ESPN College GameDay analyst Kirk Herbstreit has picked Miami Hurricanes football as a “Darkhorse team” for the 2021 College Football Playoff earlier this week, given their talent infusions.
As one of ESPN’s lead college football analysts, the former Ohio State quarterback had cited that Miami having a versatile quarterback in graduate transfer D’Eriq King will potentially pay dividends. The team finished 120th in rushing yards and last in third down conversion percentage amongst the 130 FBS teams in 2019, something that could change.
“Everyone’s talking about Notre Dame coming in and of course Clemson,” Herbstreit said on the season’s first College GameDay Saturday. “I really think D’Eriq King going over to Miami, with the players he has to work with over there, I just feel Miami has always been missing a quarterback. If the Canes had a quarterback, it makes the defense play better, the offensive line can play better, the running game. Everything can be impacted by a belief in that position. It’s been since Ken Dorsey in like ‘02, ‘03…(since) Miami has had a quarterback that can really come through for them. I think D’Eriq King coming over from Houston is a guy who can create a lot of juice, a lot of belief so look out for the Canes as a potential surprise in the ACC this year.”
Since D’Eriq King had committed to Manny Diaz’s program in January, Miami finally has a quarterback that has the potential to excel from the playmaking and athleticism aspects of the game. The 5-foot-11 play caller threw for 330 passing yards alongside six touchdowns in the Hurricanes’ recent scrimmage at Hard Rock Stadium. Not to mention tallying 84 rushing yards.
King, unlike former starting quarterback Jarren Williams, brings the athleticism and decision-making skills to the table that Williams did not last season.
“You are starting to see his ability, not just with his arm, but with his feet as well,” Diaz said after the final fall camp scrimmage. He and new offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee hope that King can help lift Miami out of the scoring offense cellar, having averaged 22.6 points per game in 2019.
Diaz looks to make the most out of the upcoming season in just his second year at the helm. The program had evidently needed a season to rebuild, for which it could have been a different picture had a handful of games been won with a consistent focus.
This year’s College Football Playoff will lack two of the five Power Five conferences that have remained integral to the knockout tournament since its inaugural year in 2014. Teams including Ohio State, Penn State, and Oregon will not get their shot at a national championship this fall, potentially opening the door for other programs like Miami to make a run.
Two SEC teams in Georgia and Alabama earned semifinal berths on college football’s biggest stage in 2017. Perhaps the ACC can be granted the same should Miami and Notre Dame or Clemson have one loss or even undefeated seasons. Strength of schedule will be a different factor for the College Football Playoff selection committee, given the new conference-based regular season schedule.