Hurricanes open their season at home Thursday night against Conference USA's Blazers
Not only will the Hurricanes have a new quarterback in transfer D'Eriq King, but offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee comes over from SMU as he hopes to improve an attack that finished 98th in yards per game a year ago. That played a significant role in Miami's three consecutive losses to end the season.
As for UAB, they're already played in their first game of the season, as they defeated Central Arkansas 45-35. The win gave the Blazers their 19th consecutive home win.
Thursday will be the first meeting between Miami and UAB.
UAB at Miami
Kickoff: Thursday, Sept. 10 at 8 p.m. ET
TV: ACC Network
Spread: Miami -13.5
When UAB Has the Ball
UAB's strength offensively is their ground game, as they rushed for 233 yards in their win over Central Arkansas. Spencer Brown is the Blazers all-time rushing leaders with 3,249 career yards. But he will have his hands full trying to gain yardage against a stout Hurricanes defense.
Last season, Miami finished 17th in rushing defense, as they gave up 114.8 yards per game on the ground. However, the Hurricanes defense will look a lot different this year after defensive end Gregory Rousseau decided to opt-out due to COVID-19 concerns. Miami did add Temple transfer Quincy Roche, who was the AAC Defensive Player of the Year after finishing with 13 sacks and 19 tackles for loss.
Recently, Hurricanes defensive coordinator Blake Baker said their defensive tackles, particularly Jon Ford and Nesta Silvera have to be more consistent.
"Based off film last year, they showed flashes," Baker said in a Zoom press conference. "There were times they were really good, and times they could have been a lot better. The expectation is a lot more consistency from those two. Both bring something different. Jon Ford is a mammoth man who can get his hands [on offensive linemen]. Jade is quick twitch, sudden, plays with a serious edge. I’m excited about those two guys. If they’re both consistent, they both can be dominant."
UAB will also hope to get the ball into another playmaker in Austin Watkins Jr. Last season, Watkins finished with 57 receptions for 1,092 yards and six touchdowns. Against Central Arkansas, he registered seven catches for 72 yards.
When Miami Has the Ball
Last time King played a full season, he was responsible for 50 touchdowns in 2018, which led the nation as he also set an AAC record. He, especially in Lashlee's new high-tempo offense, believes the Hurricanes' offense can improve in a hurry.
Miami will need to replace a couple of playmakers this season as they lost K.J. Osborn and DeeJay Dallas to the draft. Brevin Jordan does return as he is possibly a first-round pick at tight end. Miami also has Cam'ron Harris, who will be RB1 this season after rushing for 576 yards a year ago.
UAB will try to combat Miami's offense with senior linebacker Kristopher Moll, who figures to be one of the leading candidates for C-USA Defensive Player of the Year. Last season, Moll registered 104 tackles, including nine sacks and 16 tackles for loss. The Blazers finished eighth in the nation in total defense after giving up 303.5 yards per game.
Miami shouldn't take UAB lightly, especially considering the Blazers won nine games a season ago. However, this is a game the Hurricanes should definitely win by double digits.
Last week, a Central Arkansas team with less talent was able to score 35 points on the UAB defense. With King, Harris, and Jordan, that will pose a lot of problems for the Blazers trying to contain them for four quarters.
Despite the losses on defense, Miami still has one of the most talented defenses in the nation. Last week, the Blazers used a two-headed attack of Tyler Johnston III and Bryson Lucero.
Expect some fireworks at Hard Rock Stadium, but the Hurricanes have the advantage across the board.
Prediction: Miami 47, UAB 24
— 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.