No. 11: Miami

Talk about a win-win. Georgia fires Mark Richt and hires Kirby Smart, who takes the Dawgs within an eyelash of the national championship in 2017, his second season.


Richt, meanwhile, is hired by his alma mater, Miami. The Hurricanes go 10-3 last fall in his second season, including a 41-8 stomping of old rival Notre Dame and a string of gritty wins.

It was the Canes’ first double-dight-win season since 2003, the year before they joined the ACC. If Miami had stayed healthy, some experts think, it might have built on its 10-0 start. It even might have knocked off Clemson in the conference championship and reached the College Football Playoff.

Here come the Canes again, poised to take a serious shot at finishing what they started.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

Quarterback Malik Rosier (3,120 yards, 26 touchdowns, 14 picks) is experienced but needs to take better care of the ball and raise last fall’s 54 percent completion percentage. Youngsters N'Kosi Perry and Jarren Williams are legitimate alternatives. At running back, Travis Homer leads a deep and talented group of ballcarriers.

There are some holes to fill on the defensive line. But the defense—which returns seven starters to DC Manny Diaz’ enthusiastic, athletic group—should be solid.

The Canes face a bigtime season opener on Sept. 2 against LSU at the Cowboys’ stadium in Arlington, Tex. There are other challenges in the improving ACC. But Miami seems well-equipped to deal with them and earn another trip to the ACC championship game, which Clemson has owned lately.

It wouldn’t be surprising if the Hurricanes met the Tigers in a rematch. Under Richt, Miami is showing a knack for winning games that proved elusive before he returned to South Florida[/membership]