It’s 8 months later and I still have the “Turnover Chain” rap song stuck in my head. Turnover chain. Turnover chain. I mean, it’s quite catchy. And this team was really fun to watch last season, whether the chain was out or not.
Miami won 10 games in the regular-season (losing to Pitt and then Clemson in the ACC Title Game) but unfortunately those of us who had over tickets were left muttering as we got our money back on our win-total ticket. You see, Miami had to cancel their game against Arkansas State, so win-total bets were declared “no action.” At least they had the chain, that was fun.
Year 3 of Mark Richt will bring a team that, while they’ll also have the turnover chain, will be quite adept at moving the chains as well. Senior quarterback Malik Rosier is back along with a good amount of talent. And for the 2nd straight year, they avoid Clemson in the regular season, which is almost like starting the season with a win.
The markets have Miami’s win total at 9.5 -110 (5D), 8.5 -170/+150 (BOL), and 9.5 -115 (DSI), so there is an expectation that their successful run last year can indeed carry over. Will they make an even deeper run and take a playoff spot?
|9/2 (Su)||LSU (N – Arlington)||-6.5|
|9/27 (Th)||North Carolina||-17|
|10/26 (F)||@ Boston College||-6.5|
|11/10||@ Georgia Tech||-11.5|
|11/17||@ Virginia Tech||-3|
This is a case where just looking at the names doesn’t really tell the whole story in terms of who leaves and who returns. Malik Rosier is back at quarterback and he was really productive last year, but you see Mark Walton get drafted by the NFL, and you might think this unit takes a big step backwards. In actuality, Walton missed a large chunk of the season with injuries and finishes as just the 3rd leading rusher on the team (445 yards). Last year they were already preparing for him not being there, and Travis Homer stepped up, leading the team with just of 1,000 yards and just under a 6.0 YPC. They also bring in freshman Lorenzo Lingard who was a monster recruit, so it’s possible the offense may be better. Breakthrough receiver Ahmmon Richards is back as well (although they do lose Braxton Berrios). They are in the 3rd year of Richt calling plays and Thomas Brown as the OC so good continuity and possible improvement exists.
Manny Diaz has done great work since he came over to join Richt on this staff as the defensive coordinator. They started 3 freshmen at the linebacker spots their first year, and with all that experience, you knew it would pay off down the road with how talented they were. Well, that time is now. You saw glimpses last year, but these 3 linebackers – Michael Pinckney, Zach McCloud, and Shaq Quarterman – are gonna be a problem (one was 2nd-team ACC last year, another 3rd, and they’re all back). The secondary has a lot back as well, 3 starters return, and all of them are seniors. The biggest question mark – the defensive line, which loses 3 NFL draft picks. Time will tell if they have the bodies to keep lineman occupied and allow these linebackers to go to work. But again, continuity with these coordinators and Richt moving into year 3 means you should have maximum buy-in from all involved.
Kind of a bizarre non-conference slate, as the ‘Canes face LSU in the opener in Arlington, TX, with LSU a little down this year, and then cupcake Savannah State before playing at Toledo and vs FIU. The game at Toledo is a spot to remember, as the Rockets actually led Miami last year going into halftime, and trailed by only 8 entering the 4th quarter, and that game was in Miami.
In conference play, they draw Florida State and Boston College (but no Clemson) out of the Atlantic, so although they avoid the toughest team, they get the next toughest 2. Back-to-back road games at Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech could be problematic because they’ll have been beaten up by the triple-option before heading to Blacksburg to play a usually-physical Hokies team. Still, with how talented the team is, there is definitely a path to 10 wins here, but they really need to beat LSU in the opener to make that happen, in my opinion (‘Canes are currently a 3-point favorite).
Win/Total pick: Over 8.5 -170 (BOL)
I’ll pay the extra juice for the extra win here because there are a couple weird spots on the schedule, specifically at Toledo and the back-to-back at Virginia Tech late in the season. This feels like a 9-10 win a lot of the time, and the schedule is manageable. I’m down on LSU this year and think with everything they have coming back they should be able to win that opener a lot of the time. The other thing I like here is the depth – they have a monster recruit at running back and a back-up QB they like, as well as a ton of talented receivers – so their success also doesn’t hang by a thread.
-END OF 2018 PREVIEW-
ACC – Coastal
2016 record: 9-4 SU & 9-4 ATS
Head Coach: Mark Richt – Head Coaching Experience: 17 years (2nd with Miami)
Season Over/Under Win Total: 9 Over -140; Under +110
Odds to win 2017 College Football Championship game: 33/1 (15th Best odds)
Returning Starters: 15 (Offense: 7 Defense: 8)
Rivals 2017 Recruiting ranking: #11th (total recruits: 24, 5-star: 0)
Sep. 2 Bethune-Cookman
Sep. 9 @ Arkansas State
Sep. 16 @ Florida State
Sep. 23 Toledo
Sep. 29 @ Duke
Oct. 7 Bye
Oct. 12 Georgia Tech
Oct. 21 Syracuse
Oct. 28 @ North Carolina
Nov. 4 @ VA Tech
Nov. 11 Notre Dame
Nov. 18 Virginia
Nov. 24 @ Pittsburgh
Though at a glance it may seem like the Miami Hurricanes didn’t see much improvement in Mark Richt’s first year, going 9-4 to follow an 8-5 season, a deep dive says otherwise. Despite going 8-5 in 2015, Miami was actually outscored and outgained yardage-wise on the year: last year, in going 9-5, they improved to +15.8 PPG and +80 YPG. Not only that, but their 4 losses were by a combined 11 points, and all came with a banged up defensive line down the stretch.
