Mark Richt and the Hurricanes look to take that next step after winning the ACC Coastal last season
From a positive standpoint, Miami finally break through and won the ACC Coastal Division last season. The bad news is the Hurricanes got destroyed by Clemson 38-3 in their first ACC Championship Game appearance.
Now, not only will the ‘Canes look to defend their division title, their goal is to take that next step and win the ACC and/or have a shot at winning a national title.
Here are three reasons Miami will make their first-ever College Football Playoff and three potential issues that could keep the Hurricanes on the outside looking in.
Three Reasons Why Miami Will Make the College Football Playoff in 2018
Miami's defense is by far the team's biggest strength. The Hurricanes return seven starters on the defensive side of the ball, including All-AmerIca candidates safety Jaquan Johnson and linebacker Shaq Quarterman.
Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz does have some holes to fill on the defensive line, but this unit was the primary reason Miami won so many close games a season ago. And with a schedule that includes four of the final six games on the road, the Hurricanes’ defense will be counted on once again.
2. Talented roster
For the second straight year, head coach Mark Richt and his staff were able to sign a top-10 recruiting class. Now the Hurricanes, unlike in previous seasons, are beginning to stockpile talent, much the upper echelon programs such as Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, etc.
Having a deep and talented roster is important for a number of reasons. The first is injuries will arises during the course of the season for every team. So the Hurricanes will need depth that is ready to step in when the need arises. The ability to continue to play at a high level even if the team is not at full strength is a sign that The U is back among the top dogs.
3. Experienced offensive line
Unlike previous years, the offensive line won't be a question mark entering the season. Miami is projected to return three starters up front along with two upperclassmen -- right tackle George Brown and left guard Jahair Jones -- who are expected to fill the other two spots. The Hurricanes’ quarterback situation may be unsettled but that is not the case with the offensive line.
Three Reasons Why Miami Won’t Make the College Football Playoff in 2018
Malik Rosier (above, right) is No. 1 on the depth chart entering fall camp, but that doesn't mean he will remain the starter. He will have to compete with N'Kosi Perry and true freshman Jarren Williams, both former four-star recruits.
In the Hurricanes’ final three games in 2017 (all losses), Rosier completed only 44.9 percent of his passes. While some of his inefficient play was due to injuries, Rosier just flat out missed a number of open receivers at times. If the Hurricanes have aspirations of reaching the College Football Playoff, the quarterback play will certainly have to improve.
2. Defensive line
Miami’s first line of defense will look and operate differently this fall. Not only did the position group lose three starters to the NFL draft, defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski departed to join Nick Saban’s staff at Alabama.
Last season, the Hurricanes led the nation in sacks (3.4) and were fourth in tackles for a loss (8.5) per game. The only returning starter is end Joe Jackson, who recorded 6.5 sacks and 11.5 TFL in 2017. If Miami can’t produce similar results when it comes to plays behind the line of scrimmage that will put even more pressure on its secondary.
3. Mark Richt
While Richt has done an excellent job in his two-plus season at Miami, there are still questions if he is the right man that can lead the Hurricanes to a national champion or even an ACC title.
In two years, Kirby Smart had a lot of the players Richt recruited while he was at Georgia playing for the national title against Alabama. For as much success as Richt had at Georgia, especially given the resources available to him, he still won a total of two SEC championships in his 15 seasons there. Until he can lead the Hurricanes to an ACC title or the playoff, Richt will continue to have his doubters.
Coming off of their first ACC Coastal Division title and conference championship game appearance, the Hurricanes are on the rise. The question is will 2018 be the year Miami gets a shot at playing for the program’s first national championship since 2002?
The skill positions are stacked as they usually are. The Hurricanes chances will depend on what happens at the quarterback position. When Malik Rosier plays well, Miami should have a chance against almost any team in the nation. The question is, can Rosier regain his confidence from a year ago? Or is one of the young signal-callers ready to seize the job?
With Clemson arguably being the favorite to win another ACC title as well as compete for the national championship, the Hurricanes are probably a year away from being considered a serious threat to dethrone the Tigers. But if the team can win the Coastal and play in a New Year’s Six Bowl again it will only add to the momentum and lay the foundation for even more success in 2019.
Athlon’s Projected Final Ranking: 6
Athlon’s Projected Final Record: 10-3 (6-2, ACC)
Bovada Projected Over/Under Odds: 9.5
5 Dimes Over/Under Odds: 9
-- 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.