Clemson soars; Miami, Golden hit rock bottom

SHARE Clemson soars; Miami, Golden hit rock bottom
SHARE Clemson soars; Miami, Golden hit rock bottom

You ever publicly predict that Team A will beat Team B by a score of 27-24, only to glance at your computer a day later and discover that Team B has in fact eked out a 58-0 victory?

Yeah, um, me neither.

OK, fine, I once found myself in a scenario similar to the one described above. Once, as in earlier this very weekend. Similar, as in exactly the same.

I’m the nitwit who picked Miami to upset sixth-ranked Clemson on Saturday.

Not only did the Tigers play essentially a perfect game, remaining unbeaten and in strong position to make a run at the College Football Playoff, but they also dealt Miami its worst loss in 90 years of football at the school.

Other than that, my pick was right on the money.

But enough about me. Let’s talk about Clemson (7-0), which recorded its largest victory over an FBS opponent in 24 years. Let’s talk about a hungry Tigers squad that went on the road and outgained the Hurricanes 567-146. That’s just picking a stat out of a hat, mind you — they were all ridiculously lopsided.

Think style points don’t matter? They absolutely do in this age of a playoff and a selection committee made up of — gasp! — real, live humans. Clemson looked like one of the very best teams in the country, which probably wasn’t the case in its earlier, “signature” victory over Notre Dame.

The Tigers survived a close call against the Irish, but they were pedal-to-the-metal awesome from the start against a Miami team that came into the game at 4-2 and had played pretty well to date. Example: a 29-24 defeat at Florida State earlier in October.

No doubt, coach Dabo Swinney and the Tigers — who have difficult assignments up next at North Carolina State and at home against FSU — now are the strong favorites to win the Atlantic Coast Conference. If they get to that finish line without a loss, they should be golden as far as getting into the playoff.

But there’s that word: Golden. Only now, I’m talking about Miami coach Al Golden. That is, if he’s still Miami’s coach by the time you read this.

Considering how hot Golden’s seat was before Saturday, let’s just stay he chooses to stand, thank you very much. Miami is 4-3 — hardly terrible — but the fan base and the school’s influential football alumni have been sucking on mediocre for a decade now. They’re beyond done with it.

Golden, who previously built a winner at moribund Temple and was considered a great hire when he took over at Miami prior to the 2011 season, now is 32-25 overall, and 17-18 in ACC play, at the school. Saturday, though, his team hit a shocking low.

How can a Miami team lose by 58 to anybody?

“I know it isn’t far from outhouse to penthouse,” Swinney said. “I don’t celebrate anything from Miami’s bad day. I feel for him. I hate it, man. Al Golden is a great guy.”

After his latest defeat, Golden stood on the field with his team and didn’t even bother to mouth along as players and staff members saluted a tiny crowd by singing their alma mater. Instead, Golden stared at the grass, anguish written all over his face.

“It’s completely my responsibility,” he said.

Probably not for long.

GAMES OF THE WEEK/WEAK

Week: No. 9 Alabama 19, Tennessee 14. Alabama (7-1) was in serious danger after Vols running back Jalen Hurd scored to give his team a 14-13 lead with 5:49 to play. The must-have Crimson Tide touchdown drive that ensued over eight plays and 71 yards, capped by a 14-yard Derrick Henry run, kept the Superpower of the South in the national championship hunt. Vols kicker Aaron Medley missed three field goals in the game, a real crusher.

Week: No. 23 Duke 45, Virginia Tech 43 (4OT). What’s better that four overtimes? (Don’t you dare say, “Five overtimes,” wise guy.) The Blue Devils may not enjoy the status of fellow ACC programs Clemson and Florida State, but they’re 6-1 after pulling off what used to be an enormous task for any road team — winning in Blacksburg, Va. Trailing by six in the final overtime, quarterback Thomas Sirk first threw a touchdown pass, then ran in a two-point conversion to end it.

Weak: Arkansas 54, Auburn 46 (4OT). What’s worse than four overtimes of two of the most disappointing teams in college football? But that’s just a silly joke, because there was excitement galore in Fayetteville. Bret Bielema’s Hogs got their third victory by scoring 30 points after the end of regulation, including a touchdown and tying two-point conversion in the third extra period. It was another downer for Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, formerly Arkansas’ offensive coordinator.

GAME BALLS

Cam Smith, LB, USC: There’s no such thing as a better day than the one Smith had in the Trojans’ 42-24 blowout of third-ranked Utah. Only a freshman, Smith intercepted Utes quarterback Travis Wilson three times and returned one of them 54 yards for the touchdown that put USC in front 28-14 in the second quarter.

Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State: The No. 7 Spartans didn’t break free of Indiana until the fourth quarter, but Cook powered them to the finish of a 52-26 victory. For the game, Cook totaled 398 yards — two shy of Bill Burke’s school record — and four touchdown tosses.

Matt Days, RB, North Carolina State: He rushed for 205 yards, including touchdown runs of 85 and 57 yards, as the Wolfpack moved to 5-2 with a 35-17 victory at Wake Forest. What adds significance is that NC State hadn’t won at Wake since 2001, a real ACC oddity given the Demon Deacons ordinariness through the years.

TRENDING

Up: No. 25 Pittsburgh. After three seasons of .500 ball under Paul Chryst, who left to coach Wisconsin, the Panthers are 6-1 under Chryst’s successor, former Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi. Saturday’s 23-20 escape at Syracuse was a big win for the program.

Down: No. 2 Baylor, maybe. The Bears are 7-0 following a 45-27 victory over Iowa State, but it was later announced that star quarterback Seth Russell had fractured a bone in his neck. Russell may or may not play again this season, but he’s far too good to think the Bears would simply plug in the next guy and be fine.

Down and out: No. 9 Florida State. Ouch — too bad about that 22-16 loss to sub-.500 Georgia Tech. It’s Clemson-or-bust for the ACC now, playoff-wise.

EXTRA POINT

We must pause and remember — and perhaps shed a tear for — the four people who were killed, and the many others who were injured, when a woman suspected of driving under the influence plowed into the crowd Saturday at Oklahoma State’s Homecoming parade. Three adults were pronounced dead at the scene. The fourth victim, a 2-year-old boy, died in the hospital.

In the aftermath, it surely was a difficult decision to go forward with No. 14 Oklahoma State’s game against Kansas, which the Cowboys won 58-10 to get to 7-0. But difficult is something the OSU community knows all to well. In 2001, 10 lives — including those of two players — were lost when the Cowboys men’s basketball team plane crashed. Ten years later, the head women’s basketball coach and three others were killed in a plane crash.

It’s all so heartbreaking.

Follow me on Twitter @SLGreenberg

Email: sgreenberg@suntimes.com

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