Miami Hurricanes college football preview 2021: Can the Canes play for an ACC Championship?

The Miami Hurricanes enjoyed a relatively successful 9-3 campaign in 2020 with a midseason 25-point loss to Clemson illustrating that there’s much more work that needs to be done before the ‘U’ is officially “back”.

The Canes were clutch throughout most of their ACC schedule, winning five ballgames by two scores or less before the bottom fell out in an embarrassing 62-26 loss to North Carolina in the season finale. This prompted head coach Manny Diaz to shake up his defensive coaching staff, effectively dumping DC Blake Baker and making himself the defensive playcaller. With a boatload of returning starters, including quarterback D’Eriq King, Miami will gun for their first ACC Coastal crown since 2017 and possibly their first outright league title.

2020 Season Review

2021 Talent

2021 247Sports Composite Ranking: 11
ESPN Returning Production: 91 overall (3rd): 95% offense (1st), 86% defense (12th)
Returning Talent Index: Positive, 1st in ACC
Returning starters: 11/11 offense, 9/11 defense
* All rankings out of 130 FBS schools

Key Player

Quarterback: D’Eriq King (Senior)

Beginning his career by converting an improbable 4th-and-24 pass to lead Houston over USF in 2017, the legend of D’Eriq King has grown since then and transfer portal brought him to Miami last season, where he completed 64 percent of his passes for 2,686 yards, 23 touchdowns and five interceptions to go along with an additional 538 yards and four scores on the ground.

A darkhorse Heisman candidate heading into the 2021 campaign, he unfortunately tore his ACL in the Cheez-It Bowl and has spent the offseason recovering. How effective he is coming off the injury will make a huge difference for how the Canes perform in the fall and we’ll get a good glimpse of that when they open the season against defending national champion Alabama in Atlanta.

Offense (non-QB): LT Zion Nelson (Sophomore)

Of course, how well King will hold up throughout the season will rest on the how well the offensive line holds up and left tackle Zion Nelson, who is being projected as a first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, is at the forefront. Starting on a tire fire of an offensive line in 2019, Nelson took a huge leap forward and helped the Canes allow 1.5 less sacks a game in 2020.

Defense: Safety Bubba Bolden (Junior)

One of several key upperclassmen returning to the fold, Bolden earned Second Team All-ACC honors in the COVID shortened 2020 season, coming away with 74 tackles, four forced fumbles and two blocked kicks. He’ll look to continue to make plays for a seemingly more aggressive Miami defense under Diaz’s influence.

Team Stats Projections

2020 SP+ final: 20th overall: 33rd offense, 31st defense, 3rd special teams
2021 SP+ projection: 8th overall: 11th offense, 13th defense

To win national title: +8000
To win ACC: +700
Win total: 9.5 (Over +110, Under -139)

2020 Against The Spread: 6-5
2020 Point Total: 6-5

2021 Miami Schedule

2021 Miami Hurricanes Football Schedule

Date Opponent Time (ET)/TV Spread/Total
Date Opponent Time (ET)/TV Spread/Total
Saturday, Sep. 4 vs. Alabama (Mercedes-Benz Stadium, ATL) 3:30 p.m./ABC UM +17.5
Saturday, Sep. 11 vs. App State 7:00 p.m./ESPN2 or U N/A
Saturday, Sep. 18 vs. Michigan State 12:00 p.m./ABC or ESPN UM -17.5
Saturday, Sep. 25 vs. CCSU TBA N/A
Thursday, Sep. 30 vs. Virginia 7:30 p.m./ESPN N/A
Saturday, Oct. 9 Open TBA N/A
Saturday, Oct. 16 at North Carolina TBA UM +2.5
Saturday, Oct. 23 vs. NC State TBA N/A
Saturday, Oct. 30 at Pitt TBA N/A
Saturday, Nov. 6 vs. Georgia Tech TBA N/A
Saturday, Nov. 13 at Florida State TBA N/A
Saturday, Nov. 20 vs. Virginia Tech TBA N/A
Saturday, Nov. 27 at Duke TBA N/A