ACC Spotlight Week 11: Miami Hurricanes

ESPN’s College Gameday was there. A-Rod and J-Lo were there. All of their famous former players were there. The bright lights were shining and a national television audience was tuned in. Their stadium was even full for the first time in recent memory. So how did they do? They delivered in a major way. It should come as no surprise that this week’s ACC Spotlight on shines on the Miami Hurricanes.

First, the atmosphere in Hard Rock Stadium was absolutely electric. That stadium had the buzz of a national championship game or a Super Bowl. It was easily the most impressive college game atmosphere of the season to date. The Irish didn’t have a chance.

Next, all of the talk heading into the game couldn’t be done without at least some mention of the turnover chain. By now, if you don’t know what the turnover chain is then I’m surprised you’re even reading this article. Did the chain live up to the hype? It absolutely did. Now, the Hurricanes made it live up to the hype by forcing four turnovers against a Notre Dame offense that had only turned the ball over seven times all season long heading into this game. If you watched the game, you could feel and hear the excitement from the roars of the crowd after each turnover. In fact, it sounded like the stadium cheered louder for turnovers than they did when Miami actually scored. Think about that fact when you’re wondering what all the fuss is about with the turnover chain.

Nobody expected this type of domination by the Hurricanes. Most experts picked the Irish to win, but knew Miami had a chance. The manner in which the Hurricanes won is what shocked the football world and now has this team sitting at #2 in the nation in the rankings. From start to finish Miami manhandled Notre Dame on both sides of the football. The Irish came into this game like a freight train behind their running attack, which had just rolled over teams like USC and NC State in recent weeks. The Hurricanes’ defense held them to 109 total rushing yards, well below their average of 324 yards-per-game. It didn’t get any easier for them through the air as Notre Dame used two quarterbacks who combined for three interceptions.

Manny Diaz’s Miami defense is driving this train right now. They’re in the Top 10 in scoring defense in the nation this season. Diaz created the turnover belt to increase the focus on creating turnovers. Mission accomplished so far this season as Miami is ranked #2 in the nation in turnover margin. The front seven is living up to their hype as they currently sit #5 in the country in sacks and #8 in tackles-for-loss. The fact that they are doing this in a collective effort on that side of the ball is what makes this team dangerous heading into the postseason.

Now, you still have to remember that Mark Richt is the head coach; so there will be offense in Miami. Behind Malik Rosier, the Hurricanes are averaging over 450 yards-per-game and scoring around 33 points-per-game. Their star running back, Mark Walton, went out for the season early, but sophomore running back, Travis Homer has really filled in nicely in this spot and has come on strong of late. Homer ran for close to 250 yards in the last two games against the Irish and a good Virginia Tech defense. He is the Hurricanes’ homerun threat and will be fun to watch down the stretch.

So where does the excitement of Saturday’s win leave Miami? As mentioned before, they are currently #2 in the nation now and firmly in the College Football Playoff discussion. They are headed to their first ACC Championship Game since joining the conference in 2004. Their matchup there against Clemson will determine who goes to the CFP. Basically, this game shot them out of a cannon and has everybody believing that indeed, The “U” is back.

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