A year after they were contending for a spot in the College Football Playoff, the Miami Hurricanes took a few steps back in 2018. After their 33-17 season-opening loss to the LSU Tigers, it felt like the Hurricanes' season was going downhill before it really began.
Miami finished with a 7-6 record, which included an embarrassing 35-3 loss to the Wisconsin Badgers in the Pinstripe Bowl. Days after the season ended, Mark Richt decided to retire and Manny Diaz, who had served as the Hurricanes defensive coordinator, was named as his replacement.
In a short time, Diaz has put his stamp on the Hurricanes program. If that can translate into wins remains to be seen.
What Miami knows is it is one of the favorites to win the ACC Coastal Division this upcoming season. The Canes have a favorable schedule, which includes back-to-back home games against the Virginia Tech Hokies and the Virginia Cavaliers. However, Miami has to face Pittsburgh and Florida State on the road and will take on in-state rival Florida in Orlando to open the season.
Athlon Sports asked a few editors and one of its college football contributors to share their win/loss projection for Miami in 2019.
Miami Football Game-by-Game Predictions for 2019
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Miami is an interesting team. The Coastal Division (as usual) is wide open, and the Hurricanes have more talent than last year's record (7-6) showed. Additionally, this team gets its biggest competition in the division – Virginia Tech and Virginia – at home. New coach Manny Diaz has a few holes to fill on defense, but this unit should rank near the top of the ACC once again. However, similar to last year, the offense is the unit with the biggest concerns. Diaz hit a home run with his hire of Dan Enos as play-caller, and the former Alabama assistant is tasked with developing N'Kosi Perry, Jarren Williams and Tate Martell in an intriguing quarterback battle. The quarterback play should be better, but Miami's offensive line remains a big concern. The development of that unit could decide whether or not Diaz wins the Coastal in his first year. Regardless of whether or not the Hurricanes are in Charlotte this December, this team should improve on last season's win total.
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
The schedule sets up nicely in Year 1 for Manny Diaz. The Hurricanes do not play Clemson, clearly the best team from the Atlantic Division, or Syracuse, our pick at Athlon Sports as the No. 2 team in the division. Plus, Miami hosts Virginia Tech and Virginia, arguably two of the top three teams (along with UM) in the Coastal. The ACC opener against North Carolina, in Week 2, will be key; if the Canes can steal a road win, there is a good chance they could be 4–0 (with wins over both UVA and Virginia Tech) when they head to Pitt on Oct. 19. Depending on how the season unfolds, there is a chance that Miami could be favored in every game other than the opener against Florida.
Antwan Staley (@antwanstaley)
Each year, Hurricanes fans believe they're going to win the ACC Coastal. When analysts predict against them, those same fans tend to let their feelings be known. Miami could undoubtedly win the Coastal, and it wouldn't be a surprise to many. But in Year 1, can Manny Diaz, who is a first-time head coach, guide the Hurricanes to the division title?
Miami opens their season against a Florida team that won 10 games a season ago and still expects to be ranked in the preseason top 10. After that, the Hurricanes will travel to Chapel Hill to take on the North Carolina Tar Heels in their ACC opener. There's a possibility the Hurricanes could start the season 0-2, but 1-1 is the more likely scenario.
The biggest question in regards to the Hurricanes is if the starting quarterback will be N'Kosi Perry, Jarren Williams or Ohio State transfer Tate Martell? The second biggest on the offensive end will be how quickly the players can learn new offensive coordinator Dan Enos system?
Although the expectations are lower than they were a year ago, the division title and a trip to Charlotte for the ACC Championship Game are both certainly in reach. But there are a lot of questions the team needs to address if they want to return to their 2017 status.