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Miami overcomes week of heartache, turmoil to stun Duke

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To say it’s been a rough week for the Miami football program on and off the field would be a sizable understatement.

Exactly a week ago, the Hurricanes sustained the worst loss in the history of the Hurricanes, leading to the firing of head coach Al Golden the following day. Starting quarterback Brad Kaaya sustained a concussion in the loss and was ruled out of today’s game against No. 22 Duke, while defensive tackle Michael Wyche was charged in a domestic violence incident. Most tragically, the much-beloved mother of defensive back Artie Burns suffered a heart attack Monday and passed away the next day.

With all of that tumult and heartbreak thundering around them, The U proved once again what kind of sanctuary a football field can be as they went into Durham and stunned the Blue Devils 30-27 on one of the most wild endings in the history of any sport.  Duke had scored a touchdown with just six seconds left on the clock to take a 27-24 lead.  The Blue Devils squibbed the ensuing kickoff and, eight laterals, 46 seconds of real time, 75 yards of statistical movement, a couple of hundred yards of actual motion and a seemingly eternal officiating review, Miami-Duke told Stanford-Cal to go have a seat, son.

We’ll now await word from the ACC as to if or, even worse, why the block in the back that was initially called on that play was reversed under review when such a penalty is not reviewable.  Or how the knee of a Miami player that was seemingly down during the course of one of the laterals wasn’t picked up during the nearly 10-minute review.  Or how Miami players had begun to stream on the field before the touchdown was scored.  That said…

The Hurricanes played like an inspired bunch the entire night, and it’s not hard to understand why as Burns, showing the depth of character that the coaching staff loves about him, not only made the trip with his teammates but played four days after his mom’s death.  The stunning finish culminated a game that was dedicated to the courageous young man, and one that had taken on the look of a romp at least partway through.

Following a scoreless first quarter, Miami jumped out to a 14-0 lead midway through the second quarter and took a 14-3 lead into halftime.  A rejuvenated Blue Devils squad scored a touchdown in the first three minutes of the third quarter when, combined with a safety late in the same period, cut the lead to 14-12.  10 points in the first nine minutes of the fourth quarter stretched Miami’s lead out to 12 at 24-12 with 5:54 remaining.

A Thomas Sirk touchdown pass to Johnell Barnes from 13 yards out sliced the lead to 24-19 with 2:40 left in the game.  An ensuing onsides kick was recovered by the ‘Canes; the Blue Devils got the ball one last time with just under two minutes remaining, setting the stage for the crazy ending.

Playing for an injured Kaaya and making his first career start, Malik Rosier was, for the most part, superb. While he did have an interception, he nonetheless managed the game extremely well as he completed 19-of-28 passes for 265 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

One final statistical note: Miami was flagged a whopping 23 times for 194 yards, Duke five times for 41 yards.  Say what you want about reversing the penalty on the final play or the possibility a Miami player’s knee was down on the same play, I’ll just label it an officiating market correction — anyone see Duke’s final drive and the three somewhat questionable flags on the ‘Canes? — and move on from a shoddily officiated game on both sides.

The loss for Duke when it comes to the ACC Coastal race is a potentially significant one, but also one from which they can bounce back quickly. At 3-1 in ACC play, Duke finds themselves one game behind 4-0 North Carolina; next Saturday, the Blue Devils will travel to Chapel Hill for a critical matchup with the Tar Heels. Pittsburgh, which was dealt its first ACC loss by UNC Thursday night, is 4-1 and idle in conference play until a Nov. 14 date with Duke.

Depending on the outcome of the Duke-UNC game next weekend, that Pitt-Duke game the following week could end up being a play-in game to the ACC championship game.

Former 49ers executive reportedly joining Jim Harbaugh in Ann Arbor

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Jim Harbaugh is reaching back to his NFL days for the latest hire at Michigan.

Veteran Bay Area journalist Tim Kawakami reports that recent San Francisco 49ers personnel executive Tom Gamble is headed to Ann Arbor to join the Wolverines staff.

According to the fine folks over at sister site ProFootballTalk, Gamble left the 49ers in February shortly after John Lynch was hired by the franchise as general manager. He worked with Harbaugh when their tenures with San Francisco overlapped in 2011 and 2012 before Gamble eventually departed for a two-year stint with the Philadelphia Eagles.

It’s unclear what role specifically Gamble will take with the Wolverines as Harbaugh already hired a new director of player personnel this year by bringing Sean Magee over from Navy. The former 49ers executive doesn’t have much college experience in the past few decades beyond scouting so it will be interesting to see what his official title at Michigan will be once formally announced by the school.

