I will give you three games that will be huge for Miami’s success this season. I will choose the three games in this way: one home, one away, and one of either home or away. These will also all be regular season games. Obviously the bowl game or ACC Championship will be monumental games, but the opponents are not known, so I'll focus on the first 12 games for now. Without further ado, here we go.
Away vs Florida State (Saturday, September 16)
Always the biggest game of the season regardless, the Florida State game comes early this year. This quite possibly could be a preview of the 2017 ACC Championship game. There isn’t much to say about this game that is not already known in terms of magnitude. FSU could also be a top five team, especially if they defeat Alabama in week one. Francois could be looking to jumpstart his Heisman campaign and the Canes will be fighting to show that The U is officially back. Beating the boys in Tallahassee will be big to cement this notion.
Home vs Virginia Tech (Saturday, November 4)
Sandwiched in between a road trip to Chapel Hill to face UNC and a home date with Notre Dame (which is another big game), Virginia Tech comes down to Miami Gardens in a match that could very well determine who gets to take a trip to Charlotte for the ACC Championship as the Coastal Division winner. Like Miami, the Hokies lost a QB early to the NFL and are searching for a replacement. They also have a lot of talent at the skill positions and their defense is always a load with Bud Foster. Miami is fortunate to play VT at home as a raucous crowd in Blacksburg is always difficult to face. Nevertheless, Miami could take a major step toward a division crown with a win here as only two ACC opponents remain after this game.
Away vs Duke (Friday, September 29)
I know, I know, Duke? Besides the obvious story line that this game will carry with it as the Canes return to the “crime scene” in Durham, Duke could absolutely contend in the Coastal next year. Daniel Jones might be the best QB in the ACC not named Lamar Jackson and they have a sneaky good WR group. Miami’s most vulnerable unit on this squad, as we see it now, is the defensive secondary. Jones will test the back end and could give them fits with speedy slot TJ Rahming, and big outside bodies in Quay Chambers, Aaron Young and Scott Bracey. Duke’s defense should also take a major step forward in 2017 after a massively disappointing 4-8 season in 2016. The Blue Devils sport a talented duo of LB’s in Ben Humphreys and Joe Giles-Harris in their 4-2-5 system. Similar to Miami, though, a weakness could be the secondary. Whoever the QB is will need to use his arm to take advantage of this weakness and beat Duke through the air. This could be a very solid early-season ACC win against a Coastal opponent with legitimate championship aspirations.
So, in my opinion, those are Miami’s three biggest games for 2017. Obviously, you could make cases for games such as Notre Dame and Pittsburgh, but this is how I see it. What do you think? Let me know below.