Welcome to August. The start of College Football season is just two or three White House communications directors away and I can't contain my excitement. For what seems like forever, we've been experiencing dramatic ups and downs, frustrating inconsistency, a revolving door in positions of leadership, and a lowering of expectations. Of course I'm talking about life as a Canes fan over the past decade. That's all about to change.
Miami enjoyed a near-perfect offseason. The coaching staff has stability and confidence. The Canes brought in an impressive freshman class as well as two key transfers at cornerback, a position of need. Miami held summer camps with dozens of NFL stars returning to campus to teach future Hurricanes. The alumni are reengaged with the program and the energy and excitement around the 2017 team is palpable. The Canes currently have the best 2018 recruiting class in the country. Just writing that gives me goosebumps. I hope everyone comes out to Hard Rock Stadium on August 12th at noon for CanesFest. Let's show the players and coaches how much we support them.
I put the link to Bill Connelly's Miami preview below. I would highly encourage everyone to read it. As he documents, the Canes have struggled to bounce back from losses to FSU in recent years. In 2017, Miami heads to Tallahassee in Week 3 and might be starting a freshman QB, N'Kosi Perry. It is crucial that regardless of the outcome, Miami returns home ready to play against Toledo and their star QB Logan Woodside the following week.
According to Connelly's numbers and other predictions and previews I've read, the consensus seems to have FSU, Clemson, Louisville, Miami, and NCST as the top five teams in the ACC. The Canes are fortunate to only be facing FSU among that group. Virginia Tech would be 6th and is the closest contender with Miami in the Coastal Division according to Vegas. Miami thankfully gets to face Virginia Tech at Hard Rock Stadium. According to Connelly and ESPN’s FPI, UM would currently be favored in 11 of 12 games, with FSU being the one exception. UNC, Virginia Tech, Notre Dame, and Pitt would be the smallest spreads, but like Miami, all of those teams will be featuring new quarterbacks in 2017.
Miami is currently being listed at 9 wins Over/Under for the regular season, up from 8 or 8.5 earlier this summer. As I’ve stated in previous articles, I’m very confident in the Over.
Looking ahead to Week 1, I'll be watching these eight games closely to scout and evaluate the ACC and future Miami opponents. Picks will be coming in a few weeks.
Alabama -7 vs Florida State - September 2nd at 8pm in Atlanta
This is the marquee game of the weekend. Florida State plays LA-Monroe in Week 2 before the Canes make the trip to Tallahassee. Both teams are national title contenders and return star quarterbacks in Jalen Hurts and Deondre Francois. Derwin James is back healthy for FSU and was just named the best player in the nation by ESPN. I’ll be interested to see how the Noles split carries between Jacques Patrick and a talented group of freshmen at running back. Miami fans are thrilled Dalvin Cook is currently living in Minnesota. I’d be inclined to pick FSU getting a touchdown at the moment.
Louisville -26.5 vs Purdue - September 2nd at 12pm in Indianapolis
As the reigning Heisman winner, Louisville QB Lamar Jackson should have another huge season. The biggest thing to watch will be Louisville’s offensive line. Unless that unit improves, Louisville won’t be able to contend in the Atlantic Division with Clemson or FSU. Purdue QB David Blough is underrated and has the ability to make this game more competitive than people think.
NCST -5 vs South Carolina - September 2nd at 3pm
Miami beat NCST 27-13 in Raleigh last season, but the Wolfpack are a team to watch in 2017. NCST has an elite defensive line led by Bradley Chubb and Kentavius Street and a veteran QB in Ryan Finley. Jaylen Samuels is a playmaker in space with the ball in his hands for NCST. South Carolina might be an improved team this season if QB Jake Bentley impresses, but the Gamecocks are still limited on offense. Hopefully NCST can earn a win over the SEC.
Michigan -4 vs Florida - September 2nd at 330pm in Arlington
Given the Wolverines are playing the Gators, Michigan will be my second favorite team on September 2nd. Who will Florida start at quarterback - Malik Zaire, Feleipe Franks, or Luke Del Rio? Both teams lost key players on defense to the NFL, but this should still be a low-scoring game. Maybe Harbaugh’s trip to Rome will be the difference.
North Carolina -12.5 vs California - September 2nd at 330pm
Eastern Washington head coach Beau Baldwin left to become the offensive coordinator for the Cal Bears. His unique offense will be exciting to watch and will be a significant test for UNC’s defense. UNC will have to replace Trubisky, Hood, Logan, Switzer, Howard, Hollins, and three starting offensive linemen - a complete reboot on offense. LSU transfer QB Brandon Harris is expected to start, but his play in Baton Rouge was hardly inspiring. If Cal can keep this game close, that will be a good sign for the Canes, who will be heading to Chapel Hill later in the year.
Virginia Tech -4.5 vs West Virginia - September 3rd at 730pm in Landover, MD
The return of QB Will Grier makes this game a must-watch on Sunday night. The former Gator should thrive in Dana Holgorsen’s offense. Virginia Tech will be Miami’s biggest challenger in the Coastal Division and should be loaded on defense in 2017. The Hokies will likely be relying on redshirt freshman Josh Jackson at quarterback.
Tennessee -3.5 vs Georgia Tech - September 4th at 8pm in Atlanta
The Tennessee Vols are the champions of life, but a loss in Atlanta could be the beginning of the end for Butch Jones in Knoxville. Tennessee has to replace Josh Dobbs, Jalen Hurd, and Alvin Kamara, but the Vols defense will be a difficult matchup for Georgia Tech’s triple option, especially with all summer to prepare. Miami has handled the Yellow Jackets in recent years and will host GT on a Thursday night in October at Hard Rock Stadium.
Nebraska -20 vs Arkansas State - September 2nd at 8pm
I'm curious how Nebraska will look with new QB Tanner Lee, but my main interest here is the Red Wolves from Arkansas State. I'll be traveling to Jonesboro with friends and family the following week to watch Walton and Richards tear up the field and dominate like they did in Boone last season. Arkansas State QB Justice Hansen has talent if he's given protection. ASU has to replace all five starters on the offensive line so if they look vulnerable in Lincoln, Manny Diaz and his unit should control the line of scrimmage in Jonesboro.