The Miami Hurricanes are coming off their first 10-win season over a decade—racing out to a thrilling 10-0 start, before losing the season finale, the ACC Championship and the Orange Bowl.

The three-game skid certainly put a damper on a season that saw the Canes rise to No. 2 in the College Football Playoffs rankings—but based on 2017 being year two for Mark Richt leading the comeback, solace was found in the fact UM was ahead of schedule and over-exceeded expectations.

With year three on the horizon, Richt and the Canes will look to build off of last season, courtesy of a favorable schedule and a squad entering their third season playing for a true leader of men and a head coach with a proven track record; something that hadn’t been the case in Coral Gables for way too long.

While an in-depth preview of Miami’s showdown against LSU is forthcoming, we wanted to take a broader look at the 2018 season and do our best predicting how we think things should play out for this year’s Hurricanes.

Since the Canes versus Tigers preview is in the works, we’ll skip the season-opener and start with next week’s home-opener. (Speaking of LSU; click the image below for our pre-game party and#RallyInDallas on Saturday night.)

Miami vs. Savannah StateSeptember 8th — The Canes welcome the Tigers south for the first time since 2013, in what was a 77-7 bloodbath, despite Miami coming down from the high of upsetting Florida days prior.

The Tigers lost 30 of their next 31 games after getting waxed by the Canes; a game most-remembered for then-starting quarterback Stephen Morris injuring an ankle in the first quarter.

Coming off what will be a hard-fought season-opener against LSU, Miami will get to hit reset in the confines of HardRock, while racking up points. This will also (most-likely) be where Richt can let N’Kosi Perry get some much-needed reps, as well a slew of true freshmen working for playing time this year.

Another bloodbath is in the works; the lone goal—everyone staying healthy.

Canes 60, Tigers 6

Miami at ToledoSeptember 15th — A quirky game, much like last year’s would-be showdown against Arkansas State that was cancelled due to Hurricane Irma’s path.

The Canes took on the Rockets last fall, 21 days after the home opener against Bethune-Cookman. Miami jumped out to a 10-0 lead, but found itself down, 16-10 at the half before scoring 28 points unanswered in an eventual, 52-30 victory.

Toledo finished last season 11-3, winning the MAC Championship, before getting waxed, 34-0 by Appalachian State in the post-season.

The Rockets will host the Hurricanes without some key pieces from last year’s squad; most-notably quarterback Logan Woodside and running back Terry Swanson. Defensive end Ola Adeniyi has also moved on, as have several key offensive linemen.

Miami trekked to Appalachian State in 2016 in what brought out a capacity crowd looking for an upset. Safe to say the Glass Bowl will provide a similar raucous experience—one that can also deflate quickly if the Canes get off to a fast start like they did against the Mountaineers—up 21-0 in the first quarter.

Miami will take care of business, though probably by not a big enough margin for some.

Canes 31, Rockets 16

Miami vs. Florida International September 22nd — The first go-around for these two programs since 2007; a year after an on-field brawl saw a slew of players suspended and welcomed a ton of negative press.

A pointless cross-town series for the Canes; a no-win situation as big brother gives little brother a crack as the crown. FIU will treat it as their bowl game, while UM preps for a Thursday night showdown at North Carolina—the start to ACC season.

The Golden Panthers went 8-5 last year under first-year head coach Butch Davis; who obviously wants this win as he did annually when coaching the Tar Heels.

Canes might start a little bit slow; lots of familiar faces across the ball, bringing their best—but talent ultimately prevails. Stay healthy. Get ready for the short week.

Canes 44, Golden Panthers 13

Miami at North Carolina September 27th — The Canes and Tar Heels had a spirited Thursday night affair back in 2013; down 23-13 early fourth quarter, before rallying behind Dallas Crawford—in for the injured Duke Johnson—with a 27-23 comeback.

This time around, a Thursday night in South Florida—giving Miami an extra two days to prepare for Florida State the following Saturday.

The Tar Heels are backsliding under Larry Fedora, though injuries played a big part in 3-9 last season. Entering 2018, again picked near the bottom of the ACC.

Miami’s defense should hold strong against North Carolina’s offensive inexperience, while the Canes’ offense should be hitting it’s stride, four games in.

Thursday night ESPN showdowns can often turn thrilling, here’s hoping this sets up for a nationally-televised coming-out part for the Canes—nine days leading up to the annual throw down with Florida State.

Miami gets it done against North Carolina, behind a rowdy home crowd that ramps up the environment in a way a Canes’ home game hasn’t been seen in years.

