Sept 29, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Hurricanes running back Duke Johnson (8) is tackled by North Carolina State Wolfpack linebacker Rodman Noel (5) during the second half at Sun Life Stadium. Miami won 44-37. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

2014 Miami Hurricanes Schedule Breakdown: Ranking The Opponents

The Hurricanes will face a rather tough schedule as they try to navigate their way towards the ACC Championship Game and a major bowl game. The Canes’ schedule is ranked the 14th toughest in the entire country. For Comparisons sake, FSU will play the 47th toughest schedule in the country. While the schedule is ranked as one of the most difficult, there are plenty of opportunities for the Canes to achieve their ACC goals and win 10+ games this year. Now to break down this schedule. This will give you some insight on each game and rank the games on the schedule from easiest to most difficult.

1. Florida A&M

The game against FAMU is the second week of the season and will likely be the easiest game all year. The rattlers went 3-9 last year, including a 76-0 loss to Ohio State. The Canes should win this game by a very large margin

2. Arkansas State

While the Red Wolves did go 8-5 last year and made some noise in their conference, they lost big to every major school they played. Much like the FAMU game, the Canes should win fairly easily.

3. Virginia

Virginia went 2-10 last season and completely winless in conference. The Cavaliers were picked to finish last in the ACC coastal at ACC media days and may be slightly improved from last year, but not by much. Last season UVA played Miami late in the season when they were without Duke Johnson and Phillip Dorsett. Despite missing two dynamic playmakers and having horrible play from Stephen Morris in the rain, The Canes still managed to win by a comfortable margin of 45-26. I expect the Canes to win by a larger amount this season.

4. Pittsburgh

The Panthers finished last season 7-6 and 3-5 in the ACC. This year’s Pitt team is expected to be worse than last years due to some key losses. Ptt lost their QB Tom Savage to the NFL where he was a fourth round pick, but their main loss was standout DT Aaron Donald. Donald caused havoc in backfields last year and was taken 13th overall by the Rams. Pitt does have WR Tyler Boyd returning from a great freshman year, but not much else around him. Having this game at Sunlife, instead of in below freezing temperatures at Heinz field like it was last year should help the Canes as well. This should be another easy win for Miami.

5. Cincinnati

Cincinnati played well last year going 9-4 and 6-2 in AAC play. The Bearcats are a dangerous team with talent that should not be taken lightly, but they did struggle greatly against better opponents. Cincinnati dominated most of their conference games, but lost to UNC and Illinois by 22 and 28 points respectively. The Canes need to watch for the upset here, but should come out with another W.

6. Georgia Tech

The Canes have handled Georgia Tech well winning the last 5 meetings against them. Vad Lee, who transferred to James Madison due to a dislike for the GT offense, was the quarterback last season for the Yellow Jackets, but it seems to be Justin Thomas’ job to lose this season. Justin Thomas did get some playing time against Miami this past year and was absolutely blown up by Tyriq McCord. The game is at Georgia Tech, but Canes fans always have a great showing there and make a lot of noise. This is another game that Miami should win.

7. Duke

After playing in Durham two straight years due to conference realignment, the Blue Devils have to travel down to Miami to take on the Canes this year. We all know about Duke’s dream season last year and them winning the Coastal, but fortunately for the Canes, this years Duke team is not the same. While Duke will still be one of the better teams in the Coastal, they will not be nearly as good as they were last year. Duke will be trying to defend their costal crown without  QB Brandon Connette. Connette was a huge part of Duke’s offense and scored 27 touchdowns last season including 5 against Miami. On the Other hand, The Canes will have the biggest piece of their offense, Duke Johnson, back this time around.  This is another game I believe the Canes will win.

8. North Carolina

The Tar Heels gave Miami a run for their money last year and the Canes needed a late TD drive to pull off the win.  The Heels lost their starting QB and Eric Ebron, arguably the best tight end in all of college football. UNC still has many playmakers on the team like Ryan Switzer, who was one of the most dangerous punt returners last year. The Tar Heels will have to come to the Canes this year and wont be able to feed off the electric “Zero Dark Thursday” atmosphere that they had last year against Miami. The Canes should come away with a win here as well.

9. Nebraska

The Huskers were 9-4 last year and 5-3 in the Big Ten. This years Nebraska team will pose a challenge for the Canes with their solid defense and senior running back, Ameer Abdullah. Abdullah is an extremely dynamic running back that can give defenses all they can handle. The Canes’ defense will have to step up from last year if they want to contain him. Making this even game tougher is the fact that Miami has to travel to Memorial stadium and play in front of a crazy Nebraska crowd.

10. Virginia Tech

While some of the teams listed above may be better than Virginia Tech, none of them are playing Miami at home on a Thursday night. Thursdsay night games always cause trouble for the road team and Lane stadium is home to one of the most raucous crowds in all of college football. Virginia Tech will be breaking in a new QB after the departure of Logan Thomas, but it is not the offense that is going to win them games. The Hokies defense will be one of the best in college football and will be lead by a very talented secondary. Having Duke Johnson on the field instead of on the sideline for this game will definitely help.  The Canes certainly have the more talented team, but will need to keep their composure if they want to leave with a win.

11. Louisville

The Canes will have to face Louisville in their opener on Labor day night. What makes this game very difficult is that it will be the first start for whichever Canes’ QB ends up winning the job. While the motivation of wanting to avenge last years bowl game will help the Canes, the biggest difference in this game will be Louisville losing Bridgewater and Miami getting Duke Johnson and Phillip Dorsett back from injury. That is a huge swing as one team loses their best player while the other team regains theirs. This game could come down to QB play as both teams are replacing last years starters.

12. Florida State

Florida State is without a doubt the best team the Hurricanes will face this year. They are the pre-season number 1 team and the defending champions. Last years game ended with the Noles winning 41-14, but was it really as big of a blowout as the score indicates? It was a one possession game well into the third quarter and if a Duke Johnson run isn’t mistakenly blown dead on what would have been a huge play who knows what would’ve happened. Seeing Duke go down shortly after with a broken ankle definitely hurt the team as a whole as well. The Noles are an extremely talented team all around and I am definitely not predicting an upset, but with the game at Sunlife and Duke back and better than ever who knows what could happen on November 15th.   I see the Canes going 9-3 or 10-2 this year and playing in the ACCCG. The Canes won 9 games last year and should be able to do it again this year. People will point at the defense and the QB situation as why they wont win 9+ games but they did it last year with a defense that can’t get any worse and a QB who was far from spectacular for a majority of the year. With Duke back from an injury, the additions of Wyche and other defensive lineman, while also not losing stars on the defensive side of the ball, I just don’t see how the Canes can’t win at least 9 games this year, barring any major injuries.

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