There are two ways to look at No. 6 Clemson (7-0, 4-0 ACC) dominating Miami (4-3, 1-2 ACC) to the tune of a 58-0 final score. Let’s focus on the positives first.
Clemson looks every bit worthy of serious College Football Playoff contention talk as any team in the country so far. A complete team effort in Miami saw the Tigers jump out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter, the defense score a touchdown and a complete mismatch in total yardage on the road in conference play. Miami may be down, but the Hurricanes are not the ACC’s equivalent of Iowa State or Purdue. Starting quarterback Deshaun Watson completed 15 opf his 19 pass attempts for just 143 yards and one touchdown, but he also got an early rest as Clemson piled on early and put this one in the bag with plenty of time to spare. Watson also rushed for 98 yards and a score. As Watson rolls, so will Clemson.
This was Clemson’s third straight ACC victory by double digits, and the Tigers also own a quality victory over a Notre Dame team that continues to be in the top 15 of the polls. Of course, Clemson’s fate in the ACC and perhaps the national championship picture will likely come down to what happens on November 7 at home against Florida State. The Tigers and Seminoles are the top teams in the ACC and the most likely playoff contenders from the conference. Clemson also has to avoid slipping against North Carolina State next weekend in Raleigh, but all systems appear to be good to go for Clemson. If Clemson gets by these next two games, the Tigers could be in a very good position when the first playoff rankings are unveiled on November 3.
The picture is not nearly as pretty at Miami, where the latest demoralizing loss of the Al Golden Era will only increase the pressure for the program to start making some serious changes. At this point there is really only one move Golden has left to make, but he may be too loyal to play it. Miami defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio has long been the subject of criticism at Miami, and the time has come for Golden to make a change at that position. That is, of course, unless somebody higher up makes the decision for him first.
Miami did lose starting quarterback Brad Kaaya to an injury in the game. He was taken to the locker room to undergo concussion protocol testing and was not set to return. What is unknown is whether that decision was based on the results of the testing or the fact that the game was already out of hand for the Hurricanes. Kaaya’s injury was not even an excuse for this one.
Clemson out-gained Miami 567-146 in total offensive yards. Miami had three turnovers and seven penalties for 88 yards. The most fight Miami showed took place in the pregame warm-ups when a couple Miami players got into a bit of a shouting match with some Clemson players, but this is not like it used to be in Miami. These Miami players have no room for smack talk because they cannot back it up on the field the way the Hurricanes of the 1980s did.
Miami still has a difficult road to travel in order to get to the postseason. Although Miami just needs to win two more games, the Hurricanes still have contests against Duke in Durham, a road trip to North Carolina, a home game against Georgia Tech and a road trip to Pittsburgh. Those are not going to be easy games at all for Miami. This season could get ugly coming down the stretch.