As one NCAA season officially ends, the next begins. Albeit, there is never truly an ending/beginning to the NCAA slate due to the staggered bowl season, rolling draft declarations, the fluid recruiting cycle, and a slew of transfer portal decisions. With big administrative changes across the board for Miami, the glimmers of offseason hope are once again mounting as national signing day approaches. Namely, Miami replaces the athletic director position with Dan Radakovich and the head coach position with Mario Cristobal.
That being said, there is still a lot of time and major questions - the biggest one stemming around the still unoccupied assistant coaching positions. Miami has already lost a number of players to the NFL Draft, led by wide receiver Charleston Rambo, as well as transfers. To that end, the Canes have been busy on the recruiting trail and have nabbed key transfers such as offensive lineman, Logan Sagapolu, defensive linemen, Jake Lichtenstein and Antonio Moultrie, running back, Henry Parrish, and wide receiver, Frank Ladson Jr. That being said, there are still a number of questions at key positions such as linebacker and offensive line.
The most excitement centers around third-year sophomore, Tyler Van Dyke, who took the college football world by storm as he shattered records and is already being talked about as one of the best returning quarterbacks in the nation. Another year of rapport with his wide receivers leave Canes’ fans eager for what’s in store in 2022.
So, now that we’ve established that Miami has overhauled a lot of areas, addressed a lot of positions, but still need to round out some key areas, they finished the 2021 season unranked and will need to execute in 2022. Now that the order of the schedule has been established, here’s my way-too-early prediction for next season:
Week 1: Sept. 3 vs. Bethune-Cookman — Projected result: W
2021 Record: 2-9
Can’t Sell the FCS Opponents’ Short
The stark contrast from last year’s season opener (Alabama at a neutral site) to this season’s opener (Bethune-Cookman at home) should make for a smoother transition into the college football season. The Canes are 5-0 against the HBCU, outscoring the Wildcats by a combined score of 232-37 (46-7 on average). Miami won their last game 63-0 at Hard Rock so this could be a game where backup quarterbacks Jake Garcia and Jacurri Brown get some reps.
That being said, FCS opponents do pull off the occasional upset (see Appalachian State over Michigan in 2007).
Miami 63— NCAAF Nation (@NCAAFNation247) September 14, 2019
Bethune Cookman 0
Final Score pic.twitter.com/sOznQoDeqA
Week 2: Sept. 10 vs. Southern Miss — Projected result: W
2021 Record: 3-9
Frank Gore Jr. Comes Home
The most enticing factor of this game is that the Golden Eagles’ running back, Frank Gore Jr., will be the first Frank Gore to play in Miami as an opponent. The Killian High School grad is going into his third year at Southern Miss and has already accumulated 1,509 rushing yards and eight touchdown in two seasons. It’d be nice to honor Frank Gore Sr. in some regard during this game, as the Canes’ legend finally appears done with his NFL tenure.
Southern Miss has recorded an uninspiring 6-16 record during that timeframe, which should set up for a 2-0 start to the Cristobal era.
As Frank Gore Sr. enjoys life without the demands of an NFL schedule, Frank Gore Jr. is just starting to make a name for himself as a running back at Southern Miss https://t.co/d8808oqka0 pic.twitter.com/vhCCdp4r2x— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) September 24, 2021
Week 3: Sept. 17 @ Texas A&M — Projected result: L
2021 Record: 8-4
Miami vs. SEC Has Been Ugly: Time to Turn it Around
Miami has not defeated an SEC opponent since 2013 when they beat the Gators at home and are a combined 1-6 since 2005 against the conference that just featured both the teams in the national championship. In the last four matchups, Miami has lost to Alabama (2021), Florida (2019), LSU (2018), and South Carolina (2014), which were all at neutral locations. And this year’s game will be at a college football mecca in College Station at Kyle Field. The last time the Canes won an away game against an SEC opponent? At Tennessee in November 2002, so by the time this game occurs it will have been nearly 20 years since a road SEC victory by Miami.
The Aggies are known for a perennial powerhouse at offensive line and return one of the best centers in the country in Bryce Foster, as well as behomoth right tackle, Reuben Fatheree, who is listed at 6-8, 320lbs - both players were true freshman in 2021. They do have key departures in offensive lineman and likely top ten pick, Kenyon Green, top tier tight end, Jalen Wydermyer, projected first round defensive lineman, DeMarvin Leal, and shifty running back, Isaiah Spiller. They lose six other players who have exhausted eligibility and also lost starting quarterback, Zach Calzada, to the transfer portal, but did lure in former LSU quarterback, Max Johnson, via the portal. The Aggies star wide receiver, Ainias Smith, could be early draft selection in 2023 and opted to return for his senior season.
Texas A&M also currently has the best recruiting class in the nation with six five-stars and 18 four-stars. How they wrap up this cycle will likely be determined on Wednesday as they are currently in a recruiting battle with Miami over South Florida native defensive lineman, Shemar Stewart. They could be a top tier SEC team as they finished the 2021 season with the most votes outside the top 25, and upset Bama at home.
