The Miami Hurricanes have plenty on the line Saturday night against Duke at Hard Rock Stadium.
Although it would be a tough climb to get to the Atlantic Coast Conference title game, and it’s beyond their full control, the Canes still have a shot.
A victory against the Blue Devils (5-3, 1-3 ACC) also would point the Hurricanes (5-3, 2-2) in a positive direction before going on the road once again to Georgia Tech, helping to prevent them from splintering into factions — if they haven’t already — and earning them the expected prize that no doubt has been taken for granted: bowl eligibility.
But the questions remain: Will the fans be cheering or booing Saturday? Or even, will the booing outweight the cheering?
“Hopefully our fans are there,’’ said freshman tight end Brevin Jordan. “That’s the main thing. We hope our fans aren’t giving up on us because our season isn’t close to over.’’
The Canes have not lost at home in a regular-season game since they fell to North Carolina on Oct. 15, 2016. Since then they’ve won 13 consecutive regular-season games at Hard Rock Stadium.
“There’s a reason for that,’’ coach Mark Richt said Thursday, “and that’s because of the support of the fan base. And that helps a lot. The other thing too is I know our fans follow recruiting pretty close. And if they want the recruiting to go well, the better the atmosphere the better it is for the recruiting.
“We’ve had great crowds. The home crowd against Florida State was fantastic. It was an exciting game, an exciting finish. We couldn’t have asked for more. Those guys came out of there, all those recruits came out of there happy [and] excited about what’s going on. A lot of that had to do with the atmosphere that we have at Hard Rock.
“So, yeah, it’s very important. I know our fans love this team and I know they’ll support it.”
Richt was asked if he were worried that some of the recent fan negativity on social media will spill over in person on Saturday?
“Oh, I don’t know,’’ the coach replied. “The goal is to go to the game and cheer your team on, so I would think the fans that are there would be more apt to want to cheer than anything else.”
There has been plenty lately, and not-so-lately, to cheer about, such as a lethargic offense that has scored 27 points total the past two games, and now ranks 84th nationally in total offense (387.6 yards a game).
Duke is 65th in total defense, allowing 388.8 yards a game.
Duke coach David Cutcliffe is likely more concerned about UM’s defense, which has struggled at times the past two losses but still is among the leaders in almost every statistical category.
“They do a lot of things that create turnovers,’’ Cutcliffe said. “They lead the country in tackles for losses, and that’s a big part of creating turnovers, creating bad down-and-distance. You can’t be desperate. You have to be smart and patient. You can’t play afraid or cautious.’’
The Hurricanes have gone 5-6 overall in their past 11 games and 2-6 against Power 5 teams. But the Hard Rock factor has been a significant one.
“We can’t listen to outside noise,’’ linebacker Michael Pinckney said. “Everybody is talking and saying what they got to say. We got to stay inside the home and make sure everything inside the house is great.’’
And what if the fans should do some things that are distasteful? Do coaches talk about that and tell players to disregard the noise?
“We don’t worry about that,’’ Richt said. “We go play ball. That’s all we do.”