The good news for the Miami Hurricanes is that their quarterback will return this season. The bad news is, he is coming off a severe knee injury suffered in late December during the Cheez-It Bowl.
D'Eriq King said during the ACC Football Kickoff in July that he feels "100 percent." This will be quickly tested as the Hurricanes open the season in Atlanta against defending national champion Alabama.
From there, Miami also hosts Appalachian State and Michigan State before entering ACC play. The Hurricanes get rival Virginia Tech in Hard Rock Stadium, but will have to travel to North Carolina and Florida State for matchups that could determine whether they contend for the ACC Coastal Division title.
If Miami defeats both UNC and FSU, that could earn a trip to Charlotte to play in the ACC Championship Game. Here's how a couple of Athlon Sports editors and a college football contributor see the Hurricanes' season playing out.
Miami Football Game-by-Game Predictions for 2021
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
I think Miami is right on the 10-2/9-3 record projection line this season. The ‘Canes should be underdogs versus Alabama and North Carolina, and I’ll guess this team stumbles one other time in the ACC (Coastal chaos after all). All signs point to quarterback D’Eriq King returning to full strength from an ACL injury in the bowl versus Oklahoma State but improvement on defense is a must for this team to win the division. Miami gave up 27 points a game and finished eighth in the ACC versus the run last season, which prompted coach Manny Diaz to take over the play-calling duties. This unit has talent, but the line was hit by a couple of key departures, and the linebackers remain a concern. The Hurricanes have the talent to go 11-1 or 10-2, but the overall unpredictability of the ACC and defensive concerns make me lean with 9-3.
Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR)
Even with a completely healthy, spry D'Eriq King, the Hurricanes are starting the season 0-1 barring something unforeseen happening in Atlanta against Alabama. From there, it should be smooth sailing until the showdown with North Carolina in Chapel Hill. That and the road game against archrival Florida State are the toughest ACC contests on the slate, although there are a couple of potential toss-ups along the way. If King is able and willing, Miami has a chance to make quite a bit of noise this season. It's highly likely that the ACC Coastal Division will be decided by that mid-October matchup with the Tar Heels. And motivation shouldn’t be an issue for the Canes after what happened the last time these two teams met.
Antwan Staley (@antwanstaley)
In his first two years in Coral Gables as Miami head coach, Manny Diaz has had his ups and downs. Entering year three, they're a lot of expectations for the Hurricanes, who will have to navigate a few problematic games.
The opener with Alabama aside, the Hurricanes will have an excellent chance to win the Coastal Division if a few things go their way. Getting D'Eriq King back certainly helps. Also, offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee's offensive attack should continue to get better in Year 2.
If Miami is going to win the Coastal, the defense will need to improve. Last season, the Hurricanes finished 51st in scoring defense, 76th in rushing, and 67th overall. Diaz's D has gotten continuously worse to the point where Miami allowed North Carolina to score 62 points and run for 554 yards alone in its own building last season. Having to replace three defensive players up front certainly doesn't help things. Bubba Bolden and Tyrique Stevenson will lead the secondary, which should be Miami's strength defensively.
Just one loss in the regular season isn't totally out of the question for the 'Canes, but they will need to win all the games they're supposed to and upset North Carolina in Chapel Hill. More than likely, Miami will remain in the Top 25 all season long but will lose a few games here and there.