After a disappointing 6-7 season, the Miami Hurricanes have made their 2015 goal clear, which is to play in the school’s first ACC Championship Game. In the 11 years since joining the conference, the team has averaged 4.2 wins a season in ACC play.
If quarterback Brad Kaaya and Miami want to win the ACC Coastal Division, the team may have to do a lot better than four wins in the conference. The team will have a tough October schedule, as they play four opponents who could be contending for the ACC title.
Here are Miami’s 12 regular season games, ranked from easiest to the most difficult.
12. Sept. 5 vs. Bethune-Cookman
This is what you would call a typical cupcake opponent to begin the season. While Bethune-Cookman finished the 2014 season with a 9-3 record, Miami has way too much talent for this game to be competitive. Bethune-Cookman is the only FCS team on Miami's schedule in 2015, so that’s why this game is at No. 12.
11. Sept. 11 (Friday) at FAU
The FAU Owls return 13 starters from last year’s team, but that team ended the 2014 season with a 3-9 record. While senior quarterback Jaquez Johnson could give the leaky Canes defense a little trouble, the Owls don’t have enough skill position players to keep the game close against Miami. After the Hurricanes visit to FAU, the schedule gets very difficult.
10. Nov. 7 vs. Virginia
Despite losing 30-13 to Virginia last season, this is a game Miami should win. The Cavaliers have major questions at the quarterback position and the game is at Sun Life Stadium.
9. Oct 31 at Duke
Duke will have a lot of major pieces to replace on offense, including at quarterback. While the Blue Devils have given Miami trouble the last few seasons, Duke will have to replace three of its four starters on the defensive line.
8. Nov. 27 (Friday) at Pittsburgh
Miami’s last game of the regular season at Pittsburgh isn’t easy by any means, but the rest of the games on the team’s schedule are more daunting. Both teams are evenly matched, so Pittsburgh cannot be overlooked.
7. Oct. 1 (Thursday) at Cincinnati
The Cincinnati Bearcats have been picked by many to win the American Athletic Conference. The Bearcats return nine starters from a team that won nine games a season ago. This will be the Canes’ tune-up before the trip to face Florida State nine days later.
6. Sept. 19 vs. Nebraska
There’s a new regime at Nebraska, as Mike Riley takes over as head coach. While running back Ameer Abdullah is gone, the team still has quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. Armstrong accumulated 3,400 yards in total offense last season.
5. Nov. 14 at North Carolina
North Carolina hasn’t had a problem scoring points. The team’s biggest issue the last couple of seasons has been giving up too many. With new defensive coordinator Gene Chizik now in Chapel Hill, the Tar Heels could be a dark horse to win the ACC Coastal.
4. Oct. 17 vs. Virginia Tech
Last season, Miami ran all over Virginia Tech, rushing for 364 yards in Blacksburg. The Hokies return eight starters on defense, so things could be a bit different this time at Sun Life Stadium.
3. Nov. 21 vs. Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech are the favorites to repeat as Coastal Division champions, but at least Miami will play the Yellow Jackets at home. The Hurricanes will attempt to avenge last season’s 28-17 loss in Atlanta.
2. Oct. 24 vs. Clemson
Clemson could very well end up winning the ACC title this season. The reason this game is at No. 2 on the list is because it is at Sun Life Stadium and not Clemson Memorial Stadium. This will be the third straight ACC contender Miami will play in October.
1. Oct. 10 at Florida State
Despite Florida State only returning three starters on offense, the team is still loaded, especially defensively. This could be the year that Miami ends its five-game losing streak against the Seminoles. The problem for the Hurricanes, however, is that this game is in Tallahassee, where Florida State hasn’t lost since the 2012 season.
— 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.