Watching Miami beat Appalachian State 45-10 was an incredible experience. After years of frustrating road trips to Kansas State, Oklahoma, Florida State, Maryland, and more, I started to remember the special feeling of being a road fan in a quiet stadium. The game was only competitive for a few minutes. Miami was bigger, faster, stronger, and better prepared. After watching other teams beat Miami with WR screens for years, it was nice to see the Canes use them to their advantage. Mark Walton's 80-yard touchdown set the tone immediately.
Outside the stadium before the game, we were invited into numerous tailgates by generous fans. All of the App State fans I met in Boone were expecting a close game and seemed a bit shell-shocked leaving the stadium.
Following the game, we headed to a local bar to celebrate Miami's win and seize control of remotes to ensure I could watch as many random games as possible. Five of us had Canes gear on and my one friend had on his official "Pickens 16" shirt, with the name and number on the back. We sat with our backs facing a group of App State fans. A girl in her 20's tapped me on the shoulder and said: "Sorry, but I have to ask. Are you guys on Miami's team? You all have official gear on so I was curious. You played a great game today." I'm sure people will try to claim she was just joking, but I promise you she was 100% serious. The largest member of our group weighs 195 pounds and several barely weigh 150 soaking wet. We could have been a group of walk-on punters or holders, but even that would be a stretch. Despite the urge to tell her I was Sunny Odogwu or Kc McDermott, I disappointed her by saying we were just dedicated fans in town for the game.
These stats are too exciting and encouraging to keep to myself. The Canes have outscored opponents 153-23. Miami has four running backs with 5 carries or more and all are averaging at least 7 yards a carry. Miami's offensive line has cleared the way for Mark Walton and Joe Yearby, as well as protecting Brad Kaaya. According to @CFBFilmRoom, after averaging nearly 8 attempts under pressure per game in 2015, Kaaya has only attempted 9 passes under pressure in three games in 2016. Kaaya is 14-20 for 222 yards and 4 TD's on third down this season. In recent years, the Canes ranked near the bottom nationally in converting third downs. In 2016, Miami has converted on 50% of third downs (17-34), while opponents have only converted on just 20% (10-49). After looking like a scout team against the run in 2015, Miami is ranked 3rd nationally in rushing defense, giving up just 65 yards a game. According to SportSourceAnalytics, Miami's defense is creating negative plays on 21% of offensive plays, best in the nation. The Canes have an incredible 40 tackles for losses in three games, after having just 66 in all of 2015.
Miami has played about as well as anyone could've hoped for through three games. Now comes the real test. The competition is about to increase dramatically. A brutal stretch in October features five games against tough ACC opponents and Notre Dame. That being said, FSU showed clear vulnerabilities against Louisville, Dalvin Cook still seems to be hurt, and Derwin James won't return in time for October 8th. Notre Dame's defense has been a disaster in losses to Michigan State and Texas. Virginia Tech has been turnover-prone and was blown out by Tennessee in the second half.
The bye comes at a perfect time for the Canes - a chance to get some key contributors back from injury and some extra time for Miami's freshmen linebackers to study Georgia Tech's triple option. Enjoy the bye week and prepare yourself for the season-deciding month of October.
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
“If you’re going through hell, keep going.” - Winston Churchill
Miami won, my trip to Boone was perfect, but my picks have been a disaster. The only good news is my struggles allow me to use my favorite two quotes by Churchill. Many readers enjoy when I write with angst and frustration anyway. I went 4-10-2 on Saturday thanks to some frustrating bad luck and fourth quarter prevent defenses. I was winning with Alabama, UCLA, Oregon, Penn State, and LSU with just a few minutes left in each fourth quarter, but ended up 0-3-2 in those games. BYU’s 90-yard touchdown drive at 2am was the final blow on Sunday morning. My record in the Big Ten and the Big 12 are comically awful. My stats table looks like an electoral college map of the NASCAR states. All that being said, we are still in September and there is plenty of time to redeem myself. With the Canes on a bye, I will be able to fully focus on games across the country. While Miami fans relax and take a vacation, I will be diligently taking notes on Syracuse-Uconn and Wake Forest-Indiana.
CLEMSON -9.5 at Georgia Tech - 730pm
After two shaky performance to start the season, Clemson destroyed South Carolina State 59-0. Clemson has an elite defense and will shut down the triple-option. Deshaun Watson will have a huge night and remind everyone why he was the Heisman favorite coming into the year. Get excited - Clemson plays Louisville on October 1st.
UTAH -3 vs Usc - 9pm
USC is reeling and Clay Helton seems lost as the head coach. USC QB Sam Darnold will be making his first career start against a Utes defense that has 15 sacks in three games. USC has NFL talent at the skill positions, but has no idea how to put it all together. Utah wins by two scores at home.
LSU -3.5 at Auburn - 6pm
Sean White remains the starting QB for Auburn, but this offense will struggle all season. Gus Malzahn is still searching for solutions after three games. LSU has looked much better since switching to Danny Etling at QB a few weeks ago. Leonard Fournette will wear down the Auburn defense and break a long run in the second half.
WASHINGTON -9.5 vs Arizona - 1030pm
I’m a believer in Washington this season. QB Jake Browning has been efficient and he’s surrounded with talented playmakers like RB Myles Gaskin and WR John Ross. Look for a convincing win for the Huskies, setting the stage for a huge game against Stanford in Seattle on Friday September 30th.
WYOMING -3 at Eastern Michigan - 730pm
Don’t be fooled by a win over Charlotte. Eastern Michigan is still one of the worst teams in the nation. Wyoming RB Brian Hill will be the best player on the field Friday night. QB Josh Allen will protect the ball and help the Cowboys earn a win on the road.
