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No. 1 Clemson cruises to halftime lead over No. 7 Miami in ACC title game

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If there are any doubts about who the No. 1 team in the country is, Dabo Swinney and company may have used the first half of the ACC Championship Game to erase them. No. 1 Clemson cruised to a fairly effortless 21-0 lead at halftime over No. 7 Miami and do not appear to be done tuning up for the College Football Playoff either.

The Tigers marched right down on the opening drive of the game in what was quite the tone-setter, scoring off of a Travis Etienne four yard touchdown run to immediately put points on the board. Quarterback Kelly Bryant was really sharp through the first two quarters — 15 completions in a row to open the game — and threw for 164 yards, with another 15 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Tailback Adam Choice also added 21 yards and a rushing touchdown as well.

It didn’t take long for Miami’s vaunted turnover chain to make an appearance though, in what was Clemson’s lone mistake in the half after they went 7-of-10 on third down and scored on three of their five drives. Ray-Ray McCloud ended up muffing the first punt of the game and allowed Trent Harris to emerge from a scrum with the ball. That setup a long field goal attempt that missed to the left and otherwise spoiled the momentum from the big play, made even worse as the Tigers went right back down and scored another touchdown.

To add injury to the insult for the Hurricanes, wideout Darrell Langham — a hero in earlier wins and starting in place of the injured Ahmmon Richards — suffered a minor foot injury, defensive back Trajan Bandy was hurt and star defensive end Chad Thomas also had to be helped off.

Those injuries were compounded by the fact that the UM offense couldn’t do much at all against that feisty front seven from Clemson. Malik Rosier had just 27 yards passing and tailback Travis Homer was limited to only 28 yards on the ground.

There’s still plenty of time for a second half rally for Mark Richt’s team in the Hurricanes’ first trip to Charlotte for the ACC title game but it might take a miracle at this point given how banged up the team is and how well the Tigers are looking as they appear well on their way to locking up another playoff bid.

UPDATED: Miami WR Ahmmon Richards out for rest of season

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This is potentially very damaging news for The U at a most inopportune time.

The Miami Herald is reporting that Ahmmon Richards suffered an injury during practice Wednesday morning and he was carted off the field.  The nature of the wide receiver’s injury is unknown, and head coach Mark Richt declined to discuss the wide receiver’s status moving forward.

The reported injury comes three days before Miami faces Clemson in the ACC championship game, with the winner ticketed for a spot in the College Football Playoff.

Richards is currently third on the Hurricanes in receptions (24) receiving yards (439) and receiving touchdowns.  His 18.3 yards per reception is third on the team among players with 10 or more catches.

Any loss of Richards would be compounded by the fact that starting tight end Chris Herndon will miss the remainder of the season with a knee injury.  Herndon is currently third on the team in all three major receiving categories (40-477-4).

UPDATED 6:01 p.m. ET: Miami announced that Richards sustained a meniscus injury in his left knee during practice today, and will miss the remainder of the season.  He will undergo surgery at some point this week.

No. 2 Miami facing another halftime deficit, this time to Pitt

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For Miami, it’s deja vu all over again.

For the first quarter and half Black Friday afternoon, it was looking as if unbeaten and second-ranked Miami would be facing its fifth halftime deficit of the season as 4-7 Pitt was leading the Hurricanes 3-0 midway through the second quarter.  However, a 23-yard touchdown pass from Malik Rosier to Ahmmon Richards, which featured some nifty footwork from the latter to get into the end zone, gave the ‘Canes their first lead of the game with just over eight minutes remaining in the half.

However, a late Pitt touchdown at the end of freshman quarterback Kenny Pickett‘s six-yard scamper gave the Panthers a 10-7 lead heading into the halftime locker room.  Four times previously, UM has trailed at the half — Toledo (16-10), Florida State (3-0), Georgia Tech 14-13) and Virginia (21-14); each time, the Hurricanes came from behind to win.

As the score hints at, neither offense could muster much production, with the Panthers holding a 175-108 edge in yards.  The U’s much-discussed and mega-hyped turnover chain made a pair of appearances, but the Hurricanes couldn’t convert either turnover into points; in fact, the Pitt defense forced three-and-outs on each occasion.

