Heading into Saturday’s showdown with No. 3 Notre Dame, there were still plenty of questions about whether No. 7 Miami was a bona fide College Football Playoff contender. By the time the night was over, it’s safe to say there were no more doubts.
The Hurricanes brought back plenty of memories of those title contenders from yesteryear — and created several more over four quarters — after a nostalgia-filled rout of the Irish at Hard Rock Stadium, delivering a 41-8 Biscayne Beatdown that will reverberate well beyond South Florida and could allow the team to move into the top two of the polls by next week.
As much as the night was about the offense looking sharp, it was the swarming Miami defense that ruled supreme with their best effort of the year coming in the biggest game of the season. The team racked up five sacks and nine tackles for loss, combining with four ‘turnover chain’ appearances to utterly shutdown the previously prolific Notre Dame attack. That helped lead to 24 points the other way, seven of which came off Trajan Bandy’s first career interception that he returned 65 yards for an eardrum-shattering pick-six.
That was off the arm of backup quarterback Ian Book, who entered briefly in the second quarter to replace an ineffective Brandon Wimbush (119 yards passing, one touchdown, two INTs). Star tailback Josh Adams spent most of the second half on the exercise bike after appearing to suffer an undisclosed injury and recorded only 40 yards on the ground as the Irish put up points with only seconds left in the third quarter to avoid a shutout.
Though things slowed down after halftime, it was another efficient effort on the other side for head coach Mark Richt’s offense to build upon what they’ve been doing the past few weeks. Quarterback Malik Rosier was solid throwing the football even if the stats weren’t eye-popping (137 yards, 1 TD) and also managed a rushing score that broke things open early on. He teamed up with Travis Homer (146 yards) and DeeJay Dallas (53 yards, two scores) to form quite the deadly combo in the backfield.
The end result of all that carnage in South Florida? Given No. 1 Georgia’s loss to No. 10 Auburn earlier in the day, it’s possible that Richt’s current team could pass his old one in the standings on both Sunday (AP/Coaches Polls) and Tuesday (selection committee). They’ve already clinched their first ever ACC Coastal Division title and will play Clemson for the conference title in what sure seems like a quarterfinal game up in Charlotte in a few weeks.
As for Brian Kelly’s side, their second loss of the year should end any hopes of reaching the playoff after that kind of lopsided result. The Irish still figure to be in a New Year’s Six bowl if they win out and could remain in the top 10 but it’s pretty clear that any hopes of aiming higher need to be reset after that kind of game against a potential playoff team in Miami.