Things didn't go as expected for Manny Diaz during his first season as the Miami Hurricanes' head coach.
The team finished 6-7, which includes a 14-0 Independence Bowl loss to Louisiana Tech. Now the Hurricanes will try to put that behind them as they try to return to the ACC Championship Game for the first time since 2017.
First, they will need to get through their 11-game season, which will include 10 conference games because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Miami is currently slated to begin its season against a UAB team that finished 9-5 last season. In ACC play, the Hurricanes will have to travel to Louisville, Clemson, NC State, Virginia Tech, and Wake Forest in 2020.
Athlon Sports asked a couple of editors and a college football contributor to give their win/loss projection for Miami this upcoming season.
Miami Football Game-by-Game Predictions for 2020
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
The Hurricanes are a wild card team to watch in the ACC this fall. On one hand, the Hurricanes are coming off a disappointing 6-7 record and struggled to put the pieces in place for an offense that averaged a disappointing 25.7 points a contest. However, coach Manny Diaz tapped into the portal for the second offseason in a row and landed several impact players. Former Temple end Quincy Roche will help fill the void left behind by Gregory Rousseau’s early departure to the NFL, and kicker (FIU transfer) Jose Borregales could make a difference in close games. Offensively, tackle Jarrid Williams is a huge addition to a struggling line, but the biggest arrival is quarterback D’Eriq King. Expectations are high for the Houston transfer after he notched 50 total touchdowns in 2018. If King and coordinator Rhett Lashlee are able to get the offense on track, and the defense maintains its performance from 2019, contending for a finish in the top four in ACC is within reach. However, Miami has a tough road slate – Louisville, Virginia Tech and Clemson – and hosts North Carolina on Dec. 5.
Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR)
After a disappointing start to Manny Diaz' tenure, optimism was on the rise after an offseason that saw the arrival of two key transfers and the introduction of a new offensive coordinator. Unfortunately, that sentiment has since been tempered with the news that the Hurricanes' best player, defensive end Gregory Rousseau, has opted out. Miami should still be a better team, especially if new quarterback D'Eriq King and OC Rhett Lashlee get on the same page quickly, but Rousseau's absence is a significant one as he led the ACC and finished second in the nation in sacks.
Adding to the Canes' degree of difficulty is a schedule that opens with UAB followed by Louisville, Florida State and Clemson in a row (with a bye mixed in). Unless Miami hits the ground running, I think that stretch of games will be enough to put them too far down in the standings to compete for a spot in the ACC title game. But fans should be able to take some solace in a winning record as Diaz' vision for the program starts to come into focus.
Antwan Staley (@antwanstaley)
The loss of defensive end Gregory Rousseau is huge because he was an Athlon Sports preseason All-American and a favorite to win ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors before opting out of the season. Last season, Rousseau recorded 15.5 sacks, which led the ACC. The good news is that the Hurricanes defense is loaded with talent, and their defensive line is good enough to overcome Rousseau's loss. The biggest question is how quickly their offense comes together under the tutelage of offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee. If D'Eriq King and Lashlee can get things going quickly, then the Hurricanes could potentially be a sleeper pick to make the ACC Championship Game this season. However, I believe there will be some ups and downs, especially with their early-season visits to Louisville and Clemson. Miami should be a much better team as 2020 goes on, but will that be enough for Canes fans who have been desperate for the glory years to return to Coral Gables?