"The whole crowd goes so loud. He opens his mouth, but the words won't come out. He's choking how, everybody's joking now. The clock's run out, time's up, over, blaow! Snap back to reality." - Marshall Mathers
I wrote this in my article Wednesday after my picks started 23-14 this season.
In years past, I would've titled this article "Full Overconfidence Mode," but since we are so early in the season I wanted to wait one more week before having my ego channel Donald Trump's. Precise Mediocrity hasn't found me yet in 2015, but my early success has conjured up the possibility of another old friend stopping by for a visit: Mean Reversion. Catch me if you can. I'll be at Sun Life Stadium watching the Canes play Nebraska.
In somewhat predictable fashion, I went 4-13 this week which means I'm 27-27 now on the season. Welcome back Precise Mediocrity and Mean Reversion. Thinking I could avoid you both was foolish. Several losses were in overtime and several were decided on the final play of a game, just to make sure I felt the pain. Back to the drawing board.
I was 0-8 when picking home teams. I was 0-8 when picking favorites. I was 1-7 when picking ACC games. The only thing harder than accomplishing that trifecta would be losing a game you led 33-10 with 9 minutes left. I mentally moved the Canes into both win columns (3-0 and -3.5) early in the fourth quarter. I even had a tweet all cued up in my drafts that would've set the Internet on fire. It was a great photo of Al Golden's face with a fake quote that said: "You keep flying planes, I'll keep winning games." The near loss is mostly my fault.
I know this isn't a popular stance to take when addressing Miami fans, but I'm going to continue to stay positive. For three quarters, the Canes played great and showed the promise we've been waiting for. Brad Kaaya played well and was protected better than expected by the offensive line. Joe Yearby continues to make big plays. So many guys stepped up on offense that we haven't seen much from in the past - Cager, Njoku, Herndon, and Brady. Miami's defense stifled Nebraska and left Mike Riley's team searching for answers. Throughout the game, the Canes were nearly perfect on special teams. Michael Badgley went 5-5 on FG's and Justin Vogel averaged 52 yards a punt.
The comeback in the fourth quarter was a confluence of things all going Nebraska's way in a short period of time. A lot of credit has to go to Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong who made a ton of throws I didn't think he was capable of. That being said, if either of Mark Walton's touchdowns had counted, the game would've been over. If Rashawn Scott's catch is overturned, giving Miami a first down, the game would've been over. The Canes did what fans have been asking for on defense. They blitzed repeatedly and often had guys running free towards Armstrong. The biggest issue of the fourth quarter was a lack of containment, which allowed Armstrong to roll out and evade free rushers. Those plays will serve as teachable moments for the Canes that will become crucial for this team down the road, with Justin Thomas, Everett Golson, and Deshaun Watson still on the schedule. Missing Grace, Carter, and Bush late in the game certainly was an issue as well.
It's easy to pin the blame on Miami's coaching staff for the comeback, but to fail to credit them for the fast start is unfair. The Canes were ready to play on Saturday and it showed. When overtime started I'll admit what I was thinking: Given the dramatic momentum swing, Nebraska has the emotional edge right now and will be tough to beat. Corn Elder's interception saved Miami on a play that's not getting the attention it deserves. Both he and Artie Burns have become true playmakers on defense.
Here's the bottom line - Good teams overcome mistakes and find a way to win close games. Should it have ended up being close on Saturday? Of course not, but that doesn't mean I can't celebrate Miami being 3-0 heading into the bye week. Cincinnati's backup QB had four turnovers in the second half this past weekend when he came in to replace Gunner Kiel, who left with a possible concussion. The Canes will be favored on the road and a win would put this team at 4-0 ready to start ACC play at Florida State. At the end of the day, wins and losses are all that matters. When Ohio State wins out and makes the Playoff, no one will care they barely beat Northern Illinois.
This week of games showed just how wide open the ACC is. Miami couldn't finish and needs to show more maturity. Georgia Tech was dominated up front by Notre Dame. Clemson slogged through a win at Louisville. Florida State's offensive line looked very vulnerable in a 14-0 win over Boston College. Virginia Tech is somewhat limited offensively with their backup QB. Duke lost at home to Northwestern. At the beginning of the year, everyone talked about Miami having six or seven toss-up games that would decide the direction of this season. Nebraska was the first test and Miami got a win. Enjoy the bye week. Go Canes.