Where: Orange Bowl, Miami, FL
When: Saturday, October 7th, 12:00 PM
TV: Lincoln Financial Network
Records: UNC 1-3, 0-2 ACC Miami 2-2, 0-1 ACC
First of all, I would talk about the game but who really cares about the game? Miami has a weak offense and a decent defense. UNC has neither a good defense or offense though the offense has seen some very good defenses in three of four games this season. The problem with this game is it is a "chicken and egg" situation. If UNC holds the Miami offense in check is it because the Cane offense is horrible or because the defense is imporved? Conversely if the Miami offense goes nuts is it because the UNC defense is horrible or the Cane offense has gotten better? Believe me you will lose a few brain cells trying to figure it out. And not that any of this matters. The real drama here is all of that off the field coaching job security stuff which I have been a shamelss and willing participant in since the end of the third quarter at Clemson. Since that is where the real story is at let's examine a few scenarios and evaluate each coach's job security "stock" in response to each scenario.
Scenario #1: UNC wins close in a low scoring game
I do not know if Coker makes it back to his house if they lose. Now, most of the pundits have called out Miami fans for being unreasonable with Coker's record and from a numbers perspective(and compared to someone like Bunting) they would be right. On the other side if Miami falls to 2-3 that is a fairly precipitous fall from being the 12-0 national champions in 2001. And Coker had been an assistant at Miami before getting the head job so it is not like he had a learning curve or did not know how the magic worked. So, in that respect Miami fans have a legitimate beef and that is how can you not at least keep the same level of excellence going. As much as I have complained about Bunting, UNC has actually stayed within a certain range of mediocrity before this season. I had to go back to Mack Brown to find a point where UNC was top notch but Bunting has been consistently mediocre within the context of his own tenure. That is not the case for Coker and a Miami team that has lost four of its last six games(counting the 40-3 drubbing by LSU at the end of last season) AFTER being a national champion and winning at least nine games for four years is obviously going to upset the fan base. Should Coker lose his job over it? I would not think so because I think Miami has enough resources and talent to turn the ship around. Does that really matter? Of course not, so UNC winning will deepen Coker's hole and depending on what happens from this point on, he may not be able to climb out of it.
As for Bunting he will have righted the win-loss ship somewhat grabbing an unexpected win to replace the unexpected loss against Rutgers. Vindication will come in spades from those who point to beating a high caliber program like Miami following the bye week that Bunting is doing an excellent job as a coach and obviously is capable of preparing the team to play and win on a hostile field. I think Miami's present state makes a win here less valued than the one two years ago but it will quiet the critics if not give Bunting a little boost.
Job Security Stock
Coker: Down 25%
Bunting: Up 5%
Scenario #2: Miami wins by 20+ points
Contrary to popular belief the biggest beef UNC fans have with John Bunting is not the number of wins as much as (1) the losses against teams we think UNC should beat and (2) the losses which are nothing less than total humiliation. David Glenn said as much this morning on 620 when he pointed out the UNC fans were not that upset following the VT game because they expected to lose and it was within reach at halftime. The point in which it hit the fan came when Clemson rocked them for 52 points and Tar Heel Nation realized that this sort of thing had become an annual occurence sometimes two or three times. So it is not so much the losing that bother us, though we would like to see some progress in that area. The big sticking point is the lack of competitiveness on the field. In this case the bye week becomes a huge factor. Bunting has been telling us that defense has been the focus for two weeks and they are suffering from a lack of execution from the players. If UNC comes out and loses by 20 or more points with a Miami offense that only scored 14 points on Houston last week I think it digs a even deeper hole for Bunting. If, after two weeks of prep, the UNC defense shows the same deficiencies that it did against Clemson it goes a long way to quash any arguments there are issues with the players or their execution. A poor defensive performance on Saturday places the blame on the coaching staff who had two weeks to find a working defensive scheme which the players could execute and accentuated the skill sets on the field. A bad performance following a bye week will be seen as a coaching problem first and foremost.
As for Coker, he gets to stave off the dogs for a bit and if Miami puts together a good string of wins he should be fine for at least another year.
Job Security Stock
Coker: Up 15%
Bunting: Down 20%
Scenario #3: Miami wins close in a low scoring game
Like a close win, this would serve as some vindication for Bunting because the loss in itself is not the issue since the game was considered unwinnable. Steve Spurrier does not like moral victories but in UNC's case they will take any victory they can get. On the other hand, how much can we really tell about the defense and whether it has actually improved since the Miami offense is so bad? Yes, keeping it close will score points with some of the fence sitters in the fan base and the fickled nature of Tar Heel Nation will be on full display as the heat on Bunting subsides in the face of a better effort. Obviously people will point to improved effort following the bye and the fact this seems to be a historical pattern for Bunting and say that it is proof that he is a good coach. I for one will not buy it because I think Miami is weak, it is only one game compared to three other this season where the Heels were horrible.
For Coker, the fans will still grumble. The win in itself will douse the hottest flames but the fires of discontent in the Hurrican fan base will still burn fairly consistently until they see signs of the Miami of old.
Job Security Stock
Coker: Up 2.5%
Bunting: Up 4%
Scenario #4: UNC wins in a high scoring game for both teams
For UNC this is the Furman scenario. Sure we get the win but if the defense still stinks up the field I cannot see how it changes the big picture outlook that UNC football is in trouble. When you consider how bad the Hurricane offense was last week versus Houston, giving up oodles of points to them will be seen as the fourth major defensive failure in five games this season. The bye week then becomes a factor because people will simply ask: "What the heck were you doing for two weeks if not improving the defense." The defense is under a white, hot light and any failure to improve, even in a win, will continue to the drumbeats. Although, an offensive explosion against someone besides Furman will lighten the mood on Franklin St with full credit going to OC Frank Cignetti. Like Coker's situation in Scenario #4, the win will pacify some and cool the hottest of flames.
This same scenario would be bad for Coker because before today the defense has not been a question. And considering the UNC offense is not Louisville, Miami giving up more than about 24 points to UNC would be a bad sign for Coker. The loss would be bad enough(see Scenario #1) but a loss while giving up huge points would deepen the nightmare. And while some might be happy with the improved offense, it will quickly be pointed out the UNC defense is horrible and the offense had no choice but to be good on this particular Saturday.
Job Security Stock
Coker: Down 20%
Bunting: Up 2%Scenario #5: UNC wins by 20+ points.
Larry Coker is unemployed by the time he reaches his car. Well, maybe not that bad, but the weeping and gnashing of teeth will be loud. Coker becomes a dead man walking needing to basically win out and somehow make the ACC title game(and win it) to really make the fans happy.
Tar Heel Nation goes into wait and see mode. It is still only one game and further evidence that UNC can be as consistently good as they have been consistently bad before people, like myself, withdraw their calls for Bunting's ouster.
Job Security Stock
Coker: Down 75%
Bunting: Up 40%
So in light of all these fascinating scenarios I think we are looking at Miami 38 UNC 20 which is closest to Scenario #2 but some of the details of how those points get scored to play a hand in how it is seen. Is the loss the Clemson variety or the Va Tech variety? Coker would also see #2 play out and enjoy some rest from the lynch mob.