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Ranking Michigan State’s 2021 Football Schedule: No. 2 Miami Hurricanes

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Miami v Louisville Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

After the home-and-home series between the two programs was announced over a decade ago in October 2010, the novel coronavirus outbreak caused the 2020 visit to East Lansing by the Miami (FL) Hurricanes to be canceled. Perhaps the rough matchup for the Michigan State Spartans was nice to avoid in the end for a first year regime under head coach Mel Tucker, but for now the series will be one that does not see the home visit by Miami fulfilled as a result. On another note, fellow SB Nation website Outsports wrote a sad story in 2020 about the Miami football program in 2018 and concerning accusations about homophobia worth mentioning.

2020 Record: 8-3 (7-2)

Led by second year head coach Manny Diaz, the Hurricanes had a mostly successful 2020 campaign. Three-straight wins started the season, including a 47-34 road win over then No. 18 Louisville, before a 42-17 loss at Clemson blemished The U’s record. Five wins followed that before a regular season blowout 62-26 home loss to No. 20 North Carolina and a 37-34 Cheez-It Bowl loss to Oklahoma State ended the season.

Series History: 0-4

Looking at the entire series history, it seemed almost inevitable that Michigan State’s non-conference game against the Miami Hurricanes scheduled for East Lansing would get canceled. The Spartans are 0-4 all-time against the Hurricanes and have played just one time in East Lansing. The series is mostly competitive, however. Just one game was more than a touchdown margin, a 21-7 loss on Nov. 23, 1945 in the first ever meeting. An 18-13 loss in Miami on Nov. 20, 1959 when The U was ranked No. 18 and MSU was ranked No. 11, and a 25-22 loss to the No. 16 Hurricanes on Sept. 25, 1982 are the other trips to the “Magic City.”

The lone meeting in Spartan Stadium came on Sept. 30, 1989 and ended in a 26-20 defeat watchable on ABC as The U was ranked No. 2 at the time and the Spartans were unranked. When it comes to moral victories, though, MSU was one of only two teams to lose by less than a full score (the other being Florida State who beat Miami 24-10) in a season that saw Miami win the national title following a 33-25 win over No. 7 Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. The teams are now set to meet almost 32 years to the day since their last matchup, once again in Miami.

2021 Offensive Outlook

The U’s offense will be led by redshirt fifth-year senior quarterback D’Eriq King. After redshirting as a true freshman, King played another three seasons after that at Houston before transferring to Miami for the 2020 season. He earned National Player of the Week honors last season after a five-touchdown, zero-interception win over NC State. King became the only FBS player in the last 25 seasons and first this millennium to achieve that stat line. King threw for 2,686 total yards last season while completing 64.1 percent of his passes and averaging 8.2 yards per attempt. He threw for 23 total touchdowns on the season to just five interceptions. He also had 538 rushing yards on 130 attempts along with four rushing touchdowns. King earned ACC Honorable Mention honors in 2020. A shaky defensive secondary for Michigan State cannot be happy to face King in Week Three. King tore his ACL in the Cheez-It Bowl December, but has been ahead of schedule in his rehab and expects to be ready for fall camp.

Returning in the backfield is the duo of senior Cam’ron Harris and sophomore Jaylan Knighton. Harris led the stat sheet last season even before Knighton was lost to injury against Duke. Harris totaled 643 rushing yards last season on 126 attempts, good for 5.1 yards per carry, and scored 10 touchdowns. He also added 131 receiving yards on 18 catches and a touchdown. Knighton had 209 rushing yards on 52 attempts with a touchdown on the ground, while adding 135 yards on 11 catches and a touchdown.

In the wide receiver group, Miami got one of the biggest transfers of the offseason in Oklahoma’s Charleston Rambo. He caught 76 passes for 1,180 yards with nine touchdowns during his career with the Sooners, and is ranked the No. 23 transfer by 247Sports. Meanwhile, returning senior Michael Harley led the Hurricanes last season with 57 receptions for 799 yards and seven touchdowns. Harley also garnered third-team All-ACC honors. Also back are seniors Mark Pope and Dee Wiggins. Pope was third on the team in receptions with 33 for 403 yards and two touchdowns while Wiggins had 31 catches, good for fourth on the team, for 358 yards and three touchdowns.

2021 Defensive Outlook

The U’s defense will be happy to have Bubba Bolden back at safety after he earned second-team All-ACC honors last season. Bolden led the team with 74 total tackles, while also leading in solo tackles (50) and tying for first in assisted tackles (24), He added three passes defended, four forced fumbles, and one interception he returned for eight yards. However, Miami also got a huge pickup with Georgia transfer cornerback Tyrique Stevenson. Ranking as the No. 8 transfer for the 2021 season, the junior Stevenson has 47 career tackles, two for loss and one sack, to go with five passes defended. He should be a big menace for Miami.

As for the linebacking corps, redshirt junior Gilbert Frierson will be the key returnee after ranking tied for second on the team with total tackles last season (53), tying for first in assisted tackles (24) and tied for third in solo tackles (29). He also had nine tackles for loss, two sacks, four passes defended, and recovered a fumble.

On the line, defensive end and ACC third-team honoree Quincy Roche is gone, but Miami picked up Tennessee transfer and 247’s No. 87 ranked transfer Deandre Johnson. Johnson logged 28 total tackles last season, 17 solo and six for loss, to go with 4.5 sacks. He also forced two fumbles.

Why No. 2?

As inclined as I was to give the Hoosiers and Northwestern credit and rank them ahead of a hot-and-cold ACC team, the Wildcats lost too much talent and fell back at No. 5 in my rankings while the Hoosiers couldn’t manage to beat Ole Miss in their bowl matchup. Meanwhile, Miami had an eight-win campaign last fall that saw a competitive ending against Oklahoma State in the Cheez-It Bowl. On top of that, the Miami game comes in mid-September on the road. It will be hot, it will be humid, and it will be the first major road test of the season against a team with plenty of talent.

Prediction

The Spartans likely drop to 0-5 all-time against the Hurricanes. This game will be a tough win for Michigan State, but should at least be a growing experience as a road game for the team.

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