Schedule analysis: Miami


Nonconference opponents (with 2011 records)

  • At Kansas State (10-3)

  • Bethune-Cookman (8-3)

  • Notre Dame (Chicago) (8-5)

  • South Florida (5-7)

ACC home games

  • NC State

  • North Carolina

  • Florida State

  • Virginia Tech

ACC road games

  • At Boston College

  • At Georgia Tech

  • At Virginia

  • At Duke

Gut-check time: Oct. 20 vs. Florida State. There are several games on this schedule that will be gut-checks for Miami, including the season opener against Boston College and the home Thursday night game against the Hokies. The Canes have lost the past two games against their in-state rivals, though, and if Miami is ever going to reclaim any of its relevance, it has to first win the state championship and an ACC championship. Right now, the Noles are ahead of the game and standing in the way of both goals. With so much rebuilding, particularly on offense, the Canes aren’t looking like a factor in the ACC race right now, so a win against FSU will carry more weight within the program, fan bases and recruiting than it would implications in the league standings.

Trap game: Nov. 24 at Duke. I’ve mentioned this a few dozen times before, but Duke is on the verge of beating a program it’s “not supposed to,” and this would be the perfect opportunity for the Blue Devils to take advantage of Miami. Duke won’t have to travel, and the Blue Devils could have the better quarterback. This is a game Miami can’t overlook.

Snoozer: Bethune-Cookman. Miami will need a break after opening with back-to-back road games at BC and K-State.

Defining stretch: Sept. 1-Sept. 22 (at Boston College, at Kansas State, Bethune-Cookman, at Georgia Tech). With three of four games on the road to open the season -- including two games against conference opponents -- Miami has no choice but to start strong. That’s a lot to ask of such a young team that has to replace seven starters on offense.

Final analysis: This is one of the most difficult schedules in the ACC, and it isn’t very rookie-friendly with four of the first six games on the road, including a trip to Soldier Field in Chicago. Miami wants to win the Coastal Division as always, but will this team even be bowl eligible? The Canes still need to name their starting quarterback, find a new starting running back, starting receivers, and three new starters on the offensive line. They also have the uncertainty of the NCAA investigation still hanging over their program. It’s not all doom and gloom -- Miami has one of the nation’s top recruiting classes to work with this summer. How the Canes fare at Boston College in Week 1 will reveal a lot about which direction the team is headed.