Power Ranking the Miami Hurricanes' 2013 Schedule from Easiest to Toughest

Bleacher ReportCorrespondent IJune 18, 2013

Power Ranking the Miami Hurricanes' 2013 Schedule from Easiest to Toughest

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    People can hate on the Hurricanes all they want, but when it comes to playing a great out-of-conference schedule, there is nothing the haters can say.

    Over the last five years, the Hurricanes have played Oklahoma, Kansas State (twice), Ohio State (twice) and Notre Dame. It doesn't get any easier this year as the Hurricanes will be welcoming one of the best teams in the country in the Florida Gators.

    Regardless of who the Hurricanes play this season, they have the team to be competitive in every single game. We should not see a blow-out loss like we saw against the Wildcats and Irish last season.

    Here is my power ranking of the Hurricanes 2013 schedule from easiest to toughest.

No. 12: Savannah State Tigers

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    2012 record: 1-10

    Conference: MEAC

    Location: Miami, FL

    It won't get any easier for Miami than hosting the Savannah State Tigers. Since moving to the FCS in 2000, the Tigers have a combined record of just 17-88.

    The only game the Tigers won last year was against an NAIA school (Edward Waters) in a thrilling 42-35 contest at home.

    The Tigers were dismantled against Oklahoma State and Florida State by a combined score of 139-0.

No. 11: Florida Atlantic Owls

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    2012 record: 3-9

    Conference: Sun Belt

    Location: Miami, FL

    The Florida Atlantic Owls will be yet another "gimme game" for the Miami Hurricanes this season. The only games the Owls won last season were against Wagner, South Alabama and Western Kentucky.

    The Owls lost to Alabama and Georgia  by a combined score of 96-27. They return just 12 starters (five on offense) from last year's 3-9 team.

No. 10: USF Bulls

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    2012 record: 3-9

    Conference: Big East

    Location: Tampa, FL

    The South Florida Bulls aren't the easiest team on this year's schedule, but they shouldn't be a problem for the Hurricanes. The Bulls return just 10 starters from last seasons 3-9 team.

    What will hurt the Bulls even more this season is the graduation of their only true leader, quarterback B.J. Daniels. The Bulls were lost without Daniels in a 40-9 defeat to Miami last season.

    I expect more of the same this season in Tampa.

No. 9: Duke Blue Devils

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    2012 record: 6-7

    Conference: ACC

    Location: Durham, NC

    Last year's Duke Blue Devils were bowl eligible for the first time since 1994 after a 33-30 victory over the North Carolina Tar Heels in just the eighth game of the season. Yes, Duke started the season 6-2 last year.

    Unfortunately for the Blue Devils, they wouldn't win another game all year. 

    The good news about this years Blue Devils team is they will be returning 14 starters, including their starting running back and wide receiver.

    The bad news is they will be missing their two best players from a year ago—wide receiver Conner Vernon and quarterback Sean Renfree. Renfree threw for 3,113 yards and 19 touchdowns, while Vernon caught 85 passes for 1,074 yards and eight touchdowns.

    Last season, the Hurricanes beat Duke, 52-45.

No. 8: Pittsburgh Panthers

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    2012 record: 6-7

    Conference: ACC (2013 will be first year in the ACC, last season the Panthers were in the Big East)

    Location: Pittsburgh, PA

    The Pittsburgh Panthers had a much better season than their 6-7 record shows. They were 2-2 against ranked teams last season including a heart-breaking 29-26 (3 OT) loss to the No. 3-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

    With the return of 14 starters you figured the Panthers would be right in the mix again but unfortunately i believe they lost too much talent from last year's team.

    The Panthers lost their starting quarterback (Tino Sunsuri), running back (Ray Graham) and wide receiver (Mike Shanahan) to graduation. Sunsuri threw for 21 touchdowns, while Graham and Shanahan combined for 17. 

No. 7: Virginia Cavaliers

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    2012 record: 4-8

    Conference: ACC

    Location: Charlottesville, VA

    How the heck could I have a Virginia Cavaliers team that finished last season at 4-8 as the seventh-hardest team on the Hurricanes schedule this season?

    Easy, Miami struggles against Virginia almost every year. In fact, the Hurricanes haven't beat the Cavaliers since 2009 (lost three-straight).

    The Cavaliers return 14 starters and will be better than last season's 4-8 team. They return every starter who played a skill position a year ago and should have a solid passing attack this upcoming season.

