Manny Diaz will enter his third season at the helm of the Miami Hurricanes program this fall. The first two seasons have produced mixed results.
In 2019, the Hurricanes lost their last three games to finish 6-7. Then last year, Miami did bounce back somewhat, going 8-3 overall but those three losses were blowouts courtesy of Clemson (42-17) and North Carolina (62-26) and to Oklahoma State (37-34) in the Cheez-It Bowl.
Now Miami fans are hoping 2021 is the year the Hurricanes can win the ACC Coastal and play in the conference championship game in Charlotte. In order to do that, Miami needs to navigate a difficult schedule.
Let's take a look at how this fall's slate lines up for the Hurricanes.
Miami Hurricanes 2021 Schedule
Bye: Week 6
Week 1 – Sept. 4 vs. Alabama (Atlanta)
Miami's season opener will be anything but a walk in the park, facing Alabama in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The Crimson Tide are not only the defending national champions, but they will enter the season as one of the favorites to return to the College Football Playoff. Yes, Nick Saban said farewell to a bevy of talented players from last season's undefeated squad, but 'Bama reloads instead of rebuilds.
Week 2 – Sept. 11 vs. Appalachian State (Miami Gardens, Fla.)
Miami's home opener won't be any easier with Appalachian State coming to Hard Rock Stadium. One of the top Group of 5 programs the past few seasons, the Mountaineers went 9-3 in 2020, including a convincing 56-28 victory over North Texas in the Myrtle Beach Bowl. App State beat both North Carolina and South Carolina in 2019, so the Hurricanes better be ready.
Week 3 – Sept. 18 vs. Michigan State (Miami Gardens, Fla.)
Miami was supposed to travel to East Lansing to play Michigan State a season ago. However, the COVID pandemic canceled most non-conference games. In Mel Tucker's first season as head coach, Michigan State went 2-5 during its shortened, Big Ten-only schedule. By this matchup, it is likely the Spartans would have settled on a starting quarterback as Payton Thorne and Temple transfer Anthony Russo are the primary candidates for the starting job.
Week 4 – Sept. 25 vs. Central Connecticut (Miami Gardens, Fla.)
Miami will get a little bit of a break to wrap up its non-conference slate by hosting Central Connecticut before entering ACC play. The Blue Devils from the FCS ranks had their fall season canceled due to the pandemic and opted not to play this spring either. Central Connecticut posted an impressive 11-2 record in 2019 but shouldn’t pose much of a threat to the Canes.
Week 5 – Sept. 30 vs. Virginia (Miami Gardens, Fla.)
ACC plays opens at home against Virginia. Miami has won the last two games in the series, including a 19-14 victory last season. In 2020, the Cavaliers finished with a 5-5 record but elected not to play in a bowl game.
Week 7 – Oct. 16 at North Carolina (Chapel Hill, N.C.)
Miami likely has this game circled on the calendar. North Carolina has crushed the spirit of the Hurricanes in two different ways recently. In 2019, Sam Howell found Dazz Newsome in the end zone with 1:01 left to give the Tar Heels a 28-25 victory. Then UNC gashed Miami for 554 rushing yards in the 62-26 rout last season. Either the Heels or the Canes will likely be picked to win the Coastal Division.
Week 8 – Oct. 23 vs. NC State (Miami Gardens, Fla.)
Miami comes back to home to face NC State. The Hurricanes defeated the Wolfpack 44-41 in Raleigh last season. NC State was one of the surprise teams in the ACC, going 8-4 and earning a spot in the Gator Bowl. After Clemson, the Wolfpack could be the next team in the Atlantic Division pecking order.
Week 9 – Oct. 30 at Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh)
Miami and Pittsburgh have had some interesting matchups throughout the years, and next season probably won't be any different. The Hurricanes defeated the Panthers 31-19 at home last season. Pitt will have starting quarterback Kenny Pickett but will have to address questions along its offensive line and needs more production from the running game.
Week 10 – Nov. 6 vs. Georgia Tech (Miami Gardens, Fla.)
The Hurricanes will begin November against a pesky Georgia Tech team. Geoff Collins is 6-16 in his first two seasons leading the Yellow Jackets, who are transitioning from the triple-option offense. Georgia Tech does have talented quarterback Jeff Sims returning after throwing for 1,881 and 13 touchdowns as a freshman.
Week 11 – Nov. 13 at Florida State (Tallahassee, Fla.)
Miami has had Florida State's number recently. The Hurricanes have won four in a row against the Seminoles, including last season's 52-10 rout. FSU head coach Mike Norvell is looking for major improvement after a 3-6 debut and has turned to the transfer portal to bolster his roster. Former UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton, who hasn't played since suffering a gruesome leg injury late in the 2018 season, could be the Noles' starting quarterback by the time this game rolls around.
Week 12 – Nov. 20 vs. Virginia Tech (Miami Gardens, Fla.)
The Hurricanes will host one of their biggest rivals on Senior Day. Miami pulled out a 25-24 victory over Virginia Tech in Blacksburg a season ago behind 255 passing yards and two touchdowns from D'Eriq King. The Hokies are looking to bounce back after finishing 5-6 last season.
Week 13 – Nov. 27 at Duke (Durham, N.C.)
Miami will close things out on the road against Duke. The Hurricanes shut out the Blue Devils 48-0 last season, part of a disappointing 2-9 (1-9 ACC) showing from David Cutcliffe's team.
— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post and is a reporter for Pro Player Insiders. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.