Come January it's going to be 12 years since the Miami Hurricanes last played for a national championship, and 11 since they went to a major bowl game.
Mediocrity has become the norm in Coral Gables. Let's count the ways:
> Counting Miami's 6-5 record heading into Saturday night's regular season-finale against Pittsburgh (5-6) at Sun Life Stadium, the Canes have lost at least four games every season since 2006. That happened only three times at UM from 1983 to 2003.
> Miami hasn't had a double-digit win season since 2003. Meanwhile, rivals Florida and Florida State have had four double-digit win seasons each and they've won three national titles combined.
> Since joining the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2004, the Canes have floundered at 81-55 overall. That's fewer wins than six other teams in the conference: Virginia Tech (104), Florida State (103), Clemson (93), Louisville (92), Georgia Tech (87) and Boston College (82). Meanwhile, lowly Wake Forest and Duke have each won division titles while the Hurricanes simply tied for one and had to vacate it because of impending NCAA sanctions.
When will the mediocrity end? When will UM become a real threat for a national title again? Al Golden's youngest Canes have talked about that. Several have said they won't accept the losing.
"Me, Brad [Kaaya], Chad [Thomas], Braxton [Berrios] we talk about [national championships] a lot, saying that next year we have to turn things around, do what we've got to do to get to that spot," said freshman running back Joe Yearby, who went 53-5 and won three state titles in his four years at Miami Central.
"We've got to shoot higher than [the Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division Title]," Yearby continued. "We've got to take everything day-by-day to accomplish everything we have to do. But we believe we can be champs again. That's still very much a goal."
Thomas, a five-star recruit who won a national title at Miami's Booker T. Washington last season, has said in the past he expects the Canes to win a national title while he's here -- and that he hates losing.
Before Miami's 30-13 loss at Virginia last Saturday, Berrios said the Hurricanes should win the remainder of their games. He said UM's three-game win streak following its loss to Georgia Tech -- and close loss to Florida State -- was a sign UM is getting closer to being what it wants to be.
Kaaya, UM's brightest young star, spoke this week about what it has been like losing five games. Kaaya went 26-4 and won a state title in California.
“I see it all as a part of the whole progression,” Kaaya said of the ups and downs. “It’s all a test; every single game is a test. I don’t know if God is testing me or something like that, but I take it all as a trial or a test and just get better. That’s my whole view on it.
"College football, the way it’s going now, it’s almost like every game is a playoff. You win one game two weeks ago and the next game you lose, everyone is pissed off so you’ve just got to keep playing. It’s week-by-week warriors.”
Golden this week said he doesn't "think anybody will ever get used to losing" at UM and he's glad his young players are talking about winning national titles.
"Nobody likes to lose, nobody wants to lose," he said. "Saying that is one thing. The other thing is addressing the things we need to address individually and collectively, charting a course and getting it fixed in the time span we have.
"I want them to be winners. I want them to be champions. I want them to scratch, claw and compete. Joe Yearby is one of those guys that I'm glad he feels like that because when he practices it looks like that. We want everybody in the organization to think like that."
Restocking the roster with the kind of talent it once had hasn't been easy. UM had 10 first round picks and 18 top 100 picks on the last team that played in the Orange Bowl (drafted between 2004-07).
Randy Shannon coached Miami's last first round pick, Kenny Phillips, in 2008. Shannon had nine players drafted with top 100 picks during his tenure and another four taken in 2012 he recruited to the program.
Golden had those four top 100 picks that were Shannon recruits his first year at Miami (Olivier Vernon, Sean Spence, Lamar Miller, Travis Benjamin) but has had just one other top 100 pick (Brandon Linder) during his tenure. That will change this May.
Scouts believe UM could have as many as five players (Ereck Flowers, Duke Johnson, Denzel Perryman, Phillip Dorsett and Clive Walford) taken among the first 100 picks. NFLDraftScout.com listed four Hurricanes as top 100 picks this week (Dorsett not among them). Only Florida State (10) and Oregon (5) have more than that. UM is tied for the third-most with Louisville, Washington, Alabama and Baylor. Only Washington has as many losses as UM. The other teams are all ranked in the Top 25.
