So far, Miami proving the doubters wrong

Sept. 23, 2009 at 4:23 a.m.
Updated Sept. 24, 2009 at 4:24 a.m.

PHOTOS () —

By Mike Kern

Philadelphia Daily News

(MCT)

Many folks figured Miami was on the way back. But it wasn't necessarily supposed to happen this season. And it still might not. Because former Hurricanes linebacker Randy Shannon inherited such a messy situation three years ago. Plus, his team's opening four games are all against ranked opponents, which is more than some name programs face during an entire schedule.

Yet here UM is, at 2-0, having beaten Florida State on the road and Georgia Tech at home. On Saturday, they're at No. 11 Virginia Tech (2-1) in a matchup that could decide the Atlantic Coast Conference's Coastal Division. And who else ever started with three straight divisional foes?

Oklahoma visits next week.

The Hurricanes were 35th in your preseason poll. Now they are ninth, their first Top 10 appearance since the final vote of the 2005 season.

Shannon won a ring as a player and got two more as an assistant coach. The Hurricanes captured a title in 2001, and nearly earned two others before things turned ugly for Larry Coker.

And doesn't college football seem more pertinent when certain schools, whether you despise them or not, are a factor?

Shannon went 5-7 his first season after starting 4-1. Last year, UM lost its final three (including the Emerald Bowl, to California) to finish 7-6.

So the last thing Shannon needed was a rough September.

Remember, this is a guy whose first decision was to remove player names from their uniforms, which wasn't exactly a ratings hit. Then he had to endure the slaying of Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor, a former UM standout.

Shannon already has had a handful of recruits transfer. And he's fired two coordinators. His original contract hasn't been renewed. A year ago, a national publication ranked him last among BCS coaches.

Under the guidance of offensive coordinator Mark Whipple, who spent last season on the Eagles' staff, quarterback Jacory Harris has looked downright Heisman-worthy after sharing time a year ago with the departed Robert Marve. Obviously, it's way early, but the sophomore is on pace to erase Bernie Kosar's single-season school passing-yardage record of 3,642, which has stood for 25 years, and Steve Walsh's high of 28 touchdown passes, established in 1988.

"We are very humble," Harris said. "We understand we have other teams at hand we have to beat.

"In order to stay undefeated, you have to win the next game."

Questions remain. But at least for the time being, the buzz has returned. Nice sound.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT

The last time Washington beat a No. 3 team at home, who was its quarterback? Hint: Two years later, he was the Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year before playing eight seasons in the NFL with Dallas, Kansas City and Denver. See "Answer man."

SPOTLIGHT ON ... HARRIS INTERACTIVE POLL

Yes, it's that time of year again. Already. Because America craves arguments, logical or otherwise.

The first Harris Interactive Poll of 2009 will become official on Sunday. It's one of two rankings used to help determine which teams make it to the BCS title game. The other is conducted by the coaches (USA Today).

I still have my vote, which means I tend to take this stuff seriously, even if a bunch of constituents throughout the free world continue to criticize the system for being less than a full-fledged playoff. And they, of course, would be right. It's hardly a perfect way to settle things. But since a tournament that seemingly would satisfy the vast majority is still nowhere on the horizon, I'll stand by my story that this remains the best alternative anyone has unveiled that makes enough sense for everyone.

That doesn't mean you have to embrace it. Just accept it for what it is, until that day when something better is installed.

That won't be for a while. Existing television contracts must run their course. But you never know.

In the meantime, don't get too whacked out when your team gets a raw deal in those initial BCS standings. Or possibly even the second and third. It happens. The real fun starts Oct. 18, when computers finally are included in the equation. For the most part, there's notmuch difference in the polls. However, strength-of-schedule components aren't always easy to handicap. Or understand.

History shows that more often than not, some semblance of order sorts itself out by December. Words to exist by. As long as you're not a politician from Mountain West territory.

HELPING HAND

Widener plays its home opener against Frostburg State (0-3) on Saturday afternoon. And the Pride will take part in Coach to Cure MD, a nationwide project designed to build awareness about muscular dystrophy and raise money to support researchers attempting to find a treatment and cure.

"We are very proud ... to be associated with something as important as this," coach David Wood said. "We've been fortunate to take part in other functions, including the bone-marrow testing drive, and this is something else we can say we accomplished."

William Foster, who has MD, will be the honorary captain.

To donate money online, go to www.CoachtoCureMD.org. To contribute by cell phone, text "CURE" to 90999, and $5 will be charged to your next bill.

MAC ME UP

—More teams (four) have yet to win a game than have winning records (three).

—Ball State, after winning 12 straight, has now lost five in a row. The Cards are at Auburn. Maybe the karma changed when they turned down a chance to play Boise State in the Poinsettia Bowl?

—Boise State (No. 8) will become the highest-ranked team to ever play at Bowling Green, which has declared an "Orange Out" under the lights at Doyt Perry Stadium.

ANSWER MAN

Steve Pelluer, then a sophomore, was the guy taking snaps when the Huskies defeated third-ranked Southern California in Seattle on Nov.14, 1981.

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(c) 2009, Philadelphia Daily News.

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PHOTOS (from MCT Photo Service, 202-383-6099):

"COLLEGE FOOTBALL"


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