The oddsmakers aren’t worried about the ominous cloud still lingering overhead in Coral Gables. They’re not troubled by the capricious NCAA investigation into Miami, which remains selectively dormant. They’re not even pondering the possibility of a university president waiting for the appropriate moment to “lawyer up” if the news isn’t to her liking.
No, the brilliant minds situated in Vegas backrooms and behind computer screens at other online outlets won’t bother handicapping Miami vs. the NCAA.
In the case of the Miami football team, however, oddsmakers are taking a strong collective stance: 2013 could be a monster season for “The U” on the field, regardless of the unsolved chaos off it.
Point spreads, odds and other offseason betting options do more than just give desperate football fans a coping activity in the offseason. These odds outline expectations for the season ahead, and those tasked with crafting these betting numbers offer some of the most intelligent football opinions available.
“Vegas knows,” is a phrase that surfaces regularly throughout the college football season when the line creators prove to be correct, and while the sportsbooks aren’t perfect, their stances are noteworthy. In the case of Miami, their stance comes as a surprise in a sea of familiar names.
The online sportsbook The Greek has the Hurricanes as 7/4 co-favorites to win the ACC with Clemson. That’s right, Miami is the chalk. As for the Coastal Division, Al Golden’s group is nearly a 1/1 favorite to make it to the ACC Championship Game.
Nationally, Miami is getting love as well. On the online sportsbook Bovada, Miami is 28/1 to win the 2013-2014 BCS National Championship. The Hurricanes are the No. 11 betting option on the board, above teams such as South Carolina, Florida State, Texas, Notre Dame and Oklahoma, just to name a few.
From a Heisman perspective—and, of course, you can bet on this—the Hurricanes have a strong presence among serious contenders.
Running back Duke Johnson is 14/1 to win the Heisman (the No. 7 betting selection), the same odds as South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and Oregon running back De’Anthony Thomas. Quarterback Stephen Morris is down the board a bit further but still listed at a respectable 25/1.
Todd Fuhrman, former Caesars sportsbook manager and current analyst for Donbest.com, sees why the sportsbook-favorite Hurricanes have steam.
“Miami is a very interesting team to watch this year and their [sic] offense will be as explosive as any in the conference,” Fuhrman said. “Throw in the fact that the rest of the Coastal Division is a mess, and it’s easy to see why they’re [sic] among league favorites in Las Vegas. Sept. 7 will be very telling.”
On Sept. 7, Miami will welcome the Florida Gators to its building. Two teams with polar opposite makeups—the Gators figure to be a dominant defense again while Miami will likely light up scoreboards—playing in a game that could prove to be a season-setter for both. If the Hurricanes can come away victorious against Florida, suddenly the high Vegas praise will come a bit more into focus.
Offensively, there is plenty to be excited about for Miami. At running back, Johnson is poised to explode past his 947 rushing yards from a year ago when he averaged 6.8 yards per carry. He’ll get an up-kick in touches, and he could also factor in on special teams, where he returned two kickoffs last season.
At quarterback, Morris turned a corner in 2012, throwing 21 touchdown passes and only seven interceptions. He’ll have a chance to further his development behind an offensive line that will return all five starters. Better yet, Morris will be throwing to familiar targets, including the talented Phillip Dorsett, who could have a breakout season of his own.
The offense, if healthy, could be special. The defense, well, that’s not quite the case.
The good news is that the Hurricanes' defense will remain almost entirely intact. The bad news is that the good news might not actually be good news. Miami gave up 30.5 points per game last season and an average of 486 yards per game. The defense was ranked No. 116 overall.
But six out of 16 true freshmen who saw the field last year started at least one game on defense. They were young, mistake prone and extraordinarily inexperienced.
The defensive line should be much improved with a healthy Curtis Porter and the potential for a big season from former top recruit Anthony Chickillo. The rest is a bit of a mystery, although the room for growth is there. It can't possibly be any worse.
The unit will undoubtedly improve, although it’s hard to know just by how much. If the defense can go from horrific to simply below average, Miami could dominate much of its manageable ACC schedule.
That’s exactly what Vegas is thinking.
The Costal is ripe for the taking.
North Carolina is still under construction (but dangerous) as Larry Fedora embarks on his second season as head coach. Virginia Tech isn’t the same obstacle it once was, and it shouldn’t shift drastically back toward the norm this season. Georgia Tech is difficult to predict and could prove to be a direct challenge.
With that said, the schedule and direct competition isn’t exactly daunting. Miami could exceed expectations all the way to the ACC Championship Game.
There is, of course, a caveat. That caveat is the same black cloud the oddsmakers are ignoring as they forecast the season ahead.
The NCAA could crush all postseason hopes with further punishment, perhaps extending Miami’s bowl ban beyond the two years it has self-imposed. If that’s the case, 2013 could have a much different outlook, and the Vegas confidence could be all for naught.
In the meantime, however, oddmakers are backing the Hurricanes for good reason. The team is light-years from perfect, but the offense could be special enough—and the division questionable enough—where it might not matter.
It’s not always perfect, but Vegas knows.
*Adam Kramer is the lead college football writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.