The Oklahoma Sooners opened up the season ranked number 1 with Michigan right behind at number 2. Following along was Notre Dame at 3, USC at 4 and Ohio State at number 5.
Oklahoma and Ohio State met up early in the season with the Sooners pulling off a thrilling win. The Kick
There were no Florida schools in the top 5 in 1977. Neither were they in the top 10.
Miami was desperately wanting a quality football program back in the 1970s and the 1976 season’s head coach Carl Selmer was gone after another bad season. He was only there for two years and then the Hurricanes hired former NFL coach Lou Saban. After he had taken the Athletic Director’s job at Cincinnati, Miami lured Saban down south and he’d only been on the job a couple of weeks.
Most people ask immediately the obvious question. Is Lou Saban related to Nick Saban? No, they are not related, but Saban is an unusual name.
Howard Schnellenberger gets all of the credit for building the Miami program, but it was Lou Saban that actually got it started with his brilliant recruiting plans. Schnellenberger adapted Saban’s plan when he arrived, but the staff under Saban started carrying it out after they arrived in Coral Gables.
Their plan was to build a wall, so to speak, around south Florida and battle as hard as they could for the local talent. Then recruit outward throughout the state of Florida and finally cherry pick the rest of the nation. That plan worked beautifully and the depth of talent in the state of Florida really wasn’t that well known at the time. They had a lot of success, especially with quarterbacks, going up north. Jim Kelly was from Pennsylvania, and Bernie Kosar from Ohio. Vinnie Testaverde was from New York and Steve Walsh from Minnesota.
It seems almost silly now, but once they started focusing on local recruits, their talent level slowly began to improve.
But, they didn’t have time to get things going the first season they were hired. Going into the 1977 season, Saban inherited starting quarterback E.J. Baker, but he had thrown more interceptions than touchdowns the previous season and that’s a problem. Would Saban be able to win with Baker?
He also had a really outstanding running back returning in Ottis Anderson, who was going into his junior season.
The defensive line had Don Latimer who became a 1st round draft pick of the Denver Broncos after the 1977 season. As a senior, Latimer totaled 15 quarterback sacks to lead the team.
But, Miami still wasn’t quite there.
The Hurricanes opened their 1977 season in Columbus, Ohio against 5th ranked Ohio State. They fought gamely, but the Buckeyes prevailed 0-10.
The Canes lost to Georgia Tech the following week, but only by 6-10. Moral victory? Nah, there’s no such thing.
Next up was Florida State and the Seminoles were 2-0. It wasn’t like they had just beaten the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the USC Trojans, but they were still looking better over previous seasons. Sometimes, it seemed like Miami had Bobby Bowden and Florida State’s number and this was one of those times as the Canes came to Tallahassee and beat the Seminoles 23-17.
The Hurricanes actually won 3 games in a row with wins over Pacific and Kansas following the Florida State win.
But, that was all she wrote for the Miami Hurricanes of 1977. They lost to a terrible TCU team that only won 2 games and then they were demolished by 9th ranked Penn State, 7-49.
They should have beaten Tulane, but the Green Wave beat them to collect their 3rd win of the season. Maybe Miami was thinking about playing 2nd ranked Alabama instead of Tulane and then the Crimson Tide was able to thrash the Canes anyway, 0-36.
The Gators were next on the schedule and the Hurricanes were limping through just hoping to survive the season. This was not a great Florida team and they were still running that wishbone offense and winning enough to keep the boosters at bay for at least a little bit longer.
Florida had enough to beat Miami, 14-31.
The one time 3-2 season had slipped away and the Hurricanes were sitting at 3-7 with 5th ranked Notre Dame next on their schedule.
Much has been made of the later years when head coach Jimmy Johnson did not call off the dogs when playing a down Notre Dame and head coach Gerry Faust. But, it doesn’t appear as the shoe was any different on the other foot. The Fighting Irish would go on to win the national championship in the Cotton Bowl with a win over number one Texas. But, in the Hurricanes last game of the season, the Fighting Irish, led by quarterback Joe Montana, came down to south Florida and just humiliated the Hurricanes, 10-48.
Miami finished their season with a pathetic 3-8 season. But, better things were on the way and sometimes it just takes time to get there. Miami’s time was coming.
This was another portion of my book: Trifecta of Hate.