The Miami Hurricanes have a schedule built for success heading into the 2018 football season. The ACC is down, with Florida State only sort of bowl eligible and teams like UNC, Duke and Georgia Tech having down years as well. Conferences swing up and down and the ACC is fairing better than the Pac-12 right now but outside of Clemson and Miami left much to be desired in 2017.
Don’t believe me? After LSU (19th in the S&P+), the Toledo Rockets are Miami’s highest ranked opponent per the S&P+ heading into 2018 at number 29. The Virginia Tech Hokies are 30th and their biggest rival the Florida State Seminoles are 43rd at 7-6 overall.
Here are Miami’s three biggest match-ups of the 2018 regular season:
Game 1: Miami vs LSU Tigers in Arlington, TX, September 2, 2018
The 17th ranked Miami Hurricanes meet the 19th ranked LSU Tigers in Arlington, Texas to kick off the 2018 college football season. Miami getting a showcase neutral site game on the opening weekend shows their TV market appeal. The last time Miami played LSU, the Tigers destroyed the Hurricanes 40-3 in the 2005 Peach Bowl. That debacle led to mass firings on the Miami coaching staff and the ultimate demise of Larry Coker. Heading into 2018, this could be the inverse as LSU Coach Ed Orgeron has been recycling offensive coordinators and the Tigers haven’t looked any different since firing Les Miles. Miami will have to stop the run and show their offense can score against LSU’s 18th ranked defense.
Prediction: Miami by 1
Game 2: vs Florida State Seminoles, October 6, 2018
This is an obvious one. Miami and Florida State should be an annual battle of two top 10 teams. But Miami was down for almost a decade and Florida State has been a roller coaster towards the end of Bobby Bowden’s tenure and then the end of Jimbo Fisher’s tenure in Tallahassee. Mark Richt broke the streak and the ‘Canes beat the ‘Noles in Tallahassee in 2017. Miami hosts FSU in 2018 and this is about the game as much as it’s about the national identity. Hard Rock Stadium has to be packed, loud, and there needs to be a reason for College GameDay to be either on-campus in Coral Gables or on site in Miami Gardens. Both teams are in the midst of a quarterback situation with Miami fans unhappy with Malik Rosier while FSU has Deondre Francois coming back to challenge James Blackman for his old job.
Prediction: Miami by 10
Game 3: Hurricanes at Virginia Tech Hokies, November 17, 2018
Mark Richt got the better of Justin Fuente in 2017 and Miami beat up the Hokies 28-10 at home in Hard Rock Stadium. Miami had a number of packed rowdy house games in 2017 and the Hokies match-up was one of them. Miami’s had a hard time traveling up to Blacksburg and some of Miami’s more embarrassing beat downs have been at the hands of the Hokies in Blacksburg. In 1999, VT beat Miami 43-10 to usher in the Ken Dorsey era. Brock Berlin looked confused against Bud Foster’s defense in 2003, and Miami lost 31-7. 2007, 2009, 2013 and 2016 were no different as the Hokies beat the ‘Canes at Lane Stadium.
The 2018 edition will be all about if Mark Richt can get Miami over the hump and not only beat the Hokies in Blacksburg, but can roll Miami through an undefeated regular season. VT quarterback Josh Jackson will be more experienced and Bud Foster had the nation’s number 9 defense per the S&P+ a year ago. Not much has changed in Blacksburg as the defense led them to 9 wins in ‘17 but Coach Fuente won’t allow for a poor offensive showing two years in a row.
Prediction: Virginia Tech by 3
Here are less marquee games but they also strike up some fear in Miami fans:
Miami at Toledo: Toledo was one of Miami’s best opponents in 2017, per the S&P+. The Rockets are the MAC’s creme de la creme and gave Miami a good showing in Hard Rock in 2017.
Miami at Georgia Tech: The Jackets were only the 73rd ranked team in the nation in 2017 but Paul Johnson rarely lets the Atlanta faithful down over consecutive years. Look for GT to have a bounce back season in 2018. Also playing the triple option towards the end of the season with them diving at tired legs is another negative. It’s sandwiched between Duke and UVA which is a positive but Bronco Mendenhall could really get UVA humming by late November.
Pitt at Miami: The Miami Hurricanes blew their undefeated regular season with a choke artist loss to the Pitt Panthers up at Heinz Field on Thanksgiving weekend in 2017. Miami had no answers on offense to Pat Narduzzi’s 4-2-5 defense even though it was only the 75th ranked defense per the S&P+. Miami can’t just beat Pitt, they have to destroy Pitt in order to top off what could be a one-loss campaign in 2018.