance to be excellent next season. They will lose only two starters, and among the 52 position players listed on the depth chart, just five are seniors.
"We just got to learn and grow up," Golden said, "and we will."
Nobody knows for certain what the NCAA will do once it completes its investigation regarding mainly football players' involvement with a former rogue booster. But with Miami self-imposing bowl bands for consecutive years, it's hard to imagine the NCAA would ban the Hurricanes from an additional bowl.
Thus, these young Canes are building for something bigger and better what this postseason would have presented them. Plus, if you look at the Coastal Division, the competition to a division title may not be so steep.
UNC will have Bryn Renner and some talented receivers back and should pose a threat. Virginia Tech is an offensive mess this season and will lose many of its top defensive players.
Virginia struggled mightily this season and has quarterback issues. Georgia Tech could take a step forward, but it may also see some changes in leadership, if the rumor mill has any validity. And despite Duke finally becoming bowl eligible, the Devils won't contend next season.
Miami has a golden opportunity to surge to the top of the Coastal and compete for the ACC title and more with a team capable of exploding.
It played with a champion's spirit Saturday to close out the season, which is the perfect bridge to 2013.
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