Which Miami opponents will be strongest this year? It would be easier to put off that question until we know who’s playing quarterback at a few places. Still, we know enough after the completion of spring ball to offer this general rundown.
Keep in mind, opponents are ranked by their expected makeup, not difficulty of the situation the Canes will face (home vs. road, scheduling factors).
1. Florida State
Getting Derwin James back will change the way the Seminoles play defense, and they have Deondre Francois returning for a second year, which means they have more quarterback experience than most teams in the ACC. The O-line and receiving corps are concerns, but the Noles are good. Also, forget the memes about Cam Akers’ height – he looks like a legit No. 1 back.
Betting USC transfer Max Browne will be the answer at QB, and that Pitt’s defense will improve in a third season under Pat Narduzzi. James Conner is gone, but receivers Quadree Henderson and Jester Weah and safety Jordan Whitehead could provide some star power.
3. Virginia Tech
The defense, as usual, should be strong. But tell me who’s starting at quarterback, running back, receiver (aside from near-1,000-yard receiver Cam Phillips) and tight end and I’ll tell you how good the Hokies might be. Adding insult to injury, quarterback Jerod Evans left early and went undrafted.
4. Georgia Tech
A foot injury to expected starting QB Matthew Jordan dampens the mood, but he should be back by the fall, and the Yellow Jackets have one of the best backs in the ACC in Dedrick Mills (771 yards, 12 touchdowns as a freshman, including 99 rushing yards, three total TDs against UM’s high-ranked defense).
5. Notre Dame
Could be a Mitch Trubisky situation in South Bend, where quarterback Brandon Wimbush has waited his turn and is ready to shine. He’s got skill around him – receiver Equanimeous St. Brown is quite talented, as are several running backs including Josh Adams — but the Irish must show tons of improvement up front on both sides of the ball to keep Brian Kelly employed.
No, really. The Blue Devils haven’t been impressive the last couple years, but a better-than-average quarterback (redshirt sophomore Daniel Jones) and some returning muscle on defense gives them a slight leg up on one rival who has more questions than answers.
7. North Carolina
Not high on the Tar Heels after losing Trubisky, running back Elijah Hood and a host of pass-catching options. LSU transfer Brandon Harris thinks he can throw for 4,000 yards and 30-plus touchdowns this fall under Larry Fedora. We’ll see.
Cut-and-dry storyline here. Dino Babers’ offense gives teams fits, but until the Orange play a little defense, they’ll be a middling team at best.
Not enough offensive skill or overall quality depth to compete in the Coastal, though linebacker Micah Kiser and safety Quin Blanding are nice pieces on defense.
The Rockets have one of the best quarterbacks in the nation: Logan Woodside, who threw a nation-high 45 touchdowns and finished with 4,129 yards and nine interceptions.
11. Arkansas State
Sneaky-good mid-major with a returning quarterback (Justice Hansen) and appropriately named former Alabama defensive lineman Dee Liner, but depth will be an issue against Power Five squads.
Typical FCS opener. New players debut, most importantly a fresh-faced quarterback. Tons of second- and third-stringers play. Fans go home happy.