We’ve reached the end game now — three games left in a Miami Hurricanes season we would all rather forget.

And yet there is still something left to play for. The ACC Coastal is not out of reach. The only thing standing in the Canes’ way at this point is North Carolina, and not just this week.

The Tar Heels have established themselves as the class of the ACC Coastal this season. Two weeks ago, there was a three-way tie atop the Coastal between Duke, Pitt and UNC. UNC promptly beat both of them.

Now the Canes get their chance. Even with a win, Miami would need another loss by UNC to win the Coastal. And the prize for winning the Coastal would be a rematch with Clemson, this time only a few hours from their campus.

But all that is immaterial. If there is any way to put lipstick on this pig of a season, we might as well seize the opportunity. Miami is going to be playing a meaningful game in the 10th game of the season.

And the credit for that should go to Larry Scott.

Larry Scott Has Done a Fine Job, however…

As Miami kneeled the ball to salt away a hard fought six-point victory over a godawful Virginia team, one person in particular was impressed: the game’s color commentator.

If these canes can go win them all, give that man the head job. They wouldn’t give it to Jim Bates down here for the Miami Dolphins. They need to do right this time.

My first thought was who in the hell was clamoring to hire Jim Bates for going 3-4 as an interim coach with the Dolphins? After some digging, I discovered the commentator’s name was James Bates, and yes he is former Dolphins’ Coach Jim Bates’ son. Nice professionalism.

But he also raises another point, and because I wouldn’t put anything past this administration, this needs to be addressed.

Larry Scott was tasked with doing a specific job, which was to hold this team together and see out the last five games. He has done much better with that than I thought he would. I thought Miami would lose to Duke, largely because at some point Duke would punch them in the face, and the Canes wouldn’t have the will to fight back. Well, Miami fumbled the opening kickoff and promptly responded by rising up for a goal line stand.

There is no denying the team’s effort has been more consistent and constant. Perhaps that’s due to Scott’s demeanor or maybe it’s because the weight of having to save Golden’s job has been removed. In soccer, where midseason firings are far more common, this phenomenon is referred to as the “new manager bounce,” where a team produces better results immediately after a coaching change is made. Long-term, however, there appears to be no benefit to having a temporary manager as water finds it’s level, and bad teams are generally bad before and after a coaching change.

What we do know is that there has been no quit in this team and that is a testament to Scott’s performance. I will not minimize the size of his task either. No one else on this staff would have been able to hold it together like that.

The new coach, however, will have a far different task: to put together a coherent plan to build and sustain a championship-caliber program. And while Miami recruited well under Golden, strategically, this whole thing needs to be blown up.

We’re still seeing many of the same problems that existed before. The offensive gameplan is not good, the defensive schemes are a disaster, there are a ton of penalties, and the offensive line can’t block.

And there’s nothing wrong with any of that at this point because the real change will happen in the offseason. But real change is necessary.

I won’t talk specifically about candidates right now, but the last two hires have been “outside the box.” They hired a coach off of the previous failed staff and they hired a coach with a poor overall track record (both as a defensive coordinator and head coach).

No amount of money will guarantee success. You simply need to look at the garbage Alabama cycled through between Gene Stallings and Nick Saban, or more recently Florida’s experience with Will Muschamp. Any coach Miami hires, whether it was my first choice, last choice, or no choice at all could potentially win, so it’s only reasonable to give any potential coach the time to prove his worth.

The only request I would make is this: don’t hire a coach who another major program would never consider hiring. If he’s not good enough for the upper echelons of college football, he’s not good enough for the University of the Miami. We can’t continue to discuss the program in the same breadth as those programs that compete annually in the Top 10, then conduct ourselves off the field in a manner in which those Top 10 programs would never consider.

Focus on the Here And Now

With three games left in the season, there is an opportunity. Even if the Coastal doesn’t break Miami’s way, a win over North Carolina on the road will be by far the program’s best win since 2010.

And this is where things get interesting, because while North Carolina is certainly a good team, this isn’t Clemson. With Golden gone, the pressure is completely removed. Even with the team struggling, the “will Golden be fired?” microscope always shone on the Canes. Not anymore. Out of sight, out of my mind.

One of the many issues with the Al Golden Era was there was no expectation of greatness. He never challenged the kids, the program, or himself to be elite. It was always excuses for why it hadn’t happened yet. He never set lofty goals. Work in progress to the end.

If you don’t demand greatness you will never achieve greatness.

North Carolina has a chance to win the ACC Coastal on Saturday (with a win and a Pitt loss at Duke). The Tar Heels have won eight in a row. They are expecting a comfortable Saturday on their way to coronation.

The University of Miami program built their reputation on going into road stadiums and beating the crap out of teams in this situation.

This Canes team is very flawed, and that’s why the coach was fired midseason. This is not vintage Miami.

But why not be great for one Saturday? Why not do what a classic Miami team would do? Why not go into Chapel Hill, push UNC around for four quarters and walk out with a win?

This season is not salvageable. In a way, it was lost well before it started, when the administration grossly erred in retaining Golden.

But there is one chance left on this schedule to be Miami. To go on the road and ruin someone’s season.

On Saturday these kids can be great. For seniors, it will be the last opportunity to notch a quality win.

They simply need to seize the opportunity.

Follow Vishnu on Twitter (@VRP2003)