CORAL GABLES, Fla. – It isn’t nearly as often as it used to be that the Miami Hurricanes football team is showcased. But at noon Saturday in Sun Life Stadium, the Hurricanes get another chance, perhaps their last of the season, to show what they can do against a quality opponent in a nationally televised ACC game.
Yes, the focus is more with the No. 6 Clemson Tigers (6-0, 3-0) as they make their first trip to Miami since 2009. But the Canes (4-2, 1-1) are anxious to display a potent passing attack against Clemson’s stout defense ranked sixth in the country (167.5 yards per game) against the pass.
Say what you will about their road woes, the Canes have been tough to beat at home—winning 16 of their last 19 games, including all three so far this season. All that leads me to this question: Is Miami ripe to upset the top-ranked team in the ACC?
Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney nearly lost his mind recently when asked at a press conference about ‘Clemsoning.’ That’s when Clemson, without any clear reasoning, loses to a far inferior foe. It used to happen often or at least often enough that the term sprung from it.
In not so subtle fashion, Swinney let it be known that ‘Clemsoning’ was a thing of the past, that the Tigers had won 34 consecutive games against unranked opponents, and that this team is here for the long haul.
But I sensed some angst in his weekly ACC press conference when talking about Miami’s passing attack, led by sophomore quarterback Brad Kaaya.
“Outstanding quarterback, probably the best we’ve played,” Swinney said. “With the supporting cast he has around him, probably the best group of receivers we’ve seen.”
Hmm, Kaaya and his boys have Swinney’s attention.
It isn’t the offense that concerns me about this matchup, though. The Canes will move the football on the Tigers. But can they bring back ‘Clemsoning’ into the vernacular on Saturday without the services of their defensive leader?
Senior linebacker and defensive captain Raphael Kirby was lost for the season with a serious knee injury in Miami’s 30-20 victory over Virginia Tech last week. Surgery was scheduled to be performed on Wednesday of this week.
The pressure is on Juwon Young, who stepped in and finished the game at Kirby’s spot. Young now has to handle carrying a heavy weight on his shoulders.
“I got to be the captain. That’s it, point blank, period. I’m the quarterback of the defense, so I got to give the calls, the checks and all that,” Young said after last week’s game.
But as Miami head coach Al Golden pointed out, it’s the entire defense that must step up its game for their sidelined teammate. He said he expects the likes of Deon Bush, Al-Quadin Muhammad, Tyriq McCord, Calvin Heurtelou, Trent Harris and Tracy Howard to be among the vocal leaders on defense.
“There’s a number of guys that are going to need to step up,” Golden said in his weekly ACC press conference. “We’ve challenged those guys. All of those guys are going to have to step up and be vocal and stay together.”
You want to be relevant again? You want to bring back swag to The U?
‘Clemsoning’ the Tigers on Saturday in front of a national audience would go a long way in returning Miami to the college football national landscape.