Hurricanes coach Mark Richt talks to the media after UM defeated Notre Dame
A bunch of thoughts and notes in the aftermath of UM’s 41-8 domination of Notre Dame in front of a raucous crowd at Hard Rock Stadium:
• The College Football Playoff committee has distinguished former coaches (such as Frank Beamer), respected athletic directors and even a Rhodes scholar.
But they will look like a bunch of dopes if they rank UM anywhere lower than second in Tuesday’s poll after Miami’s shellacking of Notre Dame.
Unbeaten Alabama warrants a No. 1 ranking because of the strength of the SEC.
But there is no way - absolutely no way - to justify ranking one-loss Clemson or one-loss Oklahoma ahead of unbeaten UM, or for that matter, ranking those one-loss teams ahead of undefeated Wisconsin, which hasn’t played a great schedule but did dominate a ranked Iowa team on Saturday.
Let’s remind the CFP committee of this, because they seem to keep forgetting: Clemson lost to a Syracuse team that’s 4-6 and was beaten 64-43 by Wake Forest on Saturday. Oklahoma lost to four-loss Iowa State.
This is not to discredit Clemson, which beat an Auburn team that annihilated previously unbeaten Georgia on Saturday. If the Tigers (with one bad loss) are rated ahead of unbeaten UM, the committee should be investigated or disbanded.
Let’s be clear: It’s reasonable to consider number of wins against teams now ranked - Clemson has three, UM two - if all other things are equal.
But in this case, they’re not equal. UM (9-0) hasn’t lost a game. Clemson (9-1) has lost one, to a team that might not even be bowl eligible.
This is where the committee members look foolish when they give short shrift to losses and place too much emphasis in margin of victory and number of wins against teams in the top 25 and other metrics that shouldn’t matter when you’re comparing an unbeaten Power 5 team with everybody else.
So why does any of this matter considering UM will be in the playoff if it wins out?
Foremost, it’s an issue of fairness and respect and potentially seeding in a playoff.
But the larger issue is Miami’s case to be in the playoff even if it loses (narrowly) to Clemson in the ACC Championship, presuming the Hurricanes beat Virginia and Pittsburgh.
In that scenario, Alabama and Wisconsin would obviously be worthy of a CFP bid if they win out. So would Clemson if it beats UM head-to-head. But the fourth slot in that scenario could go to Oklahoma, UM, Georgia or Auburn.
Based on the lack of respect UM has been given by the committee, it would seem likely that the Sooners would get the nod over UM if they win out. But why should they? Why should an Oklahoma loss to a four-loss Iowa State team be considered better than a potential UM loss to Clemson?
From a Hurricanes perspective, hopefully it won’t come to these one-loss scenarios. But this UM win tonight should give Miami as strong a case as anyone to be invited to the playoff even with a loss to Clemson. But I suspect it won’t, because this committee’s judgment cannot be trusted.
• With Virginia Tech and Virginia both losing and UM winning, it’s almost impossible to envision a scenario in which UM either wouldn’t be in the playoffs or in the Orange Bowl, provided Clemson doesn’t lose to South Carolina and provided Miami doesn’t lose to Virginia and Pittsburgh.
Remember, the OB must take the next-highest ranked ACC team in the final CFP poll if the top rated ACC team is invited to the playoffs.
• It’s impossible to overstate how impressive this UM defensive performance was tonight. The Hurricanes completely shut down a team averaging 41 points per game.
“Miami seems like they have 15 guys on defense,” ABC’s Kirk Herbstreit said. “They’re everywhere.”
Notre Dame entered averaging a nation-leading 7.0 per carry. The Irish averaged 2.2 yards per rush for the first 29 minutes and finished at 3.0 (36 for 109).
Notre Dame’s two quarterbacks combined to go 5 for 16 for 63 yards and three interceptions in the first half and starter Brandon Wimbush closed 10 for 21 for 120. The Irish had thrown just four interceptions all season coming into the game.
Chad Thomas doesn’t have big numbers (16 tackles, just two sacks coming into the game) but continues to impress, setting the tone on the first play by stopping Josh Adams for no gain. Adams, one of the nation’s best backs this season, had 40 yards on 16 carries.
The entire defensive line, even without key reserve Demetrius Jackson, was brilliant against the run. Richard McIntosh had five first half tackles.
Joe Jackson, a better run defender than a year ago, also had a sack. Trent Harris had a sack and continues to put together a very nice career here. Impressive freshman Jon Garvin had a strip sack for a second game in a row, beating a Notre Dame left tackle who’s projected as a first-round draft pick.
The linebackers were exceptional, with Shaq Quarterman at his best.
