Welcome to the kickoff for the 2017 edition of the “Food and Football” blog. The 2016 football season was the blogs inaugural year and there were a lot of lessons learned on and off the field that will make this year even better. For the new recruits to “Food and Football’, let me catch you up! Being from the south, (Georgia), Summer does not precede Fall or Autumn. The only season that we recognize after Summer is football season. When this season comes around, there is a perfect storm of the 3 Fs of Family, Food and Football. This blog captures the good food and great family moments with our two sons, “Osito” and “Deuce”, as we follow my wife (Mami) and I’s alma mater, The University of Miami Hurricanes aka The U. So whether you’re here to find new recipes, check out the family adventures, or hear my take on Miami Hurricanes Football, thank you for taking this journey with us.
The food is inspired by the Hurricanes’ football schedule. Since the Air Force has moved us to Texas, we aren’t able to attend games like we did as students or at my first duty station in Cape Canaveral, FL. With the location change and the added challenge of traveling with two kids under 2, every Saturday we bring the tailgate into our home. The idea is to create a “Game Meal” that represents The U’s opponent that week and as we feast, hopefully, the canes are feasting on the field. The primary influences on the meals are the opponent’s mascot, school name/nickname, or a signature dish from the location of the school, like I did for the Pitt Panthers. However, the meal inspiration can have a petty aspect to it, but that is usually reserved for rivalry games like FSU.
Coming up with game meals last year did become challenging since a lot of the school’s mascots or names had nothing to do with food. I found myself relying heavily on school location, which is fine, except the majority of opponents were in the state of North Carolina (App State Mountaineer, Duke Blue Devils and NC State Wolf Pack). This limited the game meals to either sweet potatoes (state vegetable) or Carolina style BBQ. But on the positive side, with some loose interpretation of mascots, we had the opportunity to explore some meals that aren’t a staple in our diet like lamb (UNC Tar heels), quail (FAU Owls) and tuna steaks (UVA Cavaliers). This year, the plan is to expand the game meal inspiration to include the opponent, the home team and our family adventures.
Second only to my faith in Jesus, my family is everything to me. Nothing makes me happier than spending time, sharing a meal, and watching football with them. This could be the family I was born into, married into, or those friends that have become family. In this blog, family serves an important role for two reasons. First, without family you can’t have weekend adventures. This is the perfect time for us to explore the city and surrounding areas of our current duty station, Houston.
Last year we saw trips to the Houston Zoo, College Station, Tx and Miami. This football season holds our last few months in the Houston area, and there are a few adventures we need to check off the list before leaving. As an added bonus, this will be Deuce’s first season, so it has to be a memorable one off the field and hopefully on. Second, without family how can the “Game Meal” be rated? As it is on the field, so must it be in the kitchen, where there are losers and winner. The rating is a standard 1-10 on presentation but mostly taste, but the true litmus test is when people go back for more. My regular panel includes Mami and Osito, but special guests will show from time to time.
While the food has been good and family is always great, the football, well, it has been
“a snooze fest” dating back to my college days. I was going to use this time to talk about the past and everything The U hasn’t done, like play for an Conference Championship (in 14 years), beat FSU (in 8 years) or won 10+ games (in 14 years), which is a far cry from being relevant, much less a contender like in the glory days. But no sense in crying over spilled whiskey. Plus, if Mark Richt’s first year as HC is a sign, the future is bright and the “swag” appears to be returning. Like with the food, the football will also receive a rating and throughout the year we will gauge the team against my predictions and the Hurricane Standard Checklist (see below). I don’t call out individuals, because as a father, I don’t think it’s fair to criticize these kids that are playing a game. However, I will highlight position groups, but remember football is the ultimate team sport.
Last year, in my opinion, was a great start to the Richt era. After a 4-0 start to the season, the team faced some turbulence and had a 0-4 stretch that included losses against the eventual division winner, VT, and FSU. In years past, the team would implode after facing this type of adversity, but not this team, not this coach. They rallied and finished the season strong with a 5 game win streak capped off by the first bowl win in 10 years. The streak and bowl victory will serve as momentum into the 2017 season and inch them closer to upholding the standard set by the Godfather of Miami football, Coach Schnellenberger, who coached Richt during his college days. Overall, it is easy to see the potential of the canes as we saw a complete turnaround in defense from being ranked 69th under the old regime to 20th last year. On offense, though things were slow at times, you could see the influx of young talent.
Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF), the 2017 Miami Hurricanes will have a 10-2 regular season. I’m not a gambler but Vegas has them at 9 wins (cough cough take the over). My process of prediction is broken down into 3 areas: internal analysis, external analysis and scheduling.
The foundation for success this year will start with a defense that gives “unbelievable effort”. The entire front 7 is returning and the staff did a great job of reloading at CB with help from the grad transfer and junior college transfers after 2 departed for the NFL. Offensively, the story line for the entire off season has been who will be the quarterback. While everyone knows the QB position is important, it has been proven in college football that you can win with just a “game manager” as long as you have a strong run game and defense, see Alabama Crimson Tide. These are two things the Canes should have and then you add in the talented WRs and you have the making of a solid team. However, if you don’t have a solid O-Line, it wouldn’t matter if you had Peyton Manning at QB. Over the past few years, poor blocking resulting in limited time for the QB and no space to run has plagued the Canes. The consistent play of the O-line will determine how far The U goes this year regardless of which of the 4 candidates win the starting job.
Once the schedule is released, I will break it down into the following sections: Should Win, Toss Up and Probably Lose.
Should Win: This section is comprised of your annual cupcake game, non-Power 5 teams, and teams that have been struggling lately or doesn’t match up well against the Canes. There are 7 teams that fit this category, Bethune-Cookman, Arkansas State, Toledo, Duke, GT, Syracuse and UVA. While we should win these games, any given Saturday, if you don’t bring it you will take an L. GT can be tricky with their triple option especially if they get a QB that can throw.
Toss Up: This section is mostly filled with rivalry games, but there are some wild cards that can go in this section. In rivalry games, records don’t matter and one inch or the bounce of the ball can be the difference. This year, I see 5 toss up games, FSU, VT, UNC, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh. While FSU is a given, there may be some “side eye” on the other 4 games. Three of them, UNC, ND and VT, will be breaking in new QBs and Pitt hasn’t had much of an offense. However, VT always has a solid defense and between them and UNC, the Canes have found a way to lose to at least one of them. ND had a terrible 4-8 season last year, but I expect them to be much better with their HC on the hot seat. By the way, one of their 4 wins was against the Canes. I will explain the Pitt game during the scheduling section.
Scheduling: The U’s schedule is very favorable and most of the key games are late in the year which bodes well for breaking in a new QB. The exception is a week 3 match up in Tallahassee (Talla-trash-see) vs FSU. Note that FSU will be one week removed from playing Bama in week 1 so there could be some hangover from that depending the outcome. Looking at the other toss-up games, ND and VT are at home. They are on the road at UNC, but they will be coming off a tough trip to VT. The “at” Pittsburgh game in late November will be intriguing if the cold weather plays a role.
When it’s all said and done, I see the Hurricanes checking off the following from the Standard Checklist: 10+ wins, beat other rivals, win division, and win bowl game. The wild card is beating FSU. If they win in week 3 the Canes will take a higher trajectory for the season, but if not they may get another shot in the ACC championship. This means winning the ACC can get checked off and keep in mind it’s hard to beat a team twice. But if everyone stays healthy and solid QB play after being eased into college football the first half of the season, the sky is the limit.
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The Hurricane Standard Checklist
◻ Beat FSU – If Miami had a 1 win season, it better be this game
◻ Beat Other Rivals on Schedule – 2017: Notre Dame and VT
◻ Win 10+ Games – Double digit wins (for most teams) starts the convo of a “good year”
◻ Win Conference Division – ACC Coastal: includes Duke, UNC, VT, GT, Pitt and UVA
◻ Win Conference Championship – ACC: vs winner of Atlantic Division
◻ Win Bowl Game – Hopefully the CFP Playoff semifinals or New Year’s Six Bowl
◻ Win National Championship – Why they play the game
◻ Undefeated Season – The icing on the cake