Canes 40, Tar Heels 16

Miami vs. Florida State October 6th — The Noles have taken six-in-a-row on the road against the Canes; Miami’s last home win coming in overtime 14 years ago. Most of those came against Jimbo Fisher-led FSU squads—casting a big shadow for Willie Taggart.

The home losing streak in the series started in 2006 and runs through 2016—Miami irrelevant for most of that run. This is the first time in a long time the Canes are truly the better squad and most in-tact program, with the better coaching staff.

Before last year’s win in Tallahassee, breaking a six-game losing streak to the Noles, the Canes had forgotten how to beat their arch-rival—blowing leads or failing to close some winnable games in this series over the past few years.

HardRock would’ve blown up had someone lit a match last October against Notre Dame—while the atmosphere for Virginia Tech was also next-level. The Canes won some big games on the main stage, again—and has a distinct home field advantage nights like these.

More to come on this one early October, but feeling like Miami will have another huge Notre Dame-like moment where all eyes are on them—in a prime time setting—with a chance to put a stamp on the season. What they do with it; we’ll find out in six weeks.

Canes win, but no final score prediction until early October.

Miami at VirginiaOctober 13th — As quirky a road venue the Canes face in the ACC. Good UM teams have struggled in Charlottesville, while average or awful ones both found ways to fumble away victories.

Much like last season’s showdown, the Cavaliers are getting the Canes on an adrenaline drop-off. This year, a week after Florida State. Last year, Virginia trekked south days after Miami rocked Notre Dame.

The hangover was immediate on Senior Day; UVA twice building 14-point leads against UM in the first half. Kurt Benkert picked Miami’s secondary apart in the first half, before the Canes’ defense reset the game’s tone and blew the game wide open.

Exit Benkert, enter Bryce Perkins—a transfer from Arizona State; the opposite of Benkert as a dual-threat, mobile quarterback more in line with the offense head coach Bronco Mendenhall wants to run, going into his third season.

Miami is far and away the better squad and on paper, things roll smoothly. That said, Scott Stadium has some rough memories. Canes should roll, but a weird game here wouldn’t be a shocker, either.

Canes 38, Cavaliers 17

Miami at Boston CollegeOctober 20th — Maybe it’s the memories of second-ranked Clemson falling at Syracuse on a Friday night last season, but this game just feels like bad juju. Chestnut Hill has risen up and given Miami some hell over the years.

The Canes have only lost to Boston College twice since “Hail Flutie”—2007 and 2011, both after leaving the BIG EAST for the ACC in 2004. Prior to the conference switch, Miami had won 14 in a row.

Canes that eventually won national championships had their struggles at Alumni Stadium—the 1991 Canes eking out a 19-14 road win, while the 2001 squad survived via a miracle deflection-turned-returned-interception, 18-7.

Miami won 17-14 at Boston College in 1995, survived 45-44 in overtime in 1997 and had a monster road comeback in 1999, down 28-0, before prevailing, 31-28—Tom O’Brien on the losing end of most heartbreaks for the Eagles.

Steve Addazio is in charger these days, entering his sixth season with a record in the .500 region—though some are predicting a turnaround for Boston College this year; especially with running back A.J. Dillon leading the charge.

Looking at the schedule every season, there is a bonafide trap game. Some feel bigger than others and are real, while others are just theory and a reason to pay extra attention.

Lots of football to be played leading up to this one, but something about Chestnut Hill on a Friday night in late October feels bad. Alumni Stadium will be rocking, Dillon will be rolling and with the quirky Friday night upset magic that seems to brew, having a bad feeling about this one already.

Eagles 27, Canes 24

Miami at DukeNovember 3rd — The luster has worn off of David Cutcliffe and his Blue Devils over the past few seasons; five years back, winning the Coastal and falling en route to a 10-3 season. Last year, a 7-6 run on the heels of 4-8 in 2016.

Not a whole lot is expected out of the Blue Devils this season; picked 10th in the ACC power rankings and fourth in the Coastal. The days of Duke giving Miami a true scare appear to be in the rearview.

Cutcliffe is a fine coach, but like last year’s showdown at HardRock—the Canes piled 14 on in the fourth quarter, while holding Duke scoreless in the second half for a 31-6 victory. Safe to pencil in something similar in Durham early November.

Canes 31, Blue Devils 16

Miami at Georgia TechNovember 10th — Another one that has *upset* written all over it as the Yellow Jackets have given the Canes fits—especially in Atlanta—since joining the ACC. Georgia Tech is picked 11th in the ACC power rankings this season and fifth in the Coastal—though there are always a lot of unknowns with this quirky Paul Johnson-led squad.