VIP: Miami and Texas A&M ‘neck and neck’ for unsigned 5-star pass rusher Shemar Stewart after he spent the weekend in Coral Gables. A highlight of the visit? Bumping into Shaq at Prime 112. https://t.co/0lKFCgdDa5 pic.twitter.com/aduYre4OIq— Andrew Ivins (@Andrew_Ivins) January 30, 2022
Week 4: Sept. 24 vs. Middle Tennessee — Projected result: W
2021 Record: 7-6
Can’t Sell the Bahamas Bowl Champion Short
Middle Tennessee is another under-the-radar opponent that cannot be sold short. The Blue Raiders are fresh off a Bahamas Bowl victory as they defeated Toledo, 31-24. They lose a key safety, Reed Blankenship, who was the heart of their defense, as well as senior wide receiver, Jimmy Marshall. There are more questions than answers right now at the quarterback position after their starting signal-caller, Chase Cunningham, went down with an injury toward the end of last season.
Week 5: BYE
Week 6: Oct. 8 vs. North Carolina — Projected result: W
2021 Record: 6-7
Time to Avenge Back-to-Back Crushing Defeats
Miami woes after the bye week have been well-documented.
And after losing 62-26 in 2020 by literally getting run over, the Canes were hoping to comeback with a vengeance against the Tar Heels in 2021 but came up just short, 45-42. While the game was a potential ACC Championship preview, both teams were underwhelming by the mid-October game and were mostly playing for pride at that point. Miami, and Manny Diaz in particular, left the stadium disappointed in a game that stung, albeit was less embarrassing than the 2020 debacle.
This year, UNC loses quarterback Sam Howell, to the draft but have a talented 2021 high-four star in quarterback, Drake Maye. Even though the Tar Heels have lost key players in RBs, Javonte Williams and Michael Carter, and WRs, Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome, they have one of the best wide receivers in the ACC in Josh Downs so Miami will need an answer in the secondary for that matchup. Another fun side plot is that Miami transfer and former center/captain, Corey Gaynor, will be playing for the Tar Heels.
Week 7: Oct. 15 @ Virginia Tech — Projected result: W
2021 Record: 6-7
Miami Looks to Continue Win Streak
The Canes have put together a two game win streak over the Hokies and look to make it three in Blacksburg. Virginia Tech loses their top wide receiver, Tre Turner, to the NFL Draft and dual threat quarterback, Braxton Burmeister, to the grad transfer portal.
Week 8: Oct. 22 vs. Duke — Projected result: W
2021 Record: 3-9
Last Two Games Were Bad For Duke... This Shouldn’t Be Much Better
The Duke matchup the past two seasons were the highlights for Miami as the score has been a combined 95-10. The lowlights for the Blue Devils should continue into 2022 as their roster does not necessarily exude confidence and they lose their bell cow running back, Mateo Durant, to the NFL Draft, and they only have the eighth best recruiting class in the ACC right now.
Duke has recently placed strong defensive linemen into the NFL such as Victor Dimukeje and Chris Rumph II. There are familiar faces in Durham who could continue to shape some strong players as former Miami strength and conditioning coach, David Feeley, is now in the same position with the Blue Devils. Of note, former Cane and current Dolphin, Jaelan Phillips, attributed his career turnaround to Feeley’s tutelage. In addition, former Miami defensive line coach, Jess Simpson, also joined the Blue Devils last month.
Reunion with defensive ilne coach Jess Simpson and strength coach David Feeley on Oct. 22, when Duke travels to Miami.— Susan Miller Degnan (@smillerdegnan) February 1, 2022
Week 9: Oct. 29 @ Virginia — Projected result: W
2021 Record: 6-6
An Easy Win Would Be Nice (Part 2)
The most heartbreaking loss of the 2021 season came at the hands of Virginia in week five as the Canes lost 30-28 in a near Miami comeback. The Cavaliers return their veteran quarterback, Brennan Armstrong, as well as wide receiver, Dontayvion Wicks, who made the acrobatic and miraculous touchdown grab in the 2021 matchup.
Fun fact: only two wide receivers in college football that averaged at least 100 receiving yards per game are returning next season along with their quarterback - Wicks and Armstrong, as well as Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba and CJ Stroud.
Unbelievable bounce of the ball as Dontayvion Wicks somehow comes up with the football. Miami can not catch a break on defense.— CFB Blitz (@BlitzCfb) October 1, 2021
MIAMI 14 pic.twitter.com/cB7LOO9dVE
Week 10: Nov. 5 vs. Florida State — Projected result: W
2021 Record: 5-7
This One’s Personal
The Seminoles victory over Miami, and especially their late 4th and 14 conversion, were the proverbial end of the line for former head coach, Manny Diaz and athletic director, Blake James, the latter of which mutual parted ways with the Canes just days later. In that regard, the loss to FSU and contemporaneous elimination from ACC-title contention, resulted in the transformative program shift and eventual hiring of athletic director, Dan Radakovich, and head coach, Mario Cristobal.
