ACC Football 2012 Payback Games: Miami Hurricanes

Will Miami Be Stopped at the Goal Line in a Rematch with Kansas State, or Can the Hurricanes Be Able to Upset the Favored Wildcats?

Every team in the ACC has a couple games they wish they had back from 2011. Whether they didn’t bring their A-game, or the other guys just got lucky, every school would love another shot at an opponent, for the ability to prove it won’t happen again. Luckily, because of conference play and parity in the ACC, many will get a chance at redemption immediately, with rematches already on the books for 2012.

As part of our 2012 college football season preview, we’ll be running through the biggest “payback” games for each school. As no team finished with just one loss, there are likely multiple choices for each — none more “right’ than another, necessarily. Still, every selection should help provide some extra motivation for fans as they gear up for this season’s slate of games.

Team: Miami Hurricanes

Opponent: Kansas State

Last Year: Loss, 28-24 vs. Kansas State

This Year: September 8, @ Kansas State

In a season full of close calls (their six losses were by a combined 33 points), the ‘Canes early defeat versus Kansas State should’ve told us all we needed to know. With just 49 seconds left on the clock, and the ball on the goal line, QB Jacory Harris just had to punch it in. And yet, he couldn’t do it and Miami would go on to suffer their second of six grueling defeats. State, on the other hand, would pull off another close call amidst a series of them all season. The Wildcats ended up surprising everyone at 10-3 overall; the exact opposite of Miami’s campaign of misfortune. Continue reading

2012 NFL Draft Preview: Miami (FL)

Lamar Miller is Among Eight Miami Hurricanes With a Great Chance to Be Selected in the 2012 NFL Draft

Leading up to this month’s NFL Draft, we’ll be taking a look at each ACC‘s school’s prospects and where they’re slated to be chosen. While 43 ACC players were invited to the NFL Draft Combine, those not in attendance also have ample opportunity to hear their name called between April 26 and 28.

Given the current state of Miami Hurricanes football, it’s amazing that there are only eight players on this list. Yet, they all create massive holes that the team must fill this spring as they try for a successful season amidst controversy. No one blames the players below for departing, however. Faced with a potential multi-year postseason ban, how could you?

Lamar Miller, RB, Sophomore

While Miller may lack that true “breakaway” speed (he ran a 4.45 40-time at the Draft Combine), he does have a strong early burst to the line — allowing him to quickly gain leverage against would-be defenders. As a sophomore last year, he proved himself a workhorse for an inconsistent offense, eating up over 1,500 all-purpose yards and scoring 10 touchdowns. While not overly fast or strong, his instincts and vision served him well while at Miami, and they translate well to the NFL. Ideally, he’d serve a LaDainian Tomlinson-type role in a West Coast offense as a prime target out of the backfield as well. He’s currently projected as a late-first or early-second round pick, and sure starter as a pro.

Sean Spence, LB, Senior

From his physical appearance (5’11”, 231 pounds) and basic Combine numbers (4.71 40-time, 12 reps on bench), Sean Spence appears to be a lower-tier prospect with little upside. Yet, the linebacker has managed All-ACC selections and is a monster tackler — among the surest in wrapping up in the conference, to be precise. While he lacks the speed, size and strength that many project as vital to NFL success, he’s a player whose instincts keep him on par with his competition. A team leader for Miami, Spence of course raises some questions. But for those willing to insert him on at least a limited basis, they could be plenty surprised with this potential late-second or early-third round pick. Continue reading

ACC 2012 Spring Practice Expectations: Miami Hurricanes

Veterans Like Jimmy Gaines Will Be the Key to This Miami team Having a Productive Spring

As spring practices get under way, we’ll be previewing what needs to happen for the teams and players of the ACC, culminating with notes on all 14 spring games.

Today’s featured team: Miami Hurricanes

After a respectable 6-6 season amidst off-the-field distractions, there was a predictable mass exodus for the Hurricanes on both sides of the ball. While senior quarterback Jacory Harris was an expected departure, underclassmen like RB Lamar Miller and WR Tommy Streeter declared early to avoid the repercussions of an NCAA investigation, sprinting from Coral Gables as fast as their 40-yard dash times (each recorded a 4.4) would imply. To replace them, head coach Al Golden will rely on a cast of young, unproven players. Just four offensive starters returned for the ‘Canes in 2012, none of whom beyond senior receiver Allen Hurns play at the big-three skill positions. The leadership role in this young, retooled group then falls to junior QB Stephen Morris — or rather, it would if he wasn’t missing spring practice due to back surgery. Without Morris for the time being, Miami stands little chance at developing the type or rhythm and comfort with the system necessary to succeed at this level. Adding in the fact that you’re dealing with an inexperienced team at nearly every position and it’s a recipe for disaster. The only senior starter is predicted to be running back Mike James, who put up seven touchdowns in limited relief of Miller last year. For the spring at least, he’ll be the glue that helps these players mesh while they wait for their quarterback to heal up.