MICHIGAN STATE -6 vs Wisconsin - 12pm
Michigan State proved everyone wrong once again, dominating Notre Dame early and holding on to win. Wisconsin has an unsettled situation at QB after Bart Houston was replaced last week against Georgia State. Michigan State’s defense will limit big plays and control the line of scrimmage. The Spartans have more talent and have beaten Wisconsin four straight times in East Lansing.
GEORGIA +7.5 at Ole Miss - 12pm
Ole Miss has to be disappointed after blowing another massive lead. The Rebels led FSU by 22 and Alabama by 21 and managed to lose both games. I expect there to be a hangover from those losses on Saturday. UGA QB Jacob Eason looks like the real deal. If Georgia can get Nick Chubb going, I think the Bulldogs are capable of pulling the upset.
FLORIDA STATE -7 at South Florida - 12pm
USF is 3-0 and will be a challenge for the Noles. If FSU had played well at Louisville, I might have been tempted to pick the Bulls in a potential letdown game, but given the way FSU was blown out I’m confident Jimbo Fisher will have his guys ready. Dalvin Cook needs to step up and lead his team on Saturday afternoon. USF won’t have much of a home-field advantage, with FSU fans likely filling a good chunk of the stadium.
EAST CAROLINA +11 at Virginia Tech - 1230pm
ECU has won six straight games against ACC opponents, including a win against NCST this season and a win over Virginia Tech in 2015. ECU should’ve beaten South Carolina last week, but committed a few costly turnovers. The Pirates won’t be intimidated and will stay close throughout.
SYRACUSE +3.5 at Uconn - 1pm
Dino Babers has brought his uptempo offense to Syracuse, with mixed results so far. If his team has early success in this game, I don’t think Uconn has enough firepower on offense to keep pace. Uconn has won two games this season, each by a field goal (Maine and Virginia).
WEST VIRGINIA -7 vs BYU - 330pm
Picking against BYU has to work eventually. I’m 0-2-1 going against the Cougars this year, thanks to BYU scoring in the final minute of each game to devastate me. BYU’s offense was booed at home against UCLA and Taysom Hill has struggled. West Virginia QB Skyler Howard is underrated and he’ll play well in this neutral site matchup.
PENN STATE +19 at Michigan - 330pm
Michigan was shaky early on against Colorado, before pulling away in the second half. The Wolverines were bailed out by two special teams touchdowns. Penn State has enough talent on offense to keep this game close.
INDIANA -7.5 vs Wake Forest - 330pm
After wins over FIU and Ball State, Indiana had a bye week to prepare for Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons looked improved in a win over Duke, but lost QB Kendall Hinton to an injury on Saturday in a win over Delaware. John Wolford will retake the starting job. Indiana QB Richard Lagow has been impressive so far this season. Kevin Wilson’s team has more talent and should be able to pull away in the second half.
TENNESSEE -6.5 vs Florida - 330pm
This is finally the year. Tennessee will end Florida’s 11-game winning streak in this “rivalry.” I was all set to pick the Gators until QB Luke Del Rio was injured on Saturday. Florida’s defense has been dominant, but hasn’t faced a legitimate opponent yet this season. I saw enough of UF’s backup QB Austin Appleby at Purdue to predict he’ll struggle on the road in Knoxville. Tennessee wins by 10.
VANDERBILT +7.5 at Western Kentucky - 430pm
I should stay away from Vanderbilt after the debacle last week against Georgia Tech, but there is too much value here. Derek Mason’s defense will bounce back and play well against Western Kentucky. Vandy RB Ralph Webb will help control the clock and help his team stay in striking distance in the second half. WKU QB Mike White and WR Taywan Taylor will put up numbers, but not enough to pull away.
KENTUCKY -2 vs South Carolina - 730pm
This is an absolute must-win for Mark Stoops. Backup QB Stephen Johnson played well against New Mexico State and will be ready if Drew Barker can’t go. South Carolina simply can’t score (47 points in 3 games) and will need to force turnovers to win. Look for a close win for Kentucky at home.
BAYLOR -8 vs Oklahoma State - 730pm
Baylor’s future is certainly in question, but right now I think Baylor is better on both sides of the ball. Seth Russell is a proven quarterback and the Bears still have WR KD Cannon and RB Shock Linwood putting up big numbers. OKST was outgained in the dramatic loss to Central Michigan and gave up 500+ yards against Pittsburgh. Cowboys’ QB Mason Rudolph will play well, but it won’t be enough. Baylor wins by two scores.
NORTHWESTERN +7.5 vs Nebraska - 730pm
Like BYU, I’m 0-2-1 when picking against Nebraska. Let’s go back to the well again. After a significant win over Oregon, the Huskers have to travel to Chicago to play a Northwestern team that regained some confidence with a win over Duke. I expect a low scoring game. The Wildcats have been a reliable home underdog under Pat Fitzgerald in recent years.
STANFORD -3 vs Ucla - 8pm
UCLA’s offense looked pedestrian against Texas A&M and BYU. Josh Rosen hasn’t played like the star many were predicting entering the season. Stanford’s defense and explosive RB Christian McCaffrey will help the Cardinal grind out another win.
ARKANSAS +6 vs Texas A&M - 9pm
If this game was in College Station I might have picked the Aggies, but this SEC showdown will be at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. Both teams are 3-0 and have impressive wins on their resumes. I like Arkansas to hang around, with RB Rawleigh Williams III putting up 100+ yards. This game will be decided by a late field goal.
ARIZONA STATE -4 vs Cal - 10pm
Arizona State’s performance against UTSA was embarrassing. The Sun Devils were lucky to escape with a win. Cal won a thriller against Texas, but still hasn’t shown any ability to play decent defense. Arizona State will bounce back at home with QB Manny Wilkins helping his offense put up 40+ points.