Miami Hurricane fans were hoping last Friday’s upset loss to Pitt to stop their 10-0 season wasn’t an omen for the ACC Championship Game. Unfortunately, it was, and then some. As the Clemson Tigers spent four quarters spanking the Canes, and had a decisive 38-3 win to capture the ACC Championship for the third straight season.
The Tigers, who had already been ranked #1 by the College Football Playoff Committee on Tuesday night, raced out to a 21-0 lead in the second quarter and were never threatened in this one.
Tigers QB Kelly Bryant (above) ran a score in from 11 yards out to make it 14-0. Then, with Miami floundering in the third quarter, he later threw a 27 yard TD pass to Deon Cain to make it 38-0.
Part of that floundering was Miami QB Malik Rosier throwing two costly interceptions that allowed Clemson to bust the game wide open. The freshman signal caller was unable to shake his poor performance against Pitt, and Miami had not shot to come back once they got down.
Miami kicked a meaningless field goal in the final four minutes to avoid being shut out.
For his part, Bryant completed his first nine passes and the Tigers were also a perfect 7 for 7 on third down conversions in the first half to help them take the three TD lead.
Clemson will obviously remain #1, when the CFP Final rankings are revealed Sunday afternoon and they will play in the Sugar Bowl semi-final on New Year’s Night. That will be against whomever the committee votes as number #4 to set the match-up.
It’s the third straight year in the playoff semis for Dabo Swinney’s team, after having destroyed Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl last year and beating Oklahoma decisively two years ago in the Orange Bowl. The Tigers may get to meet one or both of those teams in the 2018 upcoming playoff, too.
Meanwhile, with Miami struggling late in the year to finish 10-2, they will await the ACC bowl tie-in situation on Sunday and see where they end up.
LSU pummels Miami in impressive opener
Don’t let the final score fool you. This was a one-sided Affair at AT&T stadium in Arlington, Texas, Sunday night. LSU handled, even manhandled, the Miami Hurricanes in a 33-17 victory.
For the Canes, they were trying to erase the bad taste in their mouth at the end of last season, where they fell apart after being ranked number 3 in the College Football Playoff rankings late in the year. They lost their final three games, including a blowout defeat in the ACC Championship Game to Clemson and losing in a home game like Orange Bowl to Wisconsin.
This debut on national TV Sunday night is not going to make any of the detractors of Mark Richt and his team over last year’s finish be any less vocal.
After an exchange of field goals, LSU got rolling in a big way when running back Nick Brossette broke off a 50-yard touchdown run for a 10-3 lead. After LSU marched down the field, again, early on in the second quarter, Brossette set scored again, from a yard out, to push the lead to 14 points. Brossette finished with a career high 125 yards rushing.
Then something all too familiar at the end of last season happened, again, when senior quarterback Malik Rosier’s pass was deflected to the Tigers Jacob Phillips. He was “Johnny on the spot” to grab it and raced 45 yards for the pick six touchdown (shown above) and break the game wide open at 27-3.
LSU’s defense repeatedly harassed and sacked Rosier, and had the only two turnovers of the game. The lead was 33-3 headed to the fourth quarter.
Yes, Miami was able to get two touchdowns from Rosier in the fourth quarter that dressed up the final score, but in the end this was a decisive loss. A loss that will have many already doubting whether Miami is a legit ACC contender saying “told you so.”
Meanwhile, LSU punctuated yet another big opening weekend again for the SEC.
Top-ranked Alabama demolished Louisville in Orlando, their rival Auburn when a hard-fought game with Washington in Atlanta, and Ole Miss handled Big 12 Texas Tech in Houston. The only SEC team that did not fare well in a power conference match-up was Tennessee, which was winless in the conference a year ago, and was manhandled by West Virginia in Charlotte.
LSU needed a a good effort against a worthy named opponent on a neutral field and they got it Sunday night.
Miami gets set for huge opening battle with LSU
It doesn’t get much bigger for a regular season opener than a stand-alone national television game against a really good opponent, and that’s what Miami has Sunday night against LSU.