Continue reading

2011 ACC Season Recap: Miami Hurricanes

Can Miami Overcome the Loss of Players Like Lamar Miller in 2012?

Team: Miami Hurricanes

W-L: 6-6 (3-5)

Postseason: N/A

Top Offensive Performer: Lamar Miller, RB

Top Defensive Performer: Sean Spence, LB

Rocked by an offseason scandal, subsequent suspensions, and even murmurs about the NCAA “death penalty,” the fact that the Hurricanes were still able to win six games this season is miraculous. With a black cloud hanging over much of the season, Miami would trade wins and losses with regularity — yet they were within one score in all six of their defeats, which included four-point losses to nationally-ranked Florida State and Kansas State, plus another heartbreaker to Virginia Tech by three. Of course, with the NCAA’s ruling still pending, not only has it been difficult to recruit the usual top talent that regularly shuffles into Coral Gables, Fla., but many of its current stars are sprinting for the exits.

For all the talent the Miami offense possesses, it was amazing the team could only put up 26.1 points per game. Quarterback Jacory Harris and running back Lamar Miller were regularly two of the best players on the field during ‘Canes games, yet the squad would fail to score more than 24 in eight of their 12 contests. Miami would finish near the middle of the pack in nearly every offensive measurement, scoring just 39 touchdowns on the season — “good” for eighth in the ACC. For all of their speed and apparent skill sets on the offensive side of the ball, one of the Hurricanes’ biggest concerns was its inability to pick up first downs. Recording just 220 on the season, they’d rank 11th in the league, sitting just ahead of Boston College, one of the worst offenses in the country. Continue reading

Top 10 Best ACC Games of 2011

The 2011 ACC Season Yielded Some Great Games, and We Listed the 10 Best Ones.

We’ll be recapping everything about the 2011 ACC football season here as December winds down. Thus far, we’ve posted a comprehensive look at conference coaching grades, with much more coming in the next few weeks. Today, we’re taking a look at the ACC’s (plus Syracuse and Pitt‘s) best games of 2011.

*Top 10 Best ACC Games of 2011*

10. Virginia Tech Hokies 37, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 26: In primetime, with the inside track to the ACC title game on the line, Georgia Tech‘s running game looked as if it had figured out the Virginia Tech‘s defense. Then suddenly, the turnover bug hit, Logan Thomas and David Wilson took over, and the Hokies put an exclamation point on one of their biggest wins of the season. The victory in a hostile environment down in Atlanta was a turning-point in their appearances as a contender and assisted Virginia Tech in their ascension to the BCS’s top-five at one point.

9. Wake Forest Demon Deacons 35, Florida State Seminoles 30: Still ranked in the top 25 despite their 2-2 record at the time, Florida State was supposed to make short work of the Demon Deacons on this specific Saturday. Instead, Wake — a 10-point underdog — punished the Seminoles in all aspects of the game, forcing five turnovers and consistently coming up with key throws, courtesy of quarterback Tanner Price.

8. Clemson Tigers 31, Wake Forest Demon Deacons 28: While both squads needed this win at the time, it was the Tigers who would end up proving their championship meddle here with a late rally for the victory. For Wake, it was another crushing loss in a season full of them. Though Clemson would drop their next two games after this one, this emotional win served as proof the seemingly struggling squad could still come through when called upon.

7. Virginia Cavaliers 14, Florida State Seminoles 13: A huge victory for the Cavaliers‘ program, this game finally brought some national attention to what was a surprisingly successful campaign for Virginia in 2011. With Coastal division hopes still intact, Virginia rolled into Tallahassee, stole a close win and as a result, were ranked for the first time in years. It also put their superb defensive unit on display as a key to their resurgence and a reason to look forward to the future over in Charlottesville.

6. Kansas State Wildcats 28, Miami Hurricanes 24: Before Kansas State became a BCS contender, this matchup with Miami more served as a distraction for a Hurricanes program struggling with NCAA allegations. Those thoughts would be put on hold for an afternoon in late September though, as the two teams battled it out down to the wire before K-State stood up Miami QB Jacory Harris at the goal line for the victory.

