Dr. Saturday's 2017 Top 25 countdown: No. 21 Miami

Dr. Saturday
RB <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/ncaaf/players/252697/" data-ylk="slk:Mark Walton">Mark Walton</a> ran for 1,117 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2016. (Getty)
RB Mark Walton ran for 1,117 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2016. (Getty)

August is here and that means college football season is starting soon. The first games of the 2017 season kick off Aug. 26. And as it quickly approaches, we have 25 days to preview each of the 25 teams in our updated Dr. Saturday 2017 preseason poll. Check here every day to find out who we think the 25 best teams in the country will be. Fair warning, however. We’re probably going to be wrong.

Previous entries: No. 22 Notre DameNo. 23 NorthwesternNo. 24 Washington StateNo. 25 North Carolina

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No. 21 MIAMI

2016 record: 9-4
Returning starters: 7 offense, 8 defense

Biggest non-conference game: Nov. 11 vs. Notre Dame
Biggest conference game: Sept. 16 at Florida State

Key returning player: RB Mark Walton
Key departed player: QB Brad Kaaya

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Three things to know about Miami

• The Hurricanes need a quarterback. Kaaya could have (and probably should have, given his sixth round status in the 2017 NFL draft) come back for his senior year with the Hurricanes but he’s now a member of the Detroit Lions.

So who is that quarterback going to be? Miami is choosing from Malik Rosier, Evan Shirreffs, Cade Weldon and N’Kosi Perry. The latter two are freshmen. So far, Rosier seems to be the favorite. He’s been the guy getting most of the first-team reps that Miami beat reporters have been able to see so far.

But it seems coach Mark Richt is a ways from making a decision. He still has nearly a month to make it, and there could be a complicating factor in that decision-making process too.

Former Miami QB Jack Allison opened the spring as the Hurricanes’ starter. But he got hurt in a full-contact practice and ended up transferring from the team. Miami will scrimmage on Aug. 12. Will the QBs be “live” and allowed to be in a closer game simulation in that scrimmage?

“I don’t know what I’ll do yet. I just have to figure it out,” Richt said Friday via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “If I think I need to do it to learn more about all these guys, and their ability to make a play with their feet, or maybe get hit and get back up, we’ll probably let them play.” “If I think I need to do it to learn more about all these guys, and their ability to make a play with their feet, or maybe get hit and get back up, we’ll probably let them play.”

• The Miami defense should be nasty in 2017, especially up front. All seven starters from the front seven return from 2016, the first season with Richt and his new staff.

The defensive improvements were massive from 2015. Just look at these numbers:

– 28.2 points allowed per game
– 201 rushing yards allowed per game
– 5.8 yards per play allowed
– 26 sacks

– 18.5 points allowed per game
– 132 rushing yards allowed per game
– 4.8 yards per play allowed
– 37 sacks

Miami had three players — MLB Shaquille Quarterman, DE Chad Thomas and DE Trent Harris — with 6.5 sacks in 2016. Don’t be surprised if one or two of them approach double digits in 2017. Remember, Miami’s defensive line coach is now Craig Kuligowski, the man that churned out first-round DL after first-round DL in his time at Missouri.

Quarterman was the team’s starting middle linebacker as a true freshman last season and had 84 tackles.

“I’ve been working on getting slimmer, more in shape so that I can be more efficient and run as fast as I can for as long as I can so I don’t have to come off the field for any reason,” he said at ACC media days. “I’ve been focusing on my football IQ. I’ve been focused on my pre-snap analysis to understand what the offense is trying to do to me and my defense. So once you understand things like that, you’re one step ahead of the offense when the offense usually starts out one step ahead of you because they know what they’re doing.”

• Outside of its annual rivalry game with Florida State, Miami has a manageable schedule on the way to favorite status in the ACC Coastal Division.

The toughest three games on the Hurricanes’ schedule outside of FSU comes in a three-game stretch at the end of October through the beginning of November. After a trip to North Carolina on Oct. 26, Miami hosts Virginia Tech and Notre Dame to open November.

If Miami gets wins against the Tar Heels and Hokies, it’ll have a significant division advantage and could be on the way to a rematch with Florida State in the ACC Championship Game.

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Nick Bromberg is the editor of Dr. Saturday and From the Marbles on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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