Head Coach: Mark Richt
2016 Record: 9-4 (5-3 ACC)
Over 9 wins (-135); Under 9 wins (+112)
Odds to win ACC Championship Game: +625
Odds to win 2017 Title: +4500
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Miami is fairly solidified at most offensive positions heading into the 2017 season. Except one. One vital one. The Hurricanes are still in search of its starting quarterback with no one really having distinguished themselves in the spring as a clear-cut starter. Failure to come up with a good starting QB will obviously hold Miami back, which could be a shame considering how well outfitted the team is at all the other skill positions.
Brad Kaaya departed early for the NFL, and that has left the Hurricanes scrambling to replace him, while also keeping the team quite a bit lower in the national rankings than it might have been had he returned.
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Mailk Rosier and redshirt sophomore Evan Shirreffs will be two battling it out for the role, with incoming freshman N’Kosi Perry also challenging the duo. Perry is a 6-foot-3 170 pound four-star recruit from Ocala, FL, and he is a dual-threat QB that could give Miami a more interesting offense than it had.
But more interesting is not always better, and the Hurricanes averaged 34.3 points per game last season, a mark that it will have trouble besting this year. Miami ranked No. 27 in the nation in pass yardage (274.2 per game), and that figure seems bound to regress regardless of which option Richt ultimately decides upon.
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The OL will be solid. Kc McDermott started 21 straight games and anchors it at center, with Nick Linder also a good center who will probably spend most of his time aligning to the side. The line will have the ultimate responsibility of providing adequate holes and protection for tailback Mark Watson, who rushed for 1,117 yard and 15 TDs last year.
Wide receiver Ahmmon Richards led NCAA freshman with a 19.1 yard per carry average while also catching 934 yards. That pair will provide the majority Miami’s offensive threat.
Defensively, the Hurricanes were very strong last year in allowing just 18.5 points per game (No. 12 in the nation). The rush defense gave up just 131.8 yards per game (No. 26) and the Hurricanes ranked No. 20 in total yardage allowed (345.5). The Hurricanes also ranked No. 5 in tackles for loss, No. 9 in yards allowed per play (4.75) and it did so while starting three freshman at linebacker.
Shaquille Quarterman and Michael Pinckney were Freshman All-American selections, and Joe Jackson also made the Freshman All-American at defensive end. Returning 11 defensive players should only make Miami a force on that end of the field again. Defensive end Chad Thomas will be huge this year in his senior season, while sophomore CB Malek Young is also a good playmaker. Expect the Hurricanes defense to keep the team formidable, even with the heavy questions on the offensive end (quarterback).
Miami should be as good as last season, even without Kaaya in tow. Losing him and having to settle the matter with an inexperienced quarterback will not be a death blow, but it will likely be enough to keep Miami from hitting double-digit wins this season, even with so much talent at the skill positions, and on the defensive side.
The Hurricanes also have a pretty tough schedule with North Carolina (October 28) followed by Virginia Tech and Notre Dame. Where the Hurricane stand development-wise by that rather early juncture in the season will play the biggest role in determining if the team can best last season’s nine wins.
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