Thoughts on the ‘Canes, ‘Noles and Tigers

For the first time in a long time, there’s a buzz in the air when the nation looks at Week Four of ACC action. And for myself and other Miami fans, that buzz has absolutely nothing to do with the Top Ten matchup in Tallahassee Saturday night, but rather the triple-option offense for the Yellow Jackets as the ‘Canes head to Atlanta.

Before diving in on this big weekend for the conference, I have to backtrack and touch on a few things I missed during my one week absence. Convincing your significant other that you’re “working” on Saturdays isn’t the easiest task, and mixing in the birth of a child compounds things greatly. But ignoring this beat for nearly two weeks has been a blessing in disguise. I’ve always tried to be positive here, and forcing myself to be responsible and care for my two oldest sons while my wife recovered in the hospital with a newborn allowed me to completely forget the debacle that was Miami’s trip to the Little Apple.

Just when I thought I’d figured out this ‘Canes’ team, they let me down. Never did I expect them to roll over and allow Kansas State backup quarterback Daniel Sams to waltz into the end zone twice virtually untouched. Never did I expect a team in Kansas to run past, by and through the perceived “Florida speed.” That was the first game I’ve seen an Al Golden Miami team quit. And through lack of sleep and a few cocktails, I’m glad I’ve forgotten it. Fingers crossed I’m not reliving a beatdown come Saturday evening.

Last week, I missed the ‘Canes, or simply Duke Johnson, take on Bethune-Cookman. A family member’s wedding again wasn’t ideal during my weekend “work,” but listening to the first quarter on the radio was all I could stomach before heading in to the open bar.

Enough negativity — Duke Johnson is a one man wrecking crew! Four lengthy scores against an FCS opponent have firmly cemented Johnson as the game changer Miami hasn’t had in years. The Hurricanes have never had a player win ACC Freshman of the Year, but given the impressive start to Johnson’s career coupled with a lack of impact freshmen elsewhere, and Johnson may already be a unanimous selection. Last season’s winner, Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins, gave onlookers 33 touches, 371 yards and four touchdowns in his first three games. In Johnson’s first three outings, he’s got 35 touches for 333 yards and five scores. I’m looking forward to watching offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch get creative with Johnson and find ways to get the ball in his hands moving forward. Anyone else smelling a little Wildcat?

Okie dokie, now that I’m all caught up, lets head back to that buzzing. Georgia Tech’s Yellow Jackets got their offense cranked up last weekend against Virginia, scoring immediately, and not stopping until the clock read 0:00. They boast a defense which ranks 20th nationally in points allowed, 36th against the run, 26th against the pass and 18th in total defense.  Conversely, Miami comes in allowing 463.33 yards per game, bad enough to be 103rd out of 124 teams. Even last week’s opponent, an FCS school, ran for 233 yards against this Miami unit.

Making matters worse for the ‘Canes, starting middle linebacker and defensive leader Denzel Perryman suffered a high ankle sprain against Bethune-Cookman, and won’t play. Safety Vaughn Telemaque didn’t play last week against Bethune, and while he’s expected back Saturday, he’s no sure thing.

I think I just did my best “Dr. Lou” impersonation, because clearly, Miami has no chance this weekend. It doesn’t matter that Miami has beaten Georgia Tech three straight times. It doesn’t matter that Georgia Tech hasn’t played a team with this type of playmaking ability on offense. The numbers don’t lie, and the numbers say Miami is heading to the Big Peach for a beat down.

This kind of unwinnable game is exactly what defined Miami football in the 1980s and 1990s. There’s honestly no logical reason to expect Miami to be competitive, but this young team may just be naïve enough to not care, and move to 2-0 in league play. And that’s the crux of this game – it will be the ‘Canes’ second ACC tilt, and Georgia Tech’s third. The winner is in a prime spot as we head into October, and it’s a storyline that’s being largely overlooked thanks to the constant banter about Florida State “being back.”

Seminoles-Tigers

So allow me to shift gears here, and speak to the national buzz surrounding Saturday night’s clash between Florida State and Clemson. If you listened to, or read a transcript from Wednesday’s coaches’ teleconference, you heard every school’s head man get asked about this game, while some barely even fielded questions about their team. The hype machine is in full effect in Tallahassee right now. “Is Florida State back?” “Can Clemson pull an upset, and not falter down the stretch?”

Sadly, I feel like this game is exactly like what I’ve described with Miami’s roster all August. It’s a different group, but the same story line. I’m as excited as anyone to watch the ‘Noles and Tigers knock heads this weekend, but can anyone honestly tell me this game matters?

Florida State has looked absolutely dominant. They’ve given up three points, total, through three games. And I’m not here to bash that stat based upon their opponents, because one point per game is about as impressive a stat as I’ve ever seen.  What if they beat Clemson this weekend in dominant fashion?

I contend that the ‘Noles could run the table, and still be left out of the national title discussion. Oregon could run the table, and in doing so, beat Southern Cal twice, likely earning them a spot ahead of FSU in a championship game. And we all know an SEC school will be the opponent.

Clemson, on the other hand, won a hard fought game over what now looks like a pretty lousy Auburn team. Last week’s game with Furman showed the Tigers’ defense isn’t ready to compete on a national level. They have the offensive firepower to win Saturday night, but haven’t we seen Clemson start seasons 8-0, only to finish 9-3?

There’s no question this is a big week for the ACC on a national scene. Virginia has a chance to bounce back on national television against a quality Big 12 opponent in TCU. Maryland probably doesn’t have a punchers chance against West Virginia, and the Miami-Georgia Tech tilt is equally as important to the conference race as FSU-Clemson. I just think we as fans of this conference need to temper our expectations and excitement regarding a Top Ten matchup in September. It’s a shame this game isn’t six weeks later.


Chris Bennett currently covers the ACC for Rotowire, and previously for College Fantasy Football Insider. Though a graduate of South Carolina, he had his allegiances well formed, and didn’t deviate despite spending four years in Columbia. Though completely against social media, he has signed up for Twitter, where you can find him at @ChrisBennettACC.

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