Jaquan Johnson, who had an interception and a several other noteworthy plays, keeps demonstrating why he’s as good as any safety in the country.
Sophomore Malek Young and freshman Trajan Bandy had interceptions, with Bandy returning his for a touchdown, and it will be fun to see what those two young corners will do together here over the next couple of years.
Cornerback Dee Delaney, seeing his first first-half action since returning a week ago from a knee injury, was very good in run support during his snaps.
“To me, we just physically whipped them up front,” defensive coordinator Manny Diaz told Don Bailey Jr on WQAM afterward. “Our guys had a chip on their shoulder because they were told that’s impossible and the opposite would happen. I am so proud to see a team that’s getting better, that rose to the challenge and arguably played better than a week ago. They didn’t flinch. The atmosphere was outstanding.
“What you saw tonight was the order of the [universe] restored - the Canes playing the way they’re supposed to play. They really played like Hurricanes tonight. They looked like a Hurricane football team. There’s been these little hurdles[we’re knocking down] - bowl wins, beating the Noles, winning the Coastal. There are a lot more out there.”
• UM became the first team since Rutgers in 2011 to have four turnovers in each of four consecutive games.
• As Herbstreit said, many of Notre Dame’s running plays were simply too slow-developing, especially against a defense with as much speed as Miami’s.
• Credit Mark Richt for smart play calling; the Wildcat seemed to surprise Notre Dame, with Deejay Dallas gaining 25 yards on one of those plays.
• Travis Homer continues to exceed all expectations. After averaging 100 yards rushing and 5.7 per carry over the previous four games, Homer ran for 18 times for 146 yards, an 8.1 average.
• This blowout was even more impressive considering this: UM’s two best offensive players combined for no yards. Mark Walton, of course, is injured and out for the season. And Ahmmon Richards didn’t have a catch; all four first-half targets were incomplete.
• Malik Rosier (15 for 24, 137 yards) didn’t throw for big yardage but didn’t make any big mistakes, again made an impact with his legs (44 yards rushing on nine carries, including a 16-yard TD run) and pushed his record to 10-0 as a starter, with 20 touchdowns (including eight to Braxton Berrios) and seven picks on the year.
• UM has so many appealing assets to sell to recruits: a great city, a program with rich tradition, a very good coaching staff, a university which is now thoroughly respected academically, a beautiful campus.
But here are two more selling points: You will play as a freshman if you’re good enough; after all, Jeff Thomas, Bandy, Garvin, Navaughn Donaldson and others have prominent roles on an undefeated team.
And here’s the other point: If you are good, you will play. You might not play a ton, but you will play.
UM gave first-half work on Saturday to a bunch of backups, including Dayall Harris, Lawrence Cager (who made a fabulous 28-yard catch on a fourth down to start the second half), Michael Irvin Jr., Darrion Owens and Charles Perry, among others.
• UM shut out a Power 5 conference team (or Notre Dame) at home in the first half for the first time since 2007 against Georgia Tech.
• UM’s 27-0 halftime lead was its largest since holding a 35-7 halftime lead at USF in 2013.
• Herbstreit said during the game that UM might be the best team in the country. But he ranked Oklahoma first, Alabama second, Miami third and Clemson fourth in his own personal poll that he unveiled late in the game.
• Rosier, speaking about Notre Dame’s offense on WQAM: “They weren’t prepared for our crowd. You could tell their quarterback was rattled.”
Rosier said, on WQAM, he was "pissed off" before the game because Notre Dame players said: "They [are] going to have their turnover chain, we'll have our ring."
• Richt, on WQAM: “We did a great job of stopping the run. Both the offensive lines and defensive lines played great. That’s the spot where everybody was bragging about how great they were. That challenged our men and they came through.”
• Richt said he probably should have moved Dallas to running back in the spring, instead of after Walton’s injury. “He’s a good student [of the game].”
• Richt on Garvin, who continues to emerge: “He’s long, lean, athletic and quick and has that great reach.”
• Richt, on Jaquan Johnson: “He’s an All-American to me. If you go by productivity, there’s not a more productive safety in America.”
• Richt, incidentally, is now 18-4 as UM’s coach and 163-55 in his career. Georgia parting ways with him was the best thing that could have happened to UM.
And Richt hiring Manny Diaz as defensive coordinator and Craig Kuligowski as defensive line coach aren’t far behind.
• As ESPN’s Chris Fallica noted, Saturday’s game against Virginia (noon, Hard Rock Stadium) will be Miami's first game as a Top-5 team since losing at home to unranked Georgia Tech 14-10 on November 19, 2005 as the No. 3 team in the country.