    Last year, the Cavaliers finished the season ranked No. 37 in passing offense, throwing for 268 yards per game. 

    In the 41-40 victory over the Hurricanes last season, starting quarterback Mike Rocco completed 29 of 37 passes for 300 yards and four touchdowns.

No. 6: Wake Forest Demon Deacons

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    2012 record: 5-7

    Conference: ACC

    Location: Miami, FL

    Although the Wake Forest Demon Deacons finished 5-7 last season, I have them ranked at the No. 6 spot because of what they have returning to this year's team.

    Overall, the Demon Deacons return 16 starters (eight on each side of the ball), including every starter at a skill position.

    Even though they lost to all three ranked teams they faced last season by a combined score of 132-13, I believe they will be a harder team to beat than the previous six on this list.

No. 5: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

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    2012 record: 7-7

    Conference: ACC

    Location: Miami, FL

    Even though the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets will be losing their best player—quarterback Tevin Washington—it doesn't mean they will be hurting on the offensive side of the ball.

    Backup quarterback Vlad Lee played in 12 games last year, completing 27 of 56 passes for 596 yards and four touchdowns. He added another 52 yards on the ground.

    The Yellow Jackets return 16 players from last year's team, including two of their three running backs and a plethora of young, talented playmakers.

    On the bright side, the Hurricanes haven't lost to the Yellow Jackets since 2008 (4-0) and I really don't see a different result this season.

No. 4: Virginia Tech Hokies

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    2012 record: 7-6

    Conference: ACC

    Location: Miami, FL

    Virginia Tech would normally be in the No. 2 spot on this list, but they are coming off a mediocre season and return just four starters on offense (13 total). The defense should be much-improved, but that isn't saying much as the Hurricanes racked up 30 points against them last year.

    That being said, it still is Virginia Tech and they will have a better team than last year. Starting quarterback Logan Thomas decided to come back for his senior season after finishing first on the team in rushing (524 yards) and passing (2,976) yards.

    Thomas is a great leader and has the skills to pass and rush the ball when needed. As long as he stays healthy, the Hokies could be in contention for a shot at the ACC title.

No. 3: North Carolina Tar Heels

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    2012 record: 8-4

    Conference: ACC

    Location: Chapel Hill, NC

    I don't care if the North Carolina Tar Heels lost running back stud Giovani Bernard or not, they will come to play against the Hurricanes. Since 2007, the Hurricanes are just 2-4 against the Tar Heels.

    Last season, North Carolina beat Miami 18-14 as Bernard smoked the Hurricanes' defense for 177 yards on the ground. 

    The Tar Heels return 15 starters from last year's squad, including nine on the defensive side of the ball. I expect this game to be another tough one for the 'Canes.

No. 2: Florida State Seminoles

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    2012 record: 12-2

    Conference: ACC

    Location: Tallahassee, FL

    Florida State and Clemson are two of my favorites to win the ACC. Miami will have a chance to play one of them in the ACC Championship if the defense improves from last season.

    I actually had FSU listed in the No. 1 spot on this list before changing it at the last minute. Even thought the Seminoles return just 10 starters from last year's team, don't believe for one second that they won't be just as good.

    The main reason I have them at No. 2 is because they lost starting quarterback EJ Manuel. Manuel threw for 3,392 yards and 23 touchdowns, while running for another 310 yards last season. 

    Regardless of who is at quarterback for FSU, their defense is the heart and soul of the team, so the Hurricanes will have to play an almost perfect game to come out of Tallahassee with a victory.

No. 1: Florida Gators

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    2012 record: 11-2

    Conference: SEC

    Location: Miami, FL

    Even though the Florida Gators lost five starters on offense and six on defense, they are going to be very difficult to beat. They have a plethora of returning talent coming back this season, including quarterback Jeff Driskel, who threw for 1,646 yards while running for another 408.

    Driskel's season had its ups and downs, but he is so dangerous running the ball it will take a full effort by the Hurricanes' defense to limit his rushing as much as possible.

    But we can't talk about the Gators without mentioning their defense. Last season, their defense finished No. 5 in total defense and will undoubtedly be around that same ranking this season.

    In my honest opinion, this will be the hardest game all season for the Hurricanes. If the 'Canes can beat the Gators, they have a legitimate shot at a BCS Bowl game.