That being said, it is never fun losing to an in-state conference rival, especially in a heartbreaking fashion that ended a four game winning streak. FSU had one of the best transfers in the nation this year in defensive lineman, Jermaine Johnson II, and have already picked up a few more in Albany defensive lineman, Jared Verse, UCF linebacker, Tatum Bethune, and former high four star wide receiver, Mycah Pittman.
Dual threat quarterback, Jordan Travis, has an additional offseason to work more on his passing game, which has been criticized at times.
In the first Florida State and Miami rivalry game since Bobby Bowden’s passing, Jordan Travis shined brightest in the biggest moments. JT completed a 59 yard beauty to Ja’Khi Douglas, a 4th and 14 conversation to Andrew Parchment and ran the game winning TD on an 80 yard drive.— Robert Griffin III (@RGIII) November 14, 2021
Week 11: Nov. 12 @ Georgia Tech — Projected result: W
2021 Record: 3-9
An Easy Win Would Be Nice
Despite being a subpar program, for some reason the Yellow Jackets have given Miami fits. This past season, Miami barely eked out a 33-30 victory even though Canes’ quarterback, Tyler Van Dyke, threw for a clean 389 yards and three touchdowns. Turnovers and undisciplined play hurt Miami late as they barely held on. The previous two matchups, Georgia Tech won 28-21 and 27-21, respectively, and the U only won 25-24 in the matchup before that.
Georgia Tech loses flashy running back, Jahmyr Gibbs, to Alabama via the transfer portal as he could become one of the best rushers in the nation in 2022.
It must be noted the Yellow Jackets gave a lot of opponents fits in 2021, but you would think Miami could take care of a team that has amassed a 9-25 record over the past three seasons.
'From what we've seen the last couple games, every friggin' point matters'— Susan Miller Degnan (@smillerdegnan) November 7, 2021
FSU kickoff set for 3:30 p.m.
UPDATED: Disaster averted. Miami survives three first-half fumbles to beat Georgia Tech and keep ACC hopes alive https://t.co/gT30yq1lWJ @CanesFootball @univmiami
Week 12: Nov. 19 @ Clemson — Projected result: L
2021 Record: 10-3
How Does Clemson Bounceback After Missing Expectations in 2021?
The timing of this game may be crucial as I would not be surprised if current starting quarterback, DJ Uiagalelei, is not the quarterback by the end of the season. The Tigers welcome the No. 1 quarterback recruit in the nation in Cade Klubnik, who has immense promise and may be given opportunities in year one.
From a macro perspective, Clemson failed to meet expectations after making the playoffs in 2020, but ameliorated some early season struggles by finished 14th overall in the Final AP Poll.
Even more, Clemson lost former five-star wide receiver, Frank Ladson Jr., who transfers to Miami, and they also lose a slew of players to the draft such as projected first round cornerback, Andrew Booth Jr., uber-talented wide receiver, Justyn Ross, senior safety, Nolan Turner, and defensive leader/linebacker, James Skalski.
Led by Klubnik, head coach, Dabo Swinney, has mustered together the 11th best recruiting class in the country. How well they can bounceback in 2022 remains to be seen as the wounds from the Canes’ last visit to Death Valley in Clemson, as well as the ACC title game in Charlotte, remain fresh.
The final two games will likely make-or-break the Canes’ season.
Clemson's defense shuts down Miami in Death Valley pic.twitter.com/m3ri1h76PE— ACC Football (@ACCFootball) October 11, 2020
Week 13: Nov. 26 vs. Pittsburgh — Projected result: W
2021 Record: 11-3
The Likely Decisive Game in the Coastal
Pittsburgh loses Heisman finalist quarterback, Kenny Pickett, but reload at the position as they welcome former USC quarterback, Kedon Slovis. They have immense depth at the position but this appears to be Slovis’ job. The Panthers may have the best wide receiver in the nation in 2021 Biletkinoff Award winner, Jordan Addison, who will certainly be a matchup nightmare. That being said, Pitt loses offensive coordinator, Mark Whipple, so their may be some adjustments in their scheme. Ten players have exhausted eligibility but there are a number of draft-eligible players who are returning.
After Miami’s devastating 2017 Black Friday loss to the Panthers, the Canes have won four straight against the Panthers, including a 38-34 upset over the ACC champions this year. Regardless, Pitt appears to be headed in the right direction with head coach, Pat Narduzzi, as they nearly beat Michigan State in the Peach Bowl, even without Pickett and having to play their third strong quarterback.
The fact that this game is again right after Thanksgiving is a bit disconcerting (see 2017 game).
Way-too-Early Projected Record: 10-2
Obviously, the team is not completely made up and a lot can and will happen between now and September 3rd. For those drinking the Cristobal Kool-Aid, running the table is entirely possible especially if Van Dyke meets or even exceeds expectations. More realistically, anything between 11-1 and 9-3 seems fair. But, as mentioned, still a lot of time to go and a lot that can happen between now and September 3rd. What do you think?
What is your way-too-early 2022 Miami Record Prediction?
6 wins or less