MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Miami Hurricanes can't exorcise all of the NCAA demons from the campus on Friday, but just getting back to football will be the perfect medicine for students, players, and fans of UM.
It's been more than nine months since the Canes were last on the gridiron. The team self-imposed a second-year of postseason ban and since then, it's been hurry up and wait for two things to arrive: the NCAA's punishment, and Friday's date on the calendar.
While the NCAA shows on signs of actually moving at a pace anything faster than glacial, the opening game of the season against Florida Atlantic University is finally here.
The Canes return one of the top offenses in the nation led by superstar quarterback Stephen Morris and second-year phenom running back Duke Johnson. Both will be protected by a massive offensive line that is arguably one of the best in the entire country.
The game will also honor former UM and FAU head coach Howard Schnellenberger. The legendary former coach built UM into a national powerhouse and built FAU's program from the ground up and left the school only two years ago for retirement.
Most of the focus for Canes fans will be on the defensive side of the football. To say that 2012 was a rough year for the UM defense would be a gross understatement.
In terms of total defense, Miami was one of the worst in the nation. The Canes gave up 486.4 yards of offense to opponents in 2012, ranking the Canes' defense 120th out of 124 teams. Yet UM was still able to pull in seven wins last year.
If the defense improves just marginally, it could be enough to get the school to 10 wins if the offense continues to hum along like it did last year.
Vegas isn't giving FAU much of a shot in the first game of the season, putting the Owls down as 32 point underdogs to UM. Either way, FAU will receive a check for $500,000 for being UM's sacrificial lamb as the team tries not to overlook the Owls with a huge game looming next week.
In Week 2, UM will welcome the Florida Gators into the unfriendly confines of Sun Life Stadium for a battle for Sunshine State supremacy, though Florida State will also have a say in the matter later in the season.
If UM can open the season 2-0 and pull off an upset of UF, the Canes will automatically get thrust into the national championship pursuit. UM will also be in the driver's seat heading into Atlantic Coast Conference play later in the year.
But that's next week, job number one for the Canes is to get Stephen Morris, Duke Johnson, and the offense all in sync and ready to run right past the Owls.
FAU vs. UM will kickoff at 8 p.m. and if you can't get out to Sun Life Stadium, the game can also be seen on ESPNU.
for more features.