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Hurricanes football viewed as 2021 Orange Bowl favorite amid spring projections

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The Hurricanes might be able to start 2021 by finding themselves back in the Orange Bowl with a new quarterback, offensive coordinator and a schedule with similar opponents from 2019.

2017 Capital One Orange Bowl - Miami v Wisconsin
Hard Rock Stadium (Miami Gardens, Fla.) hosting the 2017 Orange Bowl between the Miami Hurricanes and the Wisconsin Badgers. Wisconsin won 34-24 after Miami relinquished a 14-3 lead in the first period.
Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Miami Hurricanes football is now favored to represent the A.C.C. in this season’s 2021 Orange Bowl game, according to multiple college football news sources.

College Football News and 247 Sports both predict the ‘Canes to be playing in the Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium on Jan. 2, whether it be against Penn State or Boise State. This prediction may come as a surprise given that the Hurricanes did not finish to their 2019 season as they had hoped, losing to Louisiana Tech 14-0 in the Independence Bowl.

There are several reasons behind Miami’s potential birth in this New Year’s Six bowl, beginning with their conference schedule. The ‘Canes will face A.C.C. teams that finished with a 4-4 conference record or worse in 2019. One exception is Virginia which finished 6-3 against conference matchups, a team Miami had beaten mid-season.

In addition, Clemson and Louisville do not appear on the Hurricanes’ calendar this season, two A.C.C. opponents that could once again compete for the A.C.C. title this year.

The program will also benefit from former Southern Methodist offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee. Lashlee bolstered the Mustangs offense to rank seventh in scoring in the F.B.S. at 41.8 points per game. Miami struggled to deliver on offense last season, averaging 25.7 points per game. The new offensive coordinator is expected to have a similar impact on the Hurricanes offense.

Miami Hurricanes football practice
Miami Hurricanes offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee giving verbal commands to team at spring practice on University of Miami’s Greentree Field (Coral Gables, Fla.).
Al Diaz/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Miami also landed quarterback D’Eriq King who is the early favorite to lead their offense this fall. The graduate transfer from Houston recorded 2982 passing yards in 2018, ranking 13th nationally and seventh in passing touchdowns (36). The combination of Lashlee’s strategies and King’s passing abilities are expected to improve the team’s offensive production.

Despite Miami’s offseason improvements, Clemson—winners of the past five A.C.C. Championship games—remains the preseason favorite to repeat as A.C.C. champion. While the ‘Canes may finish atop the A.C.C. Coastal Division, they would likely face Clemson in the A.C.C. Championship game. Until the Hurricanes prove otherwise, the Tigers are likely to win that matchup and advance to the College Football Playoff semifinal.

With the second most conference wins Miami would then play in the Orange Bowl. Their opponent would likely represent the Big Ten, the S.E.C. or Notre Dame, as determined by a Bowl Committee formula.