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Miami Football: Hurricanes' 2022 Schedule Analysis

Mario Cristobal, Miami Hurricanes Football

The Mario Cristobal era leading the Hurricanes opens with two very winnable home games followed by a huge showdown on the road against an SEC West opponent 

It's a new era of Miami football as Mario Cristobal hopes to return the Hurricanes back to their glory years.

Cristobal replaces Manny Diaz, who was Miami's head coach for three seasons but was fired in early December. Now Cristobal hopes to recreate the same type of success that he had at Oregon, where the Ducks played in the past three Pac-12 Championship Games, winning two of them.

Beyond Cristobal, there's a lot of optimism in Coral Gables these days as Tyler Van Dyke, the third-year sophomore and the 2021 ACC Rookie of the Year, returns after passing for 2,931 yards, 25 touchdowns to just six interceptions while completing 62.3 percent of his attempts. What also helps is the Hurricanes have a pretty favorable schedule. And despite being on the job less than two months, Cristobal helped Miami finish with a top-15 recruiting class.

Related: Hurricanes' 2022 Spring Preview

Miami opens its slate with two home games but also must navigate two huge road games in hostile environments. Let's briefly look at the Hurricanes' slate for Cristobal's first season back at his alma mater.

Miami Hurricanes' 2022 Schedule

Bye: Week 5

Week 1 – Sept. 3 vs. Bethune-Cookman (Miami Gardens, Fla.)

The Mario Cristobal era begins against a Bethune-Cookman team that should be pretty easy to defeat. Miami has won all five games against the in-state Wildcats from the FCS ranks by a score of 232-37. The last time the two teams played each other was in 2019, a game the Canes won 63-0.

Week 2 – Sept. 10 vs. Southern Miss (Miami Gardens, Fla.)

Week 2 will bring a Conference USA opponent to Hard Rock Stadium in Southern Miss, who went just 3-9 last season. Second-year head coach Will Hall does have some momentum after the Golden Eagles won their last two to finish off the campaign. However, this is a game the home team should win convincingly before the showdown with Texas A&M.

Week 3 – Sept. 17 at Texas A&M (College Station, Texas)

Miami will look to turn around its recent fortunes against SEC teams when it travels to College Station to take on Texas A&M. The Aggies are coming off a bit of a disappointing 8-4 season, but they did earn a huge win at home over eventual conference champion and national runner-up Alabama. This is a bit of a measuring stick game for the Hurricanes, but a loss would not doom them since this is an out-of-conference matchup in mid-September.

Week 4 – Sept. 24 vs. Middle Tennessee State (Miami Gardens, Fla.)

After tangling with Texas A&M, Miami returns home to play a Middle Tennessee team that finished 7-6 last season, ending the campaign with a Bahamas Bowl victory over Toledo. The Blue Raiders' offense averaged 30 points and 361 yards a game in 2021 and returns several starters from that team. One of the holdovers is sophomore quarterback Nick Vattiato, who initially was the backup last season before being elevated to starter midway through the schedule.

Week 6 – Oct. 8 vs. North Carolina (Miami Gardens, Fla.)

North Carolina has had Miami's number the last few seasons. The Tar Heels have defeated the Hurricanes three consecutive times, including last season's 45-42 victory in Chapel Hill. North Carolina will be replacing several key pieces, including quarterback Sam Howell, who opted to enter the NFL draft. Redshirt freshman Drake Maye and sophomore Jacolby Criswell are competing for the starting quarterback job and both were impressive in the team's spring game.

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Week 7 – Oct. 15 at Virginia Tech (Blacksburg, Va.)

Like Miami, Virginia Tech also made a coaching change, firing Justin Fuente after six seasons. The Hokies hired Brent Pry, who was previously the defensive coordinator at Penn State.

Pry is tasked with improving a Virginia Tech team that finished 6-7 last season, including an embarrassing 54-10 loss to Maryland in the Pinstripe Bowl.

Week 8 – Oct. 22 vs. Duke (Miami Gardens, Fla.)

Duke also has a new head coach with Mike Elko taking over for David Cutcliffe, who stepped down after 14 years at the helm. Elko is known for his work as a defensive coordinator, and spent the past four seasons at Texas A&M in that role. He will be looking to turn around a Blue Devils program that has posted three straight losing campaigns, going 10-25 during that span.

Week 9 – Oct. 29 at Virginia (Miami Gardens, Fla.)

New coaches seem to be a theme in the ACC as Tony Elliott is the next man in charge in Charlottesville after Bronco Mendenhall surprisingly resigned after six seasons. The Cavaliers went 6-6 last season and were invited to play in the inaugural Fenway Bowl but had to pull out due to COVID-19 issues.

Virginia features one of the top quarterbacks in college football in Brennan Armstrong, who threw for 4,449 yards and 31 touchdowns with 10 interceptions in 2021. It will be interesting to see how well Armstrong and Elliott, who spent the last seven seasons as offensive coordinator (sharing the duties with Jeff Scott from 2015-19) at Clemson, work together.

Week 10 – Nov. 5 vs. Florida State (Miami Gardens, Fla.)

Miami will be looking for revenge when Florida State comes to Hard Rock Stadium to begin November. The Seminoles defeated the Hurricanes last season 31-28, which was the game that ultimately got former athletic director Blake James fired. That also set the wheels in motion in regards to the eventual coaching change. FSU is coming off a 5-7 showing, as Mike Norvell is still searching for his first bowl appearance entering his third season at the helm.

Week 11 – Nov. 12 at Georgia Tech (Atlanta)

Georgia Tech head coach Geoff Collins enters the 2022 season on the hot seat. The Yellow Jackets have yet to win more than three games in any of Collins' three seasons. He also enters the fall with a six-game losing streak and the lowest winning percentage (.265) of any full-time coach in Georgia Tech history. Needless to say, the Yellow Jackets will need to show massive improvement this fall.

Week 12 – Nov. 19 at Clemson (Clemson, S.C.)

This is the second measuring stick game on the road for Miami with the destination the week before Thanksgiving being Death Valley. The 2021 season was a bit of a step back for Clemson, which still went 10-3 even though its six-year reign as conference champions came to an end.

Even though Dabo Swinney is replacing both coordinators and some key players, the Tigers figure to be tough once again, especially on defense.

Week 13 – Nov. 26 vs. Pittsburgh (Miami Gardens, Fla.)

Miami and Pittsburgh always tend to have exciting games and last year was no different. The Hurricanes defeated the Panthers 38-34 as Tyler Van Dyke outdueled Heisman Trophy finalist and projected first-round pick Kenny Pickett. Now that Pickett is gone, the Panthers will have a different man under center with USC transfer Kedon Slovis and Nick Patti the two front-runners. This game could decide which team represents the Coastal in the ACC Championship Game the following Saturday in Charlotte, North Carolina.

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— 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, Pro Player Insiders, and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.