Either way, it seems like Harbaugh is fully investing in off-the-field roles like his peers at Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State and he is not shying away from reaching into the NFL ranks to do so.

Big Ten media poll picks Ohio State to win league, Wisconsin to capture West Division

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The Big Ten conference office turns their nose up at doing an official media poll to pick the winner of the league like all of their other peers in college football but the fine folks over at Cleveland.com have been filling in the gap for the past several years so fans, coaches and others can get a sense at which teams are the favorites to hoist the trophy at the end of the year.

The site just released the latest edition of their annual media poll and (surprise, surprise) Ohio State was picked by 29 of the 38 voters to win the Big Ten this season, including 34 first-place votes for the Buckeyes to capture the rugged East Division title. Penn State drew seven first place votes while Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan squad received just one person’s confidence in winning the division.

Wisconsin was the heavy favorite to represent the West in Indianapolis with 31 first place votes, followed by Northwestern (five) and Nebraska (two). Fittingly,  22 media members from around the league picked the Buckeyes to beat the Badgers in the conference championship game, compared to just three who reversed the outcome. Not surprisingly, 34 of the 38 voters said at least one Big Ten team will make this year’s College Football Playoff, with Ohio State being the overwhelming pick to represent the league with 26 votes.

A word of warning however as Cleveland.com notes that the poll has never successfully picked the Big Ten winner in six preseason polls and Ohio State has only ever won the conference when they were not the choice by the media.

Walter Camp releases 2017 Player of the Year Watch List

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Another day, another watch list for a major college football world.

The Walter Camp Foundation released their preseason watch list for the annual Player of the Year award and not surprisingly it has all of the usual stars from around the sport, including last year’s winner Lamar Jackson and the favorite for just about every award in 2017, USC’s Sam Darnold.

The foundation didn’t just stick with quarterbacks and pass rushers however, they also did the noble thing and included one kicker and one punter on their watch list. Kudos for recognizing that special teams players are watch list candidates too. The full list is below.

Quarterbacks

Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming, Jr.

Jake Browning, QB, Washington, Jr.

JT Barrett, QB, Ohio State, Sr.

Sam Darnold, QB, USC, Soph.

Luke Falk, QB, Washington State, Sr.

Quinton Flowers, QB, USF, Sr.

Deondre Francois, QB, Florida State, Soph.

Jalen Hurts, QB, Alabama, Soph.

Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville, Jr.

Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma, Sr.

Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State, Sr.

Trace McSorley, QB, Penn State, Jr.

Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA, Jr.

Brett Rypien, QB, Boise State, Jr.

Mike White, QB, Western Kentucky, Sr.

Running Backs 

Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State, Jr.

Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia, Sr.

Bo Scarbrough, RB, Alabama, Jr.

Jarvion Franklin, RB, Western Michigan, Sr.

Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon, Sr.

Derrius Guice, RB, LSU, Jr.

Justin Jackson, RB, Northwestern, Sr.

Jalin Moore, RB, Appalachian State, Jr.

Rashaad Penny, RB/KR, San Diego State, Sr.

Mark Walton, RB, Miami (Fla.), Jr.

Wide Receivers/Special Teams/Lineman 

Daniel Carlson, PK, Auburn, Sr.

Quadree Henderson, WR/KR, Pittsburgh, Jr.

Billy Price, OL, Ohio State, Sr.

Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama, Jr.

James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State, Sr.

Mitch Wishnowsky, P, Utah, Jr.

Defense

Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama, Jr.

Rashan Gary, DT, Michigan, Soph.

Derwin James, DB, Florida State

Arden Key, LB, LSU, Sr.

Harold Landry, DE, Boston College, Sr.

Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson, Soph.

Tyquan Lewis, DL, Ohio State, Sr.

Ed Oliver, DT, Houston, Soph.

Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson, Jr.

Lane Kiffin trolls Ole Miss with latest Twitter follows

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Lane Kiffin is back in the news for doing Lane Kiffin things.

Just hours after Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze resigned after discovery of phone calls to escort service, the Florida Atlantic coach decided to pop up into everybody’s timeline and subtly troll the Rebels with some recent Twitter followers. Some will interpret following the Ole Miss accounts as being a subtle way to send interest in moving to Oxford after the season but in reality this is more of Lane being Lane, especially considering his brother is wrapped up in the school’s NCAA infractions case.

We’re sure the rest of the SEC (outside of those in Oxford) will enjoy a little chuckle over the move but something says at least a few Ole Miss fans will now be intrigued about the prospect of Kiffin taking over the program.