5. Clemson Tigers 38, Auburn Tigers 24: Battling an ongoing perception that the ACC resembles a minor-league SEC, anytime the league gets a shot at its “superior” southern brothers, there’s always something to prove. Clemson and quarterback Tajh Boyd would announce themselves as serious contenders during this contest, punching the defending national champs, Auburn, in the mouth by racking up over 600 total yards. It would end up as just another stop on Clemson’s eight-game winning-streak to start the season.

4. Virginia Tech Hokies 38, Miami Hurricanes 35: Mostly shuffling through the first three quarters of their early-October game, both teams suddenly caught fire in the fourth as they combined for 35 points in that stanza, and over 1,000 total yards on the game. Logan Thomas, still mostly questionable at that juncture, recorded the winning score with under a minute to go, his fifth touchdown on the day to solidify his stature as one of the ACC’s best playmakers.

3. NC State Wolfpack 56, Maryland Terrapins 41: Down 41-14 in the third quarter, NC State pulled off the unthinkable against the Terps, putting up 35 points in the fourth. It was one of the most impressive fourth-quarter offensive displays in FBS history, and for Wolfpack QB Mike Glennon, it was his most impressive game as a player (six total touchdowns). The thrilling comeback victory also clinched bowl eligibility for State, an accomplishment that once looked extremely distant this season.

2. Clemson Tigers 56, Maryland Terrapins 45: The league’s best and worst teams, respectively should never have been in a close game to begin with. Yet, when faced with an 18-point deficit, Tajh Boyd and Clemson responded in a big way, and put up 39 points during an outrageous second half. Boyd finished with four touchdowns and jumped defiantly into the Heisman trophy conversation. Overall, the Tigers finished this one with nearly 600 offensive yards on their own.

1. Syracuse Orange 36, Wake Forest Demon Deacons 29: Looking absolutely listless for most of this game, Syracuse spent the final 11 minutes against Wake roaring back to make up the 15-point deficit and force overtime. The ensuing victory was supposed to be a turning-point for the program, riding on the coattails of last year’s thrilling Pinstripe Bowl. While that never came to pass during a very frustrating 2011 campaign for Orange fans, this was one of the year’s most fun and exciting finishes — a great one for any football fan (specifically this one, though).

ACC Power Rankings, Week 14

How Many More Trophies Will Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas Be Hoisting This Season?

In these conference rankings, I list the ACC teams, one through 14, as if Pitt and Syracuse were already in the league. Yes, adding the additional teams may seem pointless now, but wait until they officially join. Then it’ll seem like old news and we can get past that initial awkwardness. No, I won’t reconsider. On to this week’s rankings!

1. Virginia Tech Hokies (11-1) (7-1) (LW: 1): The Hokies played as complete a game as they have all season this past Saturday. Against upstart Virginia, the team completely controlled the line of scrimmage, looked impressive in both the passing and rushing games on offense and absolutely dominated on defense to the tune of four forced turnovers. Tech’s defense has carried them through much of this season, but with more consistent play from quarterback Logan Thomas and more superb efforts from RB David Wilson, finishing as a top-five team isn’t out of the question.

2. Florida State Seminoles (8-4) (5-3) (LW: 5): The Seminoles end the regular season as the league’s second-best squad due mostly to a lack of quality conference teams. Still, it’s hard to deny FSU credit where credit is due, turning in dominant defensive performances throughout the season’s second half to drag them out of a 2-3 hole and onto what could be a nine-win campaign. No opponent has scored over 20 against Florida State since Wake Forest put up 35 on October 8.

3. Clemson Tigers (9-3) (6-2) (LW: 3): Once a commanding offense capable of scoring on teams at will, the Tigers haven’t just stalled — they’ve crashed during the year’s final third. At just 1-3 in their previous four games, the once-undefeated “best squad in the ACC” is showing flaws all over; from the one-dimensional passing game to its tackling and coverage struggles. It’s probably best to forget about their dominant win over Virginia Tech earlier in the year, because that team will not be the one that shows up in Charlotte.

4. Virginia Cavaliers(8-4) (5-3) (LW: 2): If you’d told Cavaliers fans in the preseason they’d miss the ACC title game by just one win, they’d probably have been thrilled to hear it. Now, however, most see Saturday’s 38-0 drubbing as an incredibly anticlimactic ending to an otherwise fun and surprising season. As predicted, Virginia’s offensive ineptitude caught up with them against a great defense (unlike their lucky finish versus FSU), and the results were disastrous.

5. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (8-4) (5-3) (LW: 4): The ‘Wreck have relied heavily on the effectiveness of quarterback Tevin Washington all season, so when he has an off-game, the team’s results are rarely pretty. In total, Washington racked up just 75 total yards on Saturday and had two picks before getting benched near the close of the game. For the offense (and this team) to grow, it’ll need to expect production of out multiple skill players.

6. NC State Wolfpack (7-5) (4-4) (LW: 7): Down 20 points at the end of the third quarter to the ACC’s worst team, it looked like NC State’s bowl dreams were about to die in a long, drawn-out crash. Then Mike Glennon accounted for three touchdowns, the defense came up with a shutout fourth quarter and the Pack put up 35 points in the final 15 minutes. What could have been a horrible day turned into one for the ages as State beat Maryland 56-41, with Glennon getting involved in six scores total. With seven wins, they’re now going bowling.

7. North Carolina Tar Heels (7-5) (3-5) (LW: 8): As inconsistent as it gets, Carolina recorded one of its best offensive outputs of the season on Saturday, defeating Duke 37-21. Limping to scoring totals of 21 or less as a habit of late, UNC surprisingly saw very little trouble from a sneaky Blue Devils squad on either side of the ball. The Heels are expected to go bowling, though chances are the rival Wolfpack will surpass them in the priorities order.

8. Miami (FL) Hurricanes (6-6) (3-5) (LW: 8): The way Miami’s been playing lately, it’s for the best they’ll be foregoing a trip to the postseason. Since October 22, they’ve alternated wins and losses, and scored over 24 points just once. For a team that possesses two of the league’s most explosive individual performers in Jacory Harris and Lamar Miller, it’s a puzzling sight.

9. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (6-6) (5-3) (LW: 9): For those who were confused as they watched the Demon Deacons get shelled by Vanderbilt this weekend, the Commodores are not representing the SEC East in their conference title game. Although playing well on D this year, Vandy is still just 6-6, so there’s little excuse for Wake’s embarrassing show. Even with Wake going to a bowl game (however mediocre it may be), there must be a ton of re-evaluation on both sides of the ball before this team takes the next step.

10. Pittsburgh Panthers (5-6) (0-0) (LW: 10): Pitt fought hard in what may be the last “Backyard Brawl” for some time, but in the end, came up short 21-20 to a vastly superior team. The moral of the story: Galvanized by Ray Graham‘s injury, this team’s mental-makeup can overcome any talent deficiencies they may encounter. This weekend’s must-win versus Syracuse does loom large, however.

11. Boston College Eagles (4-8) (3-5) (LW: 13): Seemingly left for dead months ago, BC won three of its final five games to save face with a 3-5 conference record. In spite of some real scoring issues (just 18.2 points per game), the Eagles did sport quite the defensive effort from start to finish, and it showed in their pure dominance of Miami on Friday afternoon. If this group can keep it together, it may be a very quick turnaround for Boston College to get back to contention.

12. Syracuse Orange (5-6) (1-0) (LW: 11): Syracuse scored 49 points against West Virginia back in October, sporting an aggressive defense and an offense clicking on all cylinders. A little over a month later, the Orange have scored just 60 total points since, and are losers of four straight games. If you’ve watched any portion of an SU of late, you’ll also notice they aren’t very good at tackling in the open field (or on any field, for that matter). This will be problematic when trying to secure a bowl berth next week.

13. Duke Blue Devils (3-9) (1-7) (LW: 12): Even worse than Syracuse, Duke started out their season 3-2, and then proceeded to lose all seven subsequent games. So was this year’s 3-9 team better than last year’s edition with an identical record? The Blue Devils lost four games by a score or less in 2011, versus the same amount in 2010. The highlight of this season will end up being their four-point loss to Virginia Tech, while last year saw big wins against Virginia and Navy.Verdict: 2010, by a nose.

14. Maryland Terrapins (2-10) (1-7) (LW: 14): In a season full of horrendous performances, Saturday’s 20-point collapse against NC State seemed to set a new standard for this squad. Do the Terps have an answer at QB going forward? What about this atrocious D, which gave up 34.3 points per game (103rd in the FBS) and saw 30 points or more hung on them in six of their last seven games? We’ve said it before: Randy Edsall, your seat’s getting warm already.

ACC Previews & Predictions (Week 12)

Can Virginia Stay in Contention For the ACC Title This Week?

With just a few weeks left, here’s what we know: Either Clemson, Virginia or Virginia Tech will be winning the league — and one of those teams (UVa) may drop out of the running this Saturday. Two five-win teams desperately need a victory this weekend to secure their place in the postseason. While one (Wake Forest) has a pretty good shot, the other (Miami) faces a pretty tough out-of-conference test on the road. NC State is also looking to get themselves a bowl bid, but will need to win a total of seven games (they currently have five, with two games to play) due to an overabundance of FCS teams on the schedule.

