This weekend kicks off the greatest start ever to a college football season. Ranked teams playing ranked teams. Playoff implications from the very beginning of the new season.
Miami’s 2016 season opener isn’t one of those games, though. In fact, it isn’t even on the radar.
One would have to look far down the list of games on Saturday to find this one. The Canes face Florida A&M Saturday night at the newly renovated and newly renamed Hard Rock Stadium.
Miami’s first opponent in the Mark Richt era finished 1-10 last season. The Hurricanes are 9-1 all-time against the Rattlers and will likely make that 10-1 after Saturday. Richt, the fifth-winningest active coach in the FBS, is 12-3 in season openers and has never lost a home opener. That streak is highly likely to continue.
About the only drama to come from this game was whether or not it would be played at the stadium. With ongoing renovations, it was thought that an alternate site would be necessary. Fortunately that wasn’t the case.
So what could Miami possibly gain from opening the season with FAMU while Alabama plays USC; Florida State takes on Ole Miss; Clemson meets Auburn; LSU and Wisconsin do battle; and Oklahoma faces Houston?
Considering this is a new era in Miami football, and given the latest developments surrounding the dismissal a week ago of two of Miami’s top three tacklers from last season — Jermaine Grace and Al-Quadin Muhammad — for undisclosed violations, this is exactly the kind of game the Hurricanes need.
Coupling those dismissals with the suspension of Juwon Young means that all three of Miami’s top tacklers from last year will not play.
Still, Richt said, it hurts the coaches, fans, teammates and the players. Now the team must move forward from it.
“Once something is in the past, you can’t change it,” he said. “All you can do is react to it and make it positive for the future. That’s how I’m looking at it.”
He’s hopeful the team can move on from it, and that’s what makes a game with FAMU so useful.
“Players are resilient,” Richt said. “They know Miami football is going to be here longer than I’m going to be here or they’re going to be here.”
Freshmen will start at all three linebacker positions on Saturday. That’s a big reason to be thankful for not opening the season with a Top 25 team.
Ready or not, the season is underway and Miami has the perfect opponent with which to raise the curtain.
“I feel like our coaches and players have done all we can do. Now it’s time to line up and play and see what we’ve got,” Richt said.