Miami Football: Ranking the Hardest Games of the 2014 Schedule

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistMarch 16, 2014

Miami Football: Ranking the Hardest Games of the 2014 Schedule

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    The Miami Hurricanes open the 2014 regular season on the road against incoming Atlantic Coast Conference member Louisville, and the schedule features a few more challenging games.

    Highlighted by a meeting with rival and defending national champions Florida State, the Hurricanes' quest for their first-ever Coastal Division title is difficult once again.

    Considering Miami is logically shooting for a 10-win campaign, Louisville, FSU and a Thursday night matchup with Virginia Tech are key regular-season games.

    While ACC games are the most important in the overall picture, a nonconference road clash in late September is a benchmark outing for the Hurricanes.

    Note: Time and TV listings provided where available.

5. Duke Blue Devils

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    Date: Saturday, Sept. 27

    Time: TBA

    A few years back, Duke was struggling to reach five wins. Now, the Blue Devils are reigning Coastal Division champions.

    After dropping the first two ACC contests, Duke defeated No. 16 Virginia Tech and No. 24 Miami en route to the school's first division title.

    Last season, the Hurricanes were steamrolled by the Blue Devils in the most important game of the season. Josh Snead, Jela Duncan, Shaquille Powell and Brandon Connette combined for 330 rushing yards and five touchdowns, dominating the Miami defense and scoring 48 points.

    Snead, Powell, Connette, quarterback Anthony Boone and wide receiver Jamison Crowder each return, so the Miami defense will have its collective hands full trying to stop the Duke offense.

4. Nebraska Cornhuskers

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    Date: Saturday, Sept. 20

    Time: TBA

    Following a pair of tuneup games against Florida A&M and Arkansas State, the Hurricanes travel to take on the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

    Nebraska will be a crucial measuring stick for Miami, especially if the 'Canes drop the season-opener against Louisville. After the meeting with the 'Huskers, Miami plays seven ACC games over its final eight contests.

    This is the first meeting between the two programs since the 2001 BCS National Championship Game, and the all-time series is tied at five wins apiece. Miami is winless in Lincoln, though all three games took place before 1977.

    Sophomore quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. started seven games in the absence of Taylor Martinez, and he is joined by running back Ameer Abdullah and wide receiver Kenny Bell to lead a formidable offensive attack.

3. Louisville Cardinals

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    Date: Monday, Sept. 1

    Time: 8 p.m. ET (ESPN)

    One would assume Miami coach Al Golden will brush off any "revenge" talk when the 2014 season-opener against Louisville nears. But it would be silly to dismiss the notion, even against a fresh Louisville team.

    The Cardinals lost former head coach Charlie Strong to Texas, and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is a first-round prospect for the 2014 NFL draft. However, Louisville returns a strong, experienced offensive line and superstar receiver in DeVante Parker.

    Flying north to Kentucky, the 'Canes will face the Cardinals on Labor Day and break in a new quarterback of their own in either Ryan Williams or Kevin Olsen.

    Additionally, Louisville is officially joining the ACC, and the season-opening revenge game will be an all-important conference tilt, too.

2. Virginia Tech Hokies

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    Date: Thursday, Oct. 23

    Time: 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

    No matter the state of the Virginia Tech football team, a midweek trip to Lane Stadium is never an easy task.

    The Hokies lose quarterback Logan Thomas as well as seven defensive starters, so Frank Beamer will work on filling the voids this offseason.

    Of course, if turnovers haunt Miami as they did last year, running back Trey Edmunds may repeatedly find the end zone once again.

    The Hurricanes topped the Hokies 16-14 and 30-12 on Thursday nights in 2008 and 2012, respectively. However, Miami has dropped eight of the past 11 meetings with Virginia Tech.

1. Florida State Seminoles

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    Date: Saturday, Nov. 15

    Time: TBA

    Any number of stats can help qualify how difficult the 2014 edition of the 'Canes rivalry with Florida State will be—but a crystal ball says enough.

    Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston and a slew of talented players were absolutely dominant for Jimbo Fisher and co. last season. The Hurricanes were simply outworked by the Seminoles, who gained 517 yards and allowed just 275 to Miami.

    Although Kelvin Benjamin, Lamarcus Joyner and Telvin Smith have taken the next step in their respective football careers, at FSU, it's a matter of reloadingnot rebuilding.

    The Seminoles will be the favorite for a second straight national title, a third consecutive ACC championship and a fifth straight win in this rivalry.