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Monday Musings: season predictions; Bama week

NCAA Football: Miami at Florida State Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

It’s Monday, which means it’s time for another deep dive into the recesses of my orange and green mind....

1) It’s Bama week. Yeah, this is one that I keep going back and forth on in my mind. I keep thinking that, with how much talent this Miami offense has, that they can jump out to a quick lead and have a puncher’s chance of hanging on for a shocking win. Bama is returning only three starters on offense with a new starting QB. Then....I remember that it’s Nick Saban on the opposite sideline from Manny Diaz. There might not be a better gameday coach in the history of the sport than Saban, while Diaz has proven to be a very capable recruiter who hasn’t translated it to the playing field. That’s a massive advantage for Bama all by itself.

2) So, as much as I want to pick Miami, I’m going with my head rather than my heart. Miami does jump out to an early lead, as the defense stalls an Alabama offense still trying to find its way. But things change in the second half, where the bugaboo third quarter rears its ugly head again against Miami. King is electric, ends with good numbers, and keeps Miami from completely fading in the fourth quarter, but Alabama’s 5-star-laden roster and legendary head coach hang on for the win. This one will feel like the 2018 Orange Bowl, except probably more painful. Canes cover, Bama wins.

Alabama 37, Miami 27.

3) But that doesn’t mean all is lost this season. To the contrary, I think. I believe this team is better than 10 of their opponents, and possibly all remaining 11 (the question being UNC, obviously). Miami responds strongly against a game Appalachian State team before claiming a double-digit win over Sparty the next week. A 70-3ish blowout win over Central Connecticut State follows. Then, the real test for the Canes begins. Virginia at home on a short week, followed by the bye, then at UNC in perhaps the most important game of the season. Then, consecutive matchups with NC State, at Pitt, and Georgia Tech. At Florida State follows on November 13, with Virginia Tech and at Duke rounding out the year.

I see a close win at home against Virginia. They’re always scrappy and manage to find a way to keep Miami from scoring much. UNC is a high-scoring, back and forth affair, but I think Sam Howell finds a way to get it done again, giving UNC the upper hand in the Coastal division. Miami wins against NC State, pulling away in the fourth quarter after another hard-fought game.

Then comes Pitt. Honestly, this is the game outside of Bama and UNC that concerns me the most. Good quarterbacks always worry me, and Pitt has one. Panthers senior QB Kenny Pickett will return to face the Canes again, along with 7 other returning offensive starters. Pickett was the one who helped pull off the 2017 upset against #2 Miami. And weird stuff happens up at Heinz Field. This would be the loss that would turn a 10-2 season into 9-3 in my cautious, gun-shy mind.

But Miami has a better one in King and the superior roster top to bottom. This is a game they lose in prior years, but not this year. Miami finds a way to win the second-most pivotal ACC game of their season (UNC being the first).

The Canes blast FSU in Tallahassee, then return home to win a very close, scrappy tilt against a surprisingly-tough Virginia Tech squad that returns 15 starters. A second straight layup win in Durham tops off a 10-2 season and earns Miami an elusive New Years Six Bowl bid after Clemson and UNC face off for the ACC Title. I’ll give offensive MVP to King and defensive MVP to Tyrique Stevenson, who sets himself up as a possible first-round pick.

So yeah, that’s how I see the 2021 Miami Hurricanes football season playing out. What about you all? Let’s hear it.