The Hurricanes, who are preseason #8 in the rankings will take on the always formidable Tigers who are ranked preseason #25 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX.
And both programs know this is a meaningful game out of conference that will have relevance down the road if they both want consideration for the College Football Playoff rankings. Miami had risen to as high as #3 in the CFP standings before faltering last year.
The Canes brings back quarterback Malik Rosier after a tough end to his 2018. Rozier played brilliantly earlier in the year, especially in a couple of comeback wins against Florida State and Virginia. However, his play tapered off badly in losses to Pitt, Clemson and Wisconsin in the Orange Bowl.
As an example of that, Rosier had 23 TDs and only 11 INTs in his first ten games last season. Then, starting with the disastrous loss to Pitt, Rosier’s completion percentage dropped by 10% and he threw only three TDs and three INTS over the last three games.
Still, despite having a couple of other options, coach Mark Richt will go with Rosier to start this game. Rick, who benefited from the 10-0 Miami start last year, has also faced some criticism because of the fade at the end of the season that resulted in a 10-3 record.
LSU will have a new quarterback when highly-touted Joe Burrow, a transfer from Ohio State, will take the helm in this game. The Tigers will also have to replace outstanding running back Derrius Guice, who left early for the NFL.
The Canes boast one of the best linebackers in college football in Shaq Quarterman. Quarterman had a staggering 164 total tackles last season, 17 for losses and six sacks. He has started all 24 games in the last two seasons and is a first team All ACC preseason selection.
Expect lots of physical play, especially from the linebackers and secondaries on both teams in this one.
Canes top Florida teams in intial AP Preseason Poll
Coming off a season that restored hope and optimism in Miami, the Hurricanes have high hopes for 2018. And with the new AP Preseason Poll out for the first time Monday afternoon, others obviously do, too.
The Canes were ranked #8 by the Associated Press voters after not having been ranked in the preseason poll last year.
To no one’s surprise, Alabama is again the top choice preseason to win it all getting 42 first place votes. It’s the fifth time, including last year, that Saban’s Alabama team has been preseason #1. Also, not surprising in recent years, Clemson is #2 and got 18 of the votes for the top spot. Georgia, Wisconsin and Ohio State round out the AP Top five.
Back to Miami, they were 10-0 a year ago and ranked #3 by the College Football Playoff committee after their back to wins over nationally ranked Virginia Tech and Notre Dame at home. Unfortunately, it all fell apart quickly, as the Hurricanes were stunned on the Friday after Thanksgiving by a Pitt team with a losing record. Then, they were blown out by Clemson in the ACC title game and Wisconsin knocked them off in the Orange Bowl for a disappointing 10-3 finish.
The biggest ongoing question for the Canes is whether last year’s QB, Malik Rosier, will hang on to his starting job, and for how long? Coach Mark Richt has that and some losses of key players on defense to contend with for this upcoming season.
The AP voters gave respect to first year coach Willie Taggart and FSU putting them in the initial poll at #19. The Noles hope to welcome back 2016 starter at QB Deondre Francois and do return one of the best young running backs in the country in Cam Akers.
UCF, which had a magical unbeaten 13-0 season that they took a little too far, is in the AP Poll with a #21 ranking. It’s the first time they’ve ever been ranked in the AP Preseason Poll.
The Knights had coach Scott Frost depart for his alma matter, Nebraska, and now former Missouri offensive coordinator and Oklahoma QB Josh Heupel is set to lead them this season.
The biggest key for the Knights, Heupel, and fans is that quarterback exciting dual threat quarterback McKenzie Milton returns for his junior season. The former AAC Offensive Player of the Year in 2017 is also an early favorite for Heisman consideration.
Not surprisingly, the AP voters left out Florida, and USF out of their preseason top 25. The Gators come off a losing season, and while USF won 10 games and a bowl game again last year in coach Charlie Strong’s first season, they lost star QB Quinton Flowers to graduation.
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