The Mark Richt era at UM will officially begin on September 3 in a game against Florida A&M in which his Canes will be heavily favored. For the next two weeks the Canes will continue breaking in a brand new coaching staff against two opponents that should not be able to physically compete against the new Canes -- FAU and App State. Sure, FAU took Florida down to the wire last season and App State beat Michigan a few years back but those games will likely be lopsided.
Following an open date in week four, the Canes will begin their ACC schedule. Before getting into the rest of the breakdown first let me tell you that I've always predicted games in one of three ways -- likely wins (like the first three), likely losses (against elite opponents and typically on the road), and then games that could legitimately go either way. With an average coaching staff, a team should typically win half of the toss up games. Unfortunately for Miami, the coaching here has been below average going back many years. While this one may be better -- it's certainly expected to be much better -- I'll continue using that logic when breaking down the rest of this schedule.
Richt's teams at Georgia have always performed well against Georgia Tech's triple option teams. That's why the Canes should be expected to start the season 4-0 and likely ranked in the Top 20 when it plays host to Florida State on October 8.
The next four weeks will be a tough stretch for the Canes, one in which includes FSU and North Carolina at home and then Virginia Tech (on a Thursday) and Notre Dame on the road. All of those games should be considered near toss-ups at this point in the year. Sure, going into Notre Dame and winning won't be easy. Sure, UNC blasted the Canes last season. Sure, FSU has owned Miami lately. However, expecting Miami to win two of those four games mid-way through the first year of the new regime should not be considered a stretch by any means.
I fully expect Miami to be 6-2 heading into November. That's when things can get tricky. Because of the mental drain Al Golden's coaching habits were on his teams, they typically tanked at the end of each season because they simply ran out of gas mentally. Larry Scott taking over was a breath of fresh air and helped change the culture a bit, which resulted in a more productive November in 2015.
Since Richt has no history of being a mental drain on his teams at Georgia, that likely won't be a factor here. Based on that, I'll go back to my original plan of predicting a 50/50 split in games that can be viewed as toss-ups.
Pittsburgh has been competitive against the Canes in recent years and they're fresh off a 6-2 finish in the conference. That game should be viewed as a toss up, even though the Canes will be at home. Virginia and NC State were both below average in 2015 but the Canes will be playing both teams on the road. It's not unrealistic to think the Canes will split those games. Duke has played Miami well lately and it will likely be an evenly matched game but the Canes get them at home, a potential berth in the ACC Championship Game could be on the line for Miami, and it'll be the 12th game of the Richt era. It makes sense to think the Canes will win that game. While a 2-2 projected finish seems realistic, so does 3-1 and why not considering it may be the final few games of the Brad Kaaya era at Miami.
There you have it. My very early prediction of the 2016 regular season is 9-3.