*Game of the Week*

Virginia Cavaliers (7-3) (4-2) at Florida State Seminoles (7-3) (5-2): The surprising Cavaliers are just two wins away from playing for an ACC title, while the Seminoles aren’t even within sniffing distance of their season-opening top-five ranking. Still, Florida State sports one of the country’s best passing attacks, a top-10 defense and a five-game winning streak. Not to mention the fact that this one’s in Tallahassee, a graveyard for young, unproven teams. As well as Virginia has played of late, it’s too difficult to ignore their weak offense versus an FSU defense that will spend the night blitzing and forcing bad throws. Prediction: Florida St. 31, Virginia 20

The Rest of the Slate (in order of start time):

North Carolina Tar Heels (6-4) (2-4) at Virginia Tech Hokies (9-1) (5-1): The Heels have had two weeks to prepare for this one, but I doubt even a month would have done them any good. Virginia Tech is running on all cylinders late in the season for once, and with the way UNC has failed to show up game-in and game-out this year, don’t be surprised if this one gets away from them quickly. UNC’s biggest problem is that they do everything marginally well, but fail to be exceptional in any facet of the game — something that will haunt them against one of the FBS’s top defenses. Prediction: Virginia Tech 33, UNC 17

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (7-3) (4-3) at Duke Blue Devils (3-7) (1-5): Scheduling-wise, Georgia Tech caught the buzzsaw in the ACC this season, meeting the league’s entire top tier except Florida State. So this will be a welcome break. Given Duke’s lack of a run game (113th in the nation) and inability to stop the run, either (the Hokies racked up 243 yards on them two weeks ago), this could be a very long afternoon. Expect the Yellow Jackets to use their dreaded triple-option to excess, with quarterback Tevin Washington probably notching a few touchdowns and at least 250 total yards. Prediction: Georgia Tech 45, Duke 27

Maryland Terrapins (2-8) (1-5) at Wake Forest Demon Deacons (5-5) (4-3): As mentioned briefly above, Wake Forest gets a bit of a gift this week facing the woeful Terps at home. Things haven’t looked that great for the Demon Deacons of late though, who have been the league’s least impressive team, save Maryland, for the past month. Ultimately, this game will come down to whether the Terps can progress the ball through the air against Wake’s suspect pass defense. If they can, they stand a chance. But with Maryland’s 96th-overall defense, there really isn’t much room for their numerous errors, especially against Deacons’ QB Tanner Price. Prediction: Wake Forest 35, Maryland 24

Miami (FL) Hurricanes (5-5) at USF Bulls (5-4): Unlike Wake above, Miami very much has to earn win number six this week against a real, competitive team. With USF just one win away from bowl eligibility themselves, it promises to be a struggle. Which Bulls team will show up? The one that dropped two consecutive games when leading with 90 seconds to go, or the one that walloped Syracuse last Friday night? One would figure somewhere in the middle, which unfortunately may not be enough for them to pull out a big non-conference win. Without the strong defensive unit of previous seasons, USF is likely to get torched by Jacory Harris and Lamar Miller all day. Prediction: Miami 27, USF 20

Clemson Tigers (9-1) (6-1) at NC State Wolfpack (5-5) (2-4): This one has all the makings of a trap game. Clemson has the Atlantic Division wrapped up, and so they’re likely looking ahead to the final game with South Carolina. NC State, on the other hand, needs to win their final two in order to play in a bowl. While Tigers’ QB Tajh Boyd has definitely regressed a bit over the last few games, this might be the one where he bounces back. Expect a big game from him, and the Clemson defense — faced with a one-dimensional offense that plays right to their stronger suit (defending the pass). Prediction: Clemson 38, NC State 14

Boston College Eagles (3-7) at Notre Dame Fighting Irish (7-3): The battle for the title of the FBS’s best Catholic school has seen better days, but that doesn’t mean this matchup won’t be compelling. Mired in one of their worst seasons in a couple decades, BC’s still managed to hang tough and win two of their last three — saving themselves from the ACC cellar (probably). Notre Dame has been hot as well, wining seven of their last eight, including an absolute dismantling of Maryland last week. As nice as it’s been to see the Eagles strive for respectability these past few weeks, the dream probably stops here. Prediction: Notre Dame 34, Boston College 13

Last Week’s Record: 5-3; 2011 Record: 22-12