If the Hurricanes can come from behind yet again, they will finish off a perfect 12-0 regular season for the first time since 2002.  That team made it to the BCS title game but lost to Ohio State.

Miami will get the ball to start the second half.

QB Justin Herbert returns to lineup for Oregon as Ducks bottle up Khalil Tate and Arizona

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Oregon has been listless offensively the past few weeks without starting quarterback Justin Herbert but his return to the lineup injected plenty of life into Willie Taggart’s team in a 48-28 win over Arizona that also made the Ducks bowl eligible at the same time.

Herbert’s numbers were not flashy or spectacular given the offense he plays in but they were a huge boost given how poorly backups played in his absence after breaking his collarbone early in the year. He finished the night with just 235 yards through the air (along with an interception) and a touchdown pass while also making an impact with his wheels, surprising nearly everybody in Autzen Stadium with a 40 yard scramble for a touchdown in the first quarter.

As nice as it was to have the signal-caller back, his teammate Royce Freeman did most of the heavy lifting as he no longer faced a loaded box full of defenders. The senior made his first trip to the end zone since September (coinciding with Herbert’s injury) to move past LaMichael James as Oregon’s all-time leader in total touchdowns. He also passed TCU legend LaDainian Tomlinson for 10th on the FBS career rushing yards list early in the game and managed to end the night with 134 on the ground and a total of four scores. Backup Tony Brooks-James added another 124 yards as the Ducks’ rushing attack was humming like days of old.

Perhaps the more eye-opening aspect of the victory was the UO defense though. The bottled up dynamic Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate better than just about any Pac-12 defense has this year and held him to only 32 yards rushing. Forcing the dual-threat star to become a passer was the game plan and the Ducks executed it at a high level, limiting him to 159 yards passing with a score and a pair of interceptions.

Running back Nick Wilson rushed for 73 yards and two touchdowns but it wasn’t enough for the Wildcats, whose most notable play was probably a pick-six by Dane Cruikshank that was negated by a taunting penalty in the first half as he finger-waged his way to the end zone. The offense later punched it in but it was emblematic of a frustrating night for Rich Rodriguez and his coaching staff.

Both teams have gone through their up’s and down’s this season and while it looked as though Arizona was on the upswing entering Saturday night, perhaps it’s Oregon who can claim the same thanks to their starting quarterback looking healthy and as back in business.

No. 3 Miami scores 30 unanswered points to go 10-0 for first time since 2002

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The No. 3 Miami Hurricanes (10-0, 7-0 ACC) overcame a disaster of a first half to keep their undefeated season going. On Saturday against Virginia (6-5, 3-4 ACC), the Hurricanes looked sluggish for one half and allowed Virginia to capitalize on big plays to a 28-14 lead, but Miami roared back with 30 unanswered points to improve on the best start since the last time Miami played for a national championship. Miami topped Virginia 44-28.

Miami players got to wear the famous turnover chain twice in the game, but the biggest turnover may have come with Jaguan Johnson‘s 30-yard interception for a game-tying score in the third quarter. The pick-six knotted the game at 28-28 in a wild third quarter, and Miami never looked back from that point on. Miami took the lead late in the third quarter on a 44-yard field goal by and Malik Rosier and Travis Homer added rushing touchdowns in the fourth quarter as the Hurricanes cemented the win.

Rosier was picked off twice in the game, but he ended his day with 210 passing yards and three touchdowns to go with 38 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown. His Virginia counterpart, Kurt Benkert, actually had a fantastic afternoon with 28-of-37 for 384 yards and four touchdowns. Until the lone interception thrown by Benkert, he looked more than capable to lead Virginia to an upset on the road. But Virginia needed more out of the running game and could not keep the big plays coming in the fourth quarter as Miami was taking control of the game.

Miami’s 10-0 start is the best start for the Hurricanes since playing for the BCS national championship in the 2002 season. This is also Miami’s first double-digit win season since 2003. That makes this Miami’s first 10-win season since joining the ACC. And they may not be done just yet.

Before making their first trip to the ACC Championship Game in two weeks, Miami will first make a business trip to Pittsburgh for the regular season finale against the Panthers. The Panthers were eliminated from postseason eligibility Saturday afternoon with a road loss to Virginia Tech, dropping Pitt to 4-7 on the year. Virginia will take on the Hokies next week in their regular-season finale on Friday night.