So here we are. Game week against Clemson, with a chance to make a statement win against the number one team in the country. A chance to put a dent in the legacy of one of the most successful college quarterbacks of our generation. And honestly, thinking back to August, I’m not sure I could’ve imagined being in a better position to do it than we sit right now.
That’s when the schedule was originally announced, and when Miami popped up as a road opponent against Clemson, most Cane backers groaned (whether they admit it or not). The original schedule had set up nicely, with a September road trip to Michigan State serving as the litmus test for a program looking to get back to just winning the games it should, after losing their last 3 games against inferior opponents.
Funny thing is, thanks to the transfer portal, Miami set itself up for an incredible and immediate turnaround. Adding Jose Borregales, Jaelan Phillips, Quincy Roche, Jarrid Williams, and D’Eriq King, and getting Bubba Bolden back after an injury shortened his 2019 season has more than paid dividends through the first three games of what has been a dominant season so far for Miami. If you were playing NCAA Football, honestly, aside from the obvious King, it would be hard to tell who would get the star player notations under them. These six guys have been as important as any in getting Miami where it currently is - and that’s #7 in the country. Time to prove that’s exactly the type of team Miami really is.
Some random thoughts:
1) So there has been quite the debate raging on Twitter over who is the best team in the state of Florida - Miami, UCF, or Florida. This debate kind of took off after UCF QB Dillon Gabriel proclaimed the Knights as the best team in Florida last month, then doubled down on it again:
#UCF QB Dillon Gabriel on his comments that the Knights are the best team in the state of Florida following the team's win over Ga. Tech Saturday.— osknights (@osknights) September 21, 2020
“I said what I said, and I was confident in it. ... I still think we’re the best team in Florida and that’s all I have to say.”
Naturally, Fox’s college football twitter feed put up a poll, and UCF fans voted more than the rest:
What a rollercoaster pic.twitter.com/fk6JqI4xD5— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) October 4, 2020
And, yeah, it didn’t take long for the Knights to drop out of contention - and out of the AP poll. UCF’s second straight loss to the dime store Hurricanes doesn’t give them much basis to claim they’re better than the real ones, or the Gators. I’m glad that debate has at least been reduced to two teams.
2) Speaking of rankings, Miami moved from #8 to #7 in the polls this week, but what chaps my backside is sitting one spot behind an Ohio State team that hasn’t played. Rank the the B1G and PAC 12 teams, if you must, but sorry, you can’t stay ahead of teams whose conferences had their you-know-what together and have their teams on the field playing, and playing well. It won’t matter if Miami takes care of business on Saturday, but that doesn’t make this situation any less ridiculous. The only thing more ridiculous would be........
3) ............the Canes getting over two touchdowns on Saturday. The Canes opened as a 14.5-point dog. I thought we might be looking at an 8 or 9-point line, especially after 28.5-point underdog Virginia kept the score respectable for much of the game last weekend against the Tigers. Give me Miami and 14.5 points in this game, all day, every day.
Virginia outrushed Clemson 147 to 137 and managed to roll up a total of 417 yards of offense. They were within 27-17 late in the third quarter before Clemson pulled away. That was not a performance that screams “this team isn’t beatable”.
Miami is firing on all cylinders right now, and if they can repeat the performance we saw the last time they took the field, this has the chance to be what the last two games against Clemson haven’t been: highly competitive. Virginia gave Clemson a decent fight for much of the game. Miami will give a bigger one.
4) What this game means: everything (obviously). In front of a national audience following a third straight Gameday appearance, Miami’s stock is as high as it’s been since the day after they walloped Notre Dame back in 2017. This is MASSIVE moment for this program. Winning would put Miami as high as #2 or #3 in the polls, and would erase all doubt that they cannot win the big games and are not in the class of the nation’s best. Losing a close/competitive game would give large credence to the belief that Miami is improving and heading in the right direction. Another ugly loss would create doubt or the belief that this is another smoke and mirrors show of Miami not being among the best in college football.
5) Prediction: In a very un-2019-like manner, Miami comes out HOT. Focused on keeping King contained, he connects for a pair of early scores, and Miami jumps out to a lead they hold for awhile. Conversely, the defensive front wins the early battles in the trenches against Clemson’s tackles, and makes Lawrence uncomfortable. Eventually, the Clemson offense comes to life, and Travis Etienne shows why he’s the best running back in America, finding the end zone multiple times in the second half and pushing Clemson ahead late. Miami pushes on its final drive, but a turnover seals it. Is Miami back? No, but we’re still coming. Clemson 34, Miami 31.