Nate Woody abandoned his post at Appalachian State to take over the Ramblin’ Wreck’s defense this season—so how he handles the Canes’ offense remains an unknown. What is known; Miami has athletes on the defensive side of the ball and a front seven that will come to play.

All those losses to Georgia Tech in the mid-2000′s; all the Randy Shannon chatter about “assignment football” and what not, as the Yellow Jackets were delivering woodshed beatings and racking up rushing yards—it seems to have passed.

Richt and the Canes won by two touchdowns on the road in 2016, while eking out a miracle finish last season at home 25-24—UM now taking seven of the past eight against GT. The lone loss; 2014 where Johnson’s squad controlled the clock all night and Miami barely got any touches.

As long as the time of possession doesn’t grossly swing in the Jackets’ favor and the Canes aren’t going three-and-out often, Miami should get the job done at Bobby Dodd Stadium.

Canes 30, Yellow Jackets 19

Miami at Virginia TechNovember 17th — The game of the year for the Canes any way you slice or dice it. The Coastal is always the goal; as there’s no ACC Championship game without taking the division. Like it’s always been since the BIG EAST days, the road to glory rolls through Blacksburg.

The Hokies are ranked second in the Coastal and fifth in the overall ACC rankings, entering year three of the Justin Fuente era. Miami jumped all over Virginia Tech last season down in South Florida, as HardRock came to life in electrifying fashion. Lane Stadium will do the same this year, giving the Hokies an advantage—as could the weather, lows dipping into the mid-30′s nighttime in mid-November.

All that to say, going to have faith in Miami’s big game ability—something lost under the past few head coaches, but something Richt understand and has prevailed in year two, after UM gave away a few winnable games in 2016.

The Hokies still seem a year or two away from where Fuente wants them to be—and with the Coastal on the line for the Canes at this point of the season, have to believe Miami weathers the initial storm and prevails in a must-win road game.

Canes 31, Hokies 23

Miami vs. PittsburghNovember 24th — The game where things fell apart on the road last season—a noon kickoff the Friday after Thanksgiving—this showdown takes place in South Florida, the final Saturday of the college football regular season.

The Panthers were a a focused four-win bunch last go-around, treating the Canes like their post-season as they lacked the win total to make a bowl. Kenny Pickett delivered at quarterback—as did Pittsburgh’s defense—in the 24-14 upset. Pickett returns, as does much of that defense. Still, this is a barely average squad that Miami isn’t going to sleep on this season.

This is a “revenge game”, though no one will verbalize it week-of. Malik Rosier had a terrible showing last season in this game, where the season pretty much unraveled as the Canes got rolled by Clemson in the ACC Championship a week later and then ran out of gas against Wisconsin in the Orange Bowl.

Little fanfare this go around. The Canes will most-likely need the win for Coastal supremacy, as well—so expecting a complete game here and little noise from the Panthers.

Canes 34, Panthers 17

FINAL TAKE: Ultimately expecting a season similar to what Miami did in 2017, albeit (hopefully) without as many nail-biters and close games. Have a hard time seeing the Canes going undefeated through the regular season as instability on the offensive line, question marks regarding how much Rosier has matured / improved as well as a lack of depth with Miami’s defensive front seven. UM is inching closer towards going next-level under Richt, but it still feels another year or two away.

The early part of the season seems manageable, but the latter half features a handful of road games that seem impossible to negotiate without any setbacks. Last season Miami played five of their final seven game at home—including nationally televised, prime time battles against Virginia Tech and Notre Dame, where HardRock provided a distinct advantage. (Meanwhile, the Canes struggled on the road against a bad North Carolina team and lost to an equally-as-bad Pittsburgh squad.)

This season, four of the final six are on the road—Miami needing to get wins in venues that have proven historically troubling over the years; at Virginia, at Boston College, at Georgia Tech and at Virginia Tech. Assuming Miami is 6-0 going into that stretch, hard to not see at least one road loss—maybe two.

Winning at Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech will prove crucial for Coastal rankings-sake. It’d also help the Canes if the Seminoles can take out the Hokies week one, to offer a little breathing room—while the Yellow Jackets get both Clemson and Louisville out-of-division this season, which should take a toll.

Winning the Coastal back-to-back, getting another crack at Clemson and reaching another quality bowl game (as the Tigers will reach the Playoffs, again)—it’d be a successful third season for Richt as he works towards another quality class for 2019.

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