Miami will return 15 starters in ’17 from what was already the 24th most experienced team in the country, but unfortunately they will part ways with the All-time leading passer in Hurricane history, Brad Kaaya. There is no denying the significance of Kaaya’s departure, but Jr. Malik Rosier couldn’t be walking into a better situation. He will take over an offense with not only quite possibly the best line in the ACC – one laced with Seniors and Juniors – but also what could be the best WR Corps in the conference as well. Yes, Kaaya’s loss will surely be felt, but a drop in offensive production from Rosier is really no guarantee.
Surpassing Joseph Yearby as the lead back in the Hurricane rushing attack, 2nd team All-ACC Mark Walton will return for his Junior season to follow up a 1117 yard season in 2016 that included 14 TD and a 5.3 YPC average. He should carry a majority of the load, save for the change of pace work he may lose to Richt’s So. recruit, Travis Homer. There is no reason Walton doesn’t easily break 1000 YDs again in 2017, behind this offensive line that should only improve.
With as much as Kaaya spread the ball around last year, leaving 7 different receivers with double digit catches; the receiving stats weren’t very special for any WR, except for Ahmmon Richards. Richards numbers weren’t spectacular, catching 49 balls for 934 YDs and 3 TD, but if you consider that he was a true freshman and that they were good enough to beat Michael Irvin’s Hurricane Freshman receiving record than maybe they are pretty impressive. With the loss of David Njoku (1st Round NFL), Richards will be back as the undisputed leader of this group as a Sophomore, and will be joined by 2 towering companions: 6’4’’ 220 lb Jr. Darrell Langham and 6’5’’ 218 lb So. Lawrence Cager. This will easily be one of the best WR Corps in the ACC.
Returning all 5 starters last year, the Miami offensive line was a bit disappointing – only rushing for 152 yards per game and allowing 25 sacks with a wealth of experience. They did lose their starting C Nick Linder after 9 starts and their starting RG Sunny Odogwu after 5, but the line still underperformed on expectations. This year they will lose one of those starting lineman to the NFL, RG Daniel Isidora (5th round), and 2 more to graduation, but will return 4 guys who have been full-time starters at one point for a total of 86 career starts including the injured Nick Linder for his senior season. This line is big, they are experienced, and should be a force in the ACC.
In his first year at Miami, Defensive Coordinator Manny Diaz, turned this defense around in a hurry, allowing just 18.5 PPG compared to the 28.2 in 2015. With 8 starters back and one of the more talented front sevens in the ACC, this defense may even be better this year.
Defensive Line Coach Craig Kuligowski, who has produced 4 1st round draft picks since 2009, took command of this Hurricane front in a hurry, dropping the yards per rush down to 132 from 201 and producing 37 sacks compared to 26 the year before. What’s even more impressive is all this was accomplished with a 6th round draft choice out for the season and injuries all over the place by midseason. Except for one backup, the entire defensive line is back for 2017, and they should be one of the better ones in the nation.
In starting 3 true freshmen at linebacker, you’d think that a defense would suffer; but Miami did it last year and the results were contrary, with the defense improving by 10 pts per game allowed. All highly recruited prospects: WLB Michael Pickney, MLB Shaq Quarterman, and SLB Zach McCloud were impressive to say the least. This year they will be returning completely intact, and like the defensive line they will be one of the nation’s best.
The secondary, on the other hand, will only return one starter, So. CB Malek Young. They will lose everybody else: FS Rayshawn Jenkins (4th round NFL), 1st Team All-ACC CB Corn Elder (5th), S Adrian Colbert (7th round), and S Jamal Carter (12 starts). That is obviously a lot to replace, but there is some hope with Young returning, and the additions of 1st Team FCS All-American Sr. CB Dee Delaney, and JUCO transfer Jhavonte Dean, a top 10 CB prospect. Though inexperienced, the talent is there to keep pace with last years’ 58.7% completion percentage, 17 TD, and 8 INT.
Easily a top 20 Special Teams unit in 2016, Miami featured a star K, Michael Bagley (21-26, Lg 51), a star Punter Justin Vogel (43.8 YPP), and a Punt Returner avg. 11.3 yards per return with a TD. The owner of 2 Miami records, Bagley will return for his Senior season, along with Braxton Berrios to return Punts. Vogel is gone, but will be replaced by a Top 10 Punter recruit, Zach Feagles, who was a high school All-American and son of long time NFL punter Jeff Feagles. This unit should maintain its top 20 status for 2017.
2017 Season Outlook
The stock is up on the Miami Hurricanes in Mark Richt’s second season as Head Coach, with 15 returning starters that will be following up a 9 win season with 4 very close losses, the sky appears to be the limit. The one downfall that is preventing this team from being an AP preseason top 10 team, is the loss of the all-time Hurricane great Brad Kaaya. But the pieces are in place for Junior Malik Rosier to come in and lead this team out of the Kaaya era; a great defense, and a very talented and experienced offensive line.
In taking a look at their 2017 schedule, a double digit win total is more than in reach, as they should be favored in every game except for their week 3 road trip to Florida State. There only two other really tough games will be against VA Tech and Notre Dame, both of which will be in Miami. I’m banking on Richt to get this passing game right back to where it was with Kaaya there, and I’ll take the Hurricanes to get to double digit wins for the first time in a very long time.
Season Win Total Prediction: Over 9