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Professional handicapper offers insight on UM's poor standing in Vegas; Canes, Dolphins, Marlins nuggets

A six-pack of notes on a Monday:          

### It’s easy to figure out why Las Vegas odds-makers have placed UM’s over/under for wins at 5.5 or 6: This team won six games last season and loses seven draft picks.

But one of those professional handicappers, Miami-based Lee Sterling, offered us some additional insight into why expectations are so low among odds-makers.

We offer this merely as food for thought, which Sterling delivered via email:

“Based on pure talent alone I rank Miami #43 out of 128 Division I teams,” said Sterling, who works for Paramount Sports and appears on more than 40 radio stations nationally. “Teams with a similar 40-45 ranking over the last 10 years that play in a top 5 power conference usually finish with a 6-6 or 7-5 record.

"According to my power rankings Miami played the #12 toughest schedule last year. This year they get a bit of a break playing just the #30 toughest schedule. The main reason that happened is most of the toughest games are at home this year with a road contest at FSU being the only game where Miami should be a projected underdog.

“Also figured into this is Florida State and Nebraska are weaker talent wise compared to last season based on players lost in the draft and grades placed on new starters. Also, if FSU running back Dalvin Cook doesn't return that would downgrade them even further. The 2nd toughest game on the UM schedule also got a bit easier as Clemson has lost preseason first all ACC LT Isiah Battle to suspension then the supplemental draft and SR kicker Ammon Lapik to suspension.

“As many as 7 games will have betting lines of less than 7 points. Since these will probably be the games that determine if Miami has a winning record, surprisingly Golden is 15-11 [against the spread] in his four years in these games but 2-5 [against the spread] last year.

“In my opinion the two most important things in winning games in college football are QB play and the play of the defensive line. A QB can mask a lot of deficiencies on the OL and WR's that have trouble getting separation and the defensive line can control the line of scrimmage and get pressure on the QB. Surpringly these were the only two areas except for special teams I project Miami to be stronger than last season.

“Kaaya should be stronger, more efficient and comfortable with the offense and the DL with young players like Chad Thomas, Jelani Hamilton and recently reinstated Al-Quadin Muhammad could all have breakout seasons. All the other areas of the team I project to be weaker this season.

“Al Golden keeps bringing up the defensive statistics that improved from 2013 to 2014 and they did improve all the way up to #14 in yards per game, #15 in yards per play and #17 pass yards per game but those numbers don't tell the story of poor 2nd half adjustments and the fact in key games in the 2nd half the defense was far worse and had trouble making stops. The Canes were also the 21st most penalized team in college football with 63.6 yards in penalties a game.

“The biggest worry on the team is the OL which only returns 1 starter and has little depth. The only player who if he is as good as I think he is can possibly turn the offense from good to great is incoming freshman Mark Walton. He could be a home run hitter and a game changer. The two co starters Joseph Yearby and Gus Edwards are only situational or change of pace backs.

“Picking a final regular season record." Sterling concluded, "is almost as tough as picking the two teams that will play in the Super Bowl. Injuries and one play in two to three games can change so much but if I had to put my reputation and money on it Miami finishes at 7-5. That probably won't be good enough to save Al Golden as in my opinion they need to go 8-4, 9-3 or win the Coastal Division."

### ESPN, counting down the 100 best players in college football, placed UM’s Kaaya 97th on the list, a spot ahead of FSU offensive tackle Roderick Johnson.

### Joe Philbin says there’s one thing in particular that Olivier Vernon needs to do, as he tries to boost his sack total back to where it was in 2013 (11.5) instead of where it was last season (5.5).

"One of the things we’ve been really preaching," Philbin said, "is his get-off consistency. He’s got really good power and strength. We’ve all seen that displayed at various times. He plays with good leverage. I think, at times, he kind of can lull guys to sleep and have a changeup move. I’d like to see him use his fastball more. He’s quick, he’s powerful. He still has that good changeup, but I’d like to see it be a true changeup and use that get off more consistently. I think he’s been working at that.”

### Players were off Monday, but one thing that bears monitoring is Kenny Stills’ calf injury, which has limited him.

Of Stills, Philbin said: “The players know their body the best. They are the guys out there and so we’re utilizing him as often as possible. If something is not right, we’ll cut it back a little bit.”

### Found it odd that the Marlins are once again giving Brad Hand a chance to be their fifth starter, instead of opting for Adam Conley, who’s working out of the bullpen, or prospects Justin Nicolino or Kendrys Flores, who remain in Triple A.

Hand, who seems to have nine lives because he’s left-handed and somewhat functional, is 6-20 with 4.56 ERA in his career.

Conley was 9-3 with a 2.52 ERA at Triple A New Orleans. Nicolino is 6-7 with a 3.55 ERA there and Flores is 3-2 with a 2.55 ERA.

On the decision to go with Hand, Dan Jennings said: “It’s time for him to get that opportunity. He’s next in line.”

### Giancarlo Stanton, out since June 27 with a broken bone in his hand, won’t return during the projected 4 for 6 week timetable. He continues to experience discomfort when he swings, Marlins executive Michael Hill said. There’s no timetable for his return….

Carter Capps’ MRI showed no structural damage to his elbow but he has a strain and was placed on the 15-day DL, Hill said… AJ Ramos is keeping the closer’s role, despite blowing a couple recently, because “right now, he’s earned the closer [job] more than anyone we have available,” according to Jennings.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz