The U may not be back, but Miami is undefeated

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Miami had one lead in the second half Thursday night at North Carolina. Fortunately for the Hurricanes, it came at the time it mattered most. Miami kept their undefeated season alive by coming from behind in the final minute of the game to escape Chapel Hill with a 27-23 victory, improving to 6-0. The victory may have come at a costly price though, as running back Duke Johnson and receiver Phillip Dorsett left the game with injuries and never returned after the first quarter.

Dorsett looked to have a knee injury and returned to the sidelines on crutches and out of uniform. Johnson appeared to take a knee to the head.

Miami trailed North Carolina by ten point sin the fourth quarter but turned to back-up running back Dallas Crawford for two fourth-quarter touchdowns to cap two separate drives of 75 and 90 yards on a night the Miami offense was full of frustration. Crawford stepped up in a big way with 33 carries for a game-high 137 yards. Miami quarterback Stephen Morris was intercepted four times but the Tar Heels were unable to take advantage of the turnovers. Miami managed to hold North Carolina to two field goals and twice had the defense return the favor with an interception of North Carolina quarterbacks Bryn Renner and Marquise Williams.

Remarkably, Miami still managed to pile up 556 yards of total offense. Most of those yards may have come while you were still scratching your heads wondering what was going on in this game. You would not be alone, that is for sure.

So now we are left wondering just what to make of Miami. With what we have seen this season int he ACC it still looks clear that Clemson and Florida State, who play each other Saturday night, are on a different level from the rest of the conference. Whichever team wins that game Saturday night will be the prohibitive favorite in the ACC the rest of the way. But can Miami take on the role of spoiler in the conference, not just for the winner of Clemson-Florida State but for the conference’s national image? This Miami team looks to be beatable, but they have proven they can scratch and claw their way to a win if they need to get a little scrappy (see: Florida, North Carolina). Depending on the status of Johnson and if they can get a semi-adequate performance out of Morris (who did pass for 322 yards, it should be noted), if Miami paired up with Clemson or Florida State on the right day, it would not be impossible to see the Hurricanes come up with a win.

It would not be likely, but it would not be impossible. Miami gets a chance to improve to 7-0 for the first time since 2005 when they host Wake Forest next week. Regardless of how banged up they may be, a win should be expected for an 8-0 start. Then things get interesting. A road game at Florida State could serve as an ACC Championship Game preview and the following week Miami hosts Virginia Tech. The Hokies and Hurricanes have been in this sort of position before, with a conference or division on the line. If Miami can earn a split, they should be in good shape to at least get to Charlotte for their first ACC Championship Game appearance in program history.

Assuming they are eligible for postseason play, of course.

Though it was in a losing effort, it should be mentioned that North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron was nearly unstoppable in the passing game. Ebron recorded 199 receiving yards and one touchdown. North Carolina’s season may not be going to plan, but Ebron continues to draw attention from NFL scouts, and for good reason.

North Carolina is now closing in on the brink of missing out on postseason eligibility. The Thursday night loss sinks the Tar Heels to 1-5. Just two more losses and North Carolina will be eliminated from postseason consideration.

Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson frowns upon Group of Five playoff idea

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The chances a team from the Group of Five ever gets selected to play in the College Football Playoff range from slim to none. As such, talk from within the Group of Five has kicked up from time to time, especially over the last year, about a possible Group of Five-only version of the College Football Playoff. The reactions to that idea has been mixed, but add Sun Belt Conference commissioner Karl Benson to the group of people who thinks that idea should be tossed aside.

While attending meetings for the College Football Playoff, Benson told reporters he would prefer to see conference champions from the Group of Five (American, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West, and Sun Belt) receive better bowl bids instead of playing in a minor version of the College Football Playoff.

It’s time to have a realistic conversation about creating a playoff for the Group of 5,” NIU athletic director Sean Frazier told Brett McMurphy, then of ESPN.com, back in December. “Why not?”

Well, there are a number of reasons. First, not everybody seems to be on board with playing the college football version equivalent of the NIT. Sure, it would be on TV and would get ratings, but the reward at the end of the JV playoff would mean little. Nobody would consider it a national championship. That’s what the FCS is for.

