Power Ranking Miami's 2014 Schedule from Easiest to Toughest

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistJune 18, 2014

Power Ranking Miami's 2014 Schedule from Easiest to Toughest

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    Attempting to overcome a 10-year drought in the ACC's Coastal Division, the Miami Hurricanes will be tested nearly every weekend throughout the 2014 season.

    The ACC improved with the addition of Louisville, and the 'Canes will travel to the Cardinals during their inaugural season in the league.

    What's more, Miami faces one of the nation's toughest nonconference schedules, heading to Nebraska and hosting Cincinnati and Arkansas State.

    Each game poses new challenges, but some opponents are more difficult than the others, and Bleacher Report is here to organize the chaos.

12. Florida A&M

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    The Hurricanes have two open weekends during the 2014 season, but they only get a five-day break after the season opener at Louisville before hosting Florida A&M.

    What does that tell you about the Rattlers?

    This is the type of outing in which offensive coordinator James Coley lets Duke Johnson run wild, breaking outside runs down the sideline and into the end zone multiple times. And then it's halftime.

    Miami will have no trouble dispatching Florida A&M, even while mired in early uncertainty at the quarterback position.

11. Virginia Cavaliers

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    Mike London's Virginia Cavaliers became the Hurricanes' nemesis from 2010-2012, earning wins over Miami in three straight years.

    But Tracy Howard's early pick-six set the tone during last season's meeting, and the Hurricanes finally downed Virginia.

    Miami is steadily improving, but the Wahoos are stuck in mediocrity for the foreseeable future. Though their defense is solid, their offense is simply a mess beyond running back Kevin Parks.

    The 'Canes must be careful not to overlook the conference road matchup, but this one won't be close at the end.

10. Arkansas State Red Wolves

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    One week prior to the battle with Nebraska, Miami hosts the Arkansas State Red Wolves at Sun Life Stadium.

    Arkansas State has won three consecutive Sun Belt championships, and a handful of starters from a stout run defense return for 2014. However, led by Duke and Stacy Coley, the Hurricanes' skill-position players will overpower the Red Wolves.

    A fast start to this afternoon bout is crucial so Arkansas State doesn't hang around at halftime and build confidence for the latter half.

9. Pittsburgh Panthers

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    With a talented two-headed rushing attack and a highly touted quarterback taking over, the Pittsburgh Panthers are certainly intriguing opponents.

    Isaac Bennett and James Conner will have aided sophomore Chad Voytik's development all season before testing the Hurricanes defense during the regular-season finale.

    This time around, Miami gets the Panthers at home on Thanksgiving weekend instead of traveling to frigid Pennsylvania. Plus, after the loss of All-American defensive tackle Aaron Donald, Pitt will struggle to contain Duke, who was unavailable for the 2013 clash.

    It may not be a blowout, but the 'Canes will be in control.

8. Cincinnati Bearcats

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    Boasting one of the nation's top run defenses, the Cincinnati Bearcats are not a throw-in nonconference game.

    Though the Hurricanes are definitely better on paper, the timing is unfavorable. Cincinnati caps Miami playing seven straight weeks to open the season, and the dangerous portion of the ACC schedule looms shortly after the Bearcats.

    Additionally, 12 days after this matchup, the 'Canes clash with longtime rival Virginia Tech.

    Trap game, thy name is Bearcat. 

7. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

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    A meeting with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in early October can either be a really good thing or a really bad one.

    The Jackets are breaking in a new starting quarterback, Justin Thomas, so the new leader of the option offense may still be struggling with reads. Or he might be crushing it.

    Miami has toppled Georgia Tech five straight years, and continuing that streak in Atlanta is a tall task, especially considering this contest follows Nebraska and Duke.

    When beating the Yellow Jackets is a foregone conclusion, Miami will basically be "back." But right now, Georgia Tech is not a gimme, even at No. 7 on the list.

6. Duke Blue Devils

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    Though this matchup is highlighted as the sixth-hardest right now, the Duke Blue Devils could move either way on the difficulty meter for the Hurricanes.

    Duke no longer has a major portion of its rushing attack, due to a graduation, a transfer and a suspension, but it still has big-time wide receiver Jamison Crowder.

    While the Blue Devils will be attempting to solidify their backfield, Miami's defenders should be ready to redeem themselves after a porous showing last year. 

    One would assume the Hurricanes defense will be a much-improved unit. Then again, you know what people say about assuming.

5. Louisville Cardinals

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    The Hurricanes will be ready for the Louisville Cardinals—or so we're led to believe.

    Miami will look to redeem itself after the 27-point loss during bowl season, a beatdown Duke was forced to watch from the sidelines.

    Louisville lost a significant part of its leadership in quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and head coach Charlie Strong. Will Gardner and Bobby Petrino are the respective replacements, and their chemistry is a key part of the Labor Day Monday showcase.

    Had this conference meeting been scheduled for a midseason week, the outcome might be different. But as the first game of the 2014 season, the Miami offense is better prepared to be the deciding factor on the scoreboard.

4. North Carolina Tar Heels

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    Dual-threat quarterbacks have constantly given the Hurricanes fits, and the North Carolina Tar Heels have one of the best in the ACC. Miami will be tested by signal-caller Marquise Williams, who was effective in his limited reps against the 'Canes in 2013.

    Of course, timing finally gives Miami a nod.

    UNC was pegged with an absolutely brutal seven-week stretch starting on Sept. 20 against East Carolina. The Tar Heels then take on Clemson, Virginia Tech, Notre Dame, Georgia Tech and Virginia before heading south to Sun Life.

    But even after fighting through a treacherous schedule, the 'Canes represent North Carolina's final opportunity to take a swing game in the Coastal.

3. Nebraska Cornhuskers

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    On the road against a superb defense and a run-first offense? Yeah, the Nebraska Cornhuskers are a tough matchup.

    Nebraska boasts defensive end Randy Gregory, and Miami may not be challenged by a more electrifying player all year. On offense, the Cornhuskers' solid ground game is spearheaded by Ameer Abdullah.

    The Hurricanes basically have two warm-up games before their hardest nonconference foe, but that may not be enough for "The U."

    Fortunately, a loss does not hurt Miami in the conference standings, and it serves as a great early-season learning experience before the 'Canes enter the bulk of ACC play.

2. Virginia Tech Hokies

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    The Virginia Tech Hokies are probably not the second-toughest opponent, but venue, circumstance and implication contribute to the No. 2 ranking.

    Miami heads to what figures to be an extremely loud Lane Stadium for a Thursday night showdown with Virginia Tech.

    What's more, the winner likely takes the driver's seat in the Coastal Division, as the eventual champion probably earns its spot in the ACC Championship Game due to tiebreakers.

    Every ACC victory is essential, but no conference win is more important to Miami than beating the Hokies. And it will not be easy.

1. Florida State Seminoles

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    Did anyone expect a different team?

    Not only have the Hurricanes dropped four in a row to the Florida State Seminoles, but Jimbo Fisher's team also did pretty well in 2013. And even if FSU players get a little crabby, the 'Noles are the undisputed leaders of the conference.

    Ultimately, Florida State is poised to walk off the field without Miami paying them back for recent hardships.

    I'm all out of subtle, mediocre jokes. Let's see if the 'Canes have more for the Seminoles on Nov. 15 during their most difficult game of the 2014 campaign.