2019 Miami Hurricanes Football Predictions and Odds to Win National Championship
Last year was such a strange year in Miami. In 2017, the team was one of
the big stories of the year. They went 10-3 to win their division
convincingly, the Turnover Chain became legendary, and after winning their
first 10 games people were dreaming of another Miami title. They went into
last year with reasonably high expectations. If they could get good QB
play, they could be a factor again - and they play in a division that was
just begging to be won. But the QB play was horrible, and everything went
off the rails. After 2017, Mark Richt looked like a coach reborn - like the
malaise that had seeped into him late in his Georgia days had been washed
away, and he was back at his best. But by the end of last year, faced with
a serious offensive overhaul that likely would have forced him to fire his
son Jon as QB coach, and having left star defensive coordinator Manny Diaz
to Temple where he was head coach - at least temporarily - Richt no longer
had any fight left in him. He retired, Diaz thanked Temple for employing
him for 17 days and took over at Miami, and a new era for the Hurricanes
A team that played with joy and ferocious hunger in 2017 played like a sad puppy much of last year. The defense did their job, but the offense not only didn't, but didn't seem to care too much. Can this year be different?
2018 in a Nutshell
Things started out as poorly as they possibly could have. They opened by playing LSU in Arlington, and they lost by 16 points - and the score flattered the effort. The schedule softened massively, though, and they won five in a row - none of which were particularly impressive - beating Savannah State, Toledo, FIU, North Carolina and Florida State. There was no time to celebrate, though, as they then lost their next four - at Virginia and Boston College, against Duke and at Georgia Tech. They won at an also-struggling Virginia Tech team and against Pitt to finish off 7-5, and just 4-4 against an ACC schedule that avoided the only two teams they could have played that were any good in Clemson and pseudo-member Notre Dame. Yuck. They wound up in the Pinstripe Bowl against Wisconsin and posted arguably the biggest non-effort of the entire bowl season, losing 35-3. It is no coincidence that that was just three days before Richt retired.
Key Additions and Departures
Diaz moving up to head coach, which was an absolute no-brainer, opened the door for a new defensive coordinator. Or two, actually. Blake Baker and Ephraim Banda will share the role. Baker was DC at Louisiana Tech the last four years, leading a defense that ate opposing quarterbacks alive. He worked under Diaz at Louisiana Tech when Diaz was the DC there in 2014. Banda has spent the last four years with Miami coaching safeties, so he and Diaz are very familiar with each other. The transition should be seamless. Diaz replaced offensive coordinator Thomas Brown with Dan Enos, who was QB coach at Alabama last year, and gets a lot of credit for Tua Tagovailoa's outstanding season. He has previously been head coach of Central Michigan and OC at Arkansas.
Last year the team went with both senior Malik Rosier and redshirt freshman N'Kosi Perry at QB, and neither of them were any good. Rosier is gone now, and Perry's biggest threat is Tate Martell, the Ohio State transfer who was given immediate eligibility. Given the way Martell talks, he better win this job. Top receiver Ahmonn Richards has medically retired after an injury-marred 2018, so that's a blow. They had a couple of guys who were alright last year despite spotty QB play, and they got a big boost in K.J. Osborn, a grad transfer from Buffalo who really played well last year. This year's top recruit, Jeremiah Payton, could work his way into the mix as well. Top running back Travis Homer is gone - the only offensive player to be drafted, going in the sixth round - but the second-best runner, DeeJay Dallas, is back. The backs were good last year - especially considering defenses could key on the run without worrying about being burned. They could run well again, though it will depend on the offensive line. And after losing five of the seven guys who started at least five games last year, there are a ton of questions up front.
The defense lost four guys in the draft - safeties Sheldrick Redwine in the fourth round and Jaquan Johnson in the sixth, and corner Michael Jackson and DE Joe Jackson both in the fifth round and both, oddly, to Dallas. They also lost DT Gerald Willis III, who was outstanding as a senior after being slow to develop. They have good depth of their own to replace the holes on the defensive line, and they added three interesting transfers as well - former top recruit nationally Jaelan Phillips, who was a disaster at UCLA, Chigozie Nnoruka, from UCLA as well, and Trevon Hill from Virginia Tech. They are all lottery tickets, but they have a higher chance of paying off under Diaz than elsewhere. The linebackers feature three senior starters and will be excellent. They lost three of four starters in the secondary, but Trajan Bandy will star, they have some depth, recruited well back there, and added another interesting transfer in safety Bubba Bolden, a highly-touted 2017 recruit for USC who played as a freshman but sat out last year after being suspended. He is transferring to Miami but has been late coming to campus so may take a while to get up to speed.
The recruiting class wound up 27th nationally, which was a big fall from eighth the prior year. The late coaching change didn't help that. OT Zion Nelson and corner Keontra Smith are among the guys getting early buzz from the group.
Biggest Area of Concern
The offensive line. They are going to be young and very short on experience. And if spring ball was any indication, they don't have a clear idea of what their best options are. The degree to which they can get the line working, and how quickly, will determine a lot of what happens this year.
Miami Hurricanes Schedule Analysis
It's not too bad - they avoid Clemson and Notre Dame again. They open against Florida in Orlando, in a game which will probably be too much to ask at that point in the season. Then they play a manageable road game at North Carolina before easy home games against Bethune-Cookman and Central Michigan. Virginia Tech, Virginia and Georgia Tech will be consecutive home measuring stick games. Then they have road games at Pitt and Florida State that aren't as scary as they have been at times in the histories of those schools. Louisville is at home, then FIU and Duke on the road to close out. You really couldn't ask for a much better schedule for a team like this one is right now.
2019-20 Miami Hurricanes Betting Odds and Trends
Bovada has Miami at +8000 to win the national title, which puts them 19th nationally. I can only assume an oddsmaker is a Hurricane alum, because that feels very generous. Equally as generous is that they are the second choice to win the ACC at +750. They are far behind Clemson at -375, and the Coastal Division is so weak right now that it won't take much to at least get to the conference championship game. I don't have too much issue with the idea that Miami has as much or more chance as any team of winning the division, though the gap isn't as big in my mind as the price suggests - Virginia Tech, the next team in the division, sits at +2200.
2019-20 Miami Hurricanes Predictions and College Football Picks
I like the hire of Diaz, and he has put a good staff together. The offensive line terrifies me, though, and it is going to limit what Martell and company can do. But the schedule is very soft. Eight wins seems like a reasonable target, and they could even do a little better if the line crystalizes quickly. I hate the futures prices, though.
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