Benson is not alone in his anti-Group of Five playoff stance. MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher also has been on record saying he is not interested in such a plan, and he oversaw a member from his conference go undefeated last season and play in the Cotton Bowl (Western Michigan).

My initial reaction is that’s not something I’m interested in,” Steinbrecher said, according to MLive.com in December. “We’re part of the (College Football Playoff) system, and it’s done a lot of very good things for the Mid-American Conference.”

Without the support from two of the Group of Five commissioners (and you can almost be guaranteed you can add Mike Aresco of the American Athletic Conference to the list given the conference’s push to be considered a power conference), this idea is pretty much dead on arrival.

LSU’s Arden Key: I am not sitting out my junior year

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After taking a little time off from the LSU football program this spring, Arden Key calmed the nerves of Tigers fans on Wednesday with a simple message on his Twitter account.

Key announced to his Twitter followers he will be on the field for the Tigers this fall. Back in February, LSU released a statement saying Key would be stepping away from the program “for personal reasons.” What those personal reasons were is unknown, but he did so with the support of head coach Ed Orgeron and the entire football program at the time.

Key earned second-team All-SEC honors last season after leading LSU with 14.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks, a school record. With news, he would be stepping away from the program and the age of top NFL Draft prospects opting out of bowl games, the mere thought that Key might become the first potential NFL Draft pick the following season sitting out the entire football season was difficult to completely ignore. Fortunately, especially for LSU and not so much for LSU’s opponents, Key is choosing not to break that barrier at this time.

Texas A&M removes WR Kirk Merritt from roster

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After being charged for allegedly exposing himself to tutors at Texas A&M, wide receiver Kirk Merritt is no longer an Aggie. Merritt has been removed from the Texas A&M football program, according to a report from The Eagle. Though there has been no official statement confirming such news, Merritt’s name has been wiped off the team’s online roster.

Merritt pleaded not guilty to a pair of indecent exposure charges against him stemming from an incident last October. Merritt allegedly exposed himself to female academic tutors. Merritt was suspended by Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin a few days after the alleged incidents. The suspension was expanded to indefinite status following Merritt’s arrest on November 8. The suspension has since been lifted after the university’s conduct process wrapped up in January.

It has been a bit of a bumpy year for Merritt. Merritt left Oregon for Texas A&M last summer due to family reasons. He participated in Texas A&M’s spring practices but did not play in the spring game.

Big 12 revenue eclipses $300 million mark

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When it comes to revenues, the SEC and Big Ten continue to set the pace and leave the rest of the competition in the dust. That said, the Big 12 saw a second straight sizable revenue bump, according to recent tax returns.

As reported by USA Today, the Big 12 recorded a revenue of $313 million for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016 on its tax return. The figure is up roughly $40 million from last year’s revenue, and the conference has now doubled its revenue since the 2012 fiscal year amid conference realignment changes. As for the revenue shares for each Big 12 program, the numbers ranged from $28 million to West Virginia to $28.9 million for Oklahoma. This marked the first time West Virginia and TCU were eligible to receive their full conference revenue shares as Big 12 members.

The biggest reason for the big jump in revenue came from increased bowl revenue. The Big 12 pulled in $114.5 million in bowl revenue in 2016, which was just $74.5 million in 2015. The 2015 season, which was included in the fiscal year outlined by this tax return, saw Oklahoma advance to the College Football Playoff and Oklahoma State be selected to play in a New Years Six bowl game (Sugar Bowl), which led to a larger bowl game distribution for the Big 12. The previous year saw no Big 12 team in the College Football Playoff (TCU, Baylor).

The Big 12 still lags well behind the SEC. Most will, of course. The SEC announced a revenue of $584.2 million for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, with each SEC member receiving a revenue share of $40.4 million. The SEC and Big 12 are the only conference revenue numbers currently on record for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, but expect the Big Ten to be a solid second in the pecking order, with the ACC likely to come in front of the Big 12 and the Pac-12 to be toward the bottom of the pack.

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby had a pay increase as well. Bowlsby reportedly earned a little more than $2.6 million in 2015, earning more than $70,000 than the previous year.