"Miami has dynamic NFL talent and everybody can see it," said Rob Rang, a writer for NFLDraftScout.com. "They also have a very talented, but inexperienced freshman quarterback. To me, they've just had some trouble late in games they could have won. That's been the difference."
Most NFLDraftScout.com Top 100 prospects by college
> Florida State (10): QB Jameis Winston (3), DT Eddie Goldman (20), CB PJ Williams (27), CB Ronald Darby (47), DE Mario Edwards (50), OT Cameron Erving (54), OG Josue Matias (59), WR Rashad Greene (68), OG Tre' Jackson (71), TE Nick O'Leary (90)
> Oregon (5): QB Marcus Mariota (1), CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (32), DE Arik Armstead (46), C Hroniss Grasu (82), OT Jake Fisher (87)
> Miami (4): RB Duke Johnson (51), LB Denzel Perryman (58), TE Clive Walford (74), OT Ereck Flowers (77)
> Alabama (4): WR Amari Cooper (5), SS Landon Collins (7), RB TJ Yeldon (55), OG Arie Kouandjio (61)
> Baylor (4): DE Shawn Oakman (12), OT Spencer Drango (49), QB Bryce Petty (88), WR Antwan Goodley (100)
> Louisville (4): DeVante Parker (18), FS Gerod Holliman (28), DE Lorenzo Mauldin (36), CB Charles Gaines (52)
> Washington (4): OLB Shaq Thompson (6), DT Danny Shelton (22), CB Marcus Peters (34), DE Hauoli Kikaha (48)
> USC (3): DT Leonard Williams (2), WR Nelson Agholor (73), RB Javorious Allen (75)
> Auburn (3): WR Sammie Coates (39), C Reese Dismukes (63), DT Gabe Wright (78)
> Fresno State (3): FS Derron Smith (44), WR Josh Harper (53), DT Tyeler Davison (96)
> Michigan State (3): CB Trae Waynes (13), FS Kurtis Drummond (93), RB Jeremy Langford (97)
> Oklahoma (3): WR Dorial Green-Beckham (31), OLB Eric Striker (62), OLB Geneo Grissom (90)
He doesn't have a lot of support from the fan base, but Hurricanes defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio really is one of 40 nominees for this year's Broyles Award, given annually to the top assistant coach in college football.
No, really he is. Click on the list of nominees that was released Wednesday.
D'Onofrio, in his fourth season as UM's defensive coordinator, has made significant progress this season at least statistically.
UM ranks 15th in total defense (324.6 yards per game), 22nd in opposing QB rating (111.0), 31st in run defense (136.0) and 39th in scoring defense (23.4 points per game).
Last year, the Canes ranked 90th in total defense (426.4), 59th in opposing QB rating (125.71), 78th against the run (176.54) and 66th in scoring defense (26.8).
> Coach Al Golden said safety Deon Bush (hamstring) didn't practice Wednesday, but didn't rule him out for Saturday's game against Pittsburgh. "It's going to be close for Deon," Golden said. "Hamstrings are funny. You can get strong fairly quickly or it can linger on. Right now we're prepared for him not to go, as we were last week."
> Left guard Jon Feliciano, who has had a cast on his left hand/wrist all week, should be fine to play Saturday Golden said.
> Golden said receiver Herb Waters (strained beck) will miss the Pittsburgh game, but should be back in time for the bowl game. "I'll leave that up to the doctors," Golden said.
Clive Walford is another Hurricane who’s glad he returned for his senior season.
Walford, who leads all Miami pass-catchers with 40 receptions this season and ranks second on the team with 627 receiving yards, was named a finalist for the John Mackey Award on Tuesday.
Also named finalists were Florida State senior Nick O’Leary and Minnesota sophomore Maxx Williams.
Walford, who has seven touchdowns, has amassed 127 and 105 receiving yards, respectively, in his past two games against FSU and Virginia.
Not receiving the recognition many believe he deserves was Hurricanes junior tailback Duke Johnson, who was not among the three finalists announced Tuesday for the Doak Walker Award. Those finalists (in alphabetical order): Ameer Abdullah of Nebraska, Tevin Coleman of Indiana and Melvin Gordon of Wisconsin.
SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN
Hurricanes fifth-year senior Clive Walford has been named one of three finalists for the John Mackey Award, given annually to the nation's top tight end.
Walford leads UM in catches (40) and is nine catches of shy of passing Kellen Winslow Jr. for the most catches ever by a Canes tight end. Walford is already the career-leader in receiving yards (1,704) by a tight end in UM history and leads all tight ends nationally with a 15.7-yard yard per catch average this season. He's tied for second among tight ends with seven touchdown catches.
The other finalists are Florida State's Nick O'Leary and Minnesota's Maxx Williams.
Winslow is the only Hurricane to win the Mackey Award. He won it in 2003.
On Monday, senior Denzel Perryman was named a finalist for the Butkus Award, given annually to the nation's top linebacker.
Running back Duke Johnson, a semifinalist for the Doak Walker Award, did not make the final cut. Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah, Indiana's Tevin Coleman and Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon were the three finalists selected.
In case you missed this yesterday...
Canes (5-0) voted No. 17 in AP poll, No. 20 USA Today. Here's the story...
Hurricanes play at Charlotte tonight and home Friday vs. South Alabama? Will fans show up for a change?
Hey Canes fans! From now on, I'll be posting UM basketball news on here, so stay tuned. Big news today, as pollsters clearly noticed UM's thrilling upset of No. 7 Florida and tournament win in Charleston.
Here is everything asked and said during Al Golden's teleconference with reporters Sunday following his team's 30-13 loss at Virginia:
Q: Up until last night it felt like everything was trending in the right direction, you were playing well. I know you've got and the players have the "bunker mentality" to block out all the noise. But recruits live out here with us, hear the negativity and some of the things being said. What's your message to them after that performance?
"We didn't play well enough last night. We got beat by a team that executed better in all three realms better than we did. There's no excuses. It's my responsibility and we've got to move forward. I think the last, I'm including practice and games, over the last six weeks we've made a lot of progress. Whether it was turnovers, blocked kicks or penalties we didn't play well enough to win the game."
Q: Recruits are going to look at your record (28-20) and the guy before you [Randy Shannon 28-22] and say the program isn't moving forward. How would you convince them that it is, that there's real progress being made?
"As you know I can't worry about the outside. It's really important for us to coach the kids we have, try to make them the best players and team we can. Continue to make sure our staff, executes, works together, has good morale and do everything we can to move the program forward. Again, we've got to get ready for Pittsburgh. None of this is going to help us do it. We have to get ready for Pittsburgh and win a game and go to a bowl game and win a bowl game for the first time in a while. If we do that we can show some progress. So I think other than that, it's not going to help us get ready for Pittsburgh today."
Q: What's the update on Herb Waters?
"He has a strained neck. He's in great spirits right now. We'll know more by the end of the week or the middle of the week in terms of where he's at. All the tests came back negative, which is great."
Q: How much of a boost was it for the guys to have him fly home with the team?
"A lot. It was a scary moment. Whenever somebody goes down like that you really don't know what's actually going on. Most of us were not in the medical industry, don't really understand the difference between precautionary protocols or the severity of the injury. It was a scary moment. We all said a prayer for Herb and we're glad he's going to be healthy."
Q: Kids saying forget the senior let's do beat Pittsburgh for the coach. That can be a rallying cry, but you don't hear that much. Is that indicative of maturity?
"I really don't know what exactly was said. From our standpoint we're just trying to get ready for Pitt all day. From the head coach down in this organization we're going to responsibility for how we played. And there is no excuse starting with me. For all I thought we did well in preparation going into the game, it wasn't good enough. Our field goal protection wasn't good enough. Our discipline as it relates to penalties wasn't good enough. We didn't protect the ball well enough. We didn't protect our quarterback well enough. So again, I think all of us are going to take responsibility for that. But as we get into this game with Pitt it's about preparation and obviously all of us want to see the seniors go out with a win."
Q: What did you say to the players after what happened to Waters?
"We don't meet with them until [Monday]. So the good news is they all have evidence that Herb is okay. Not only did he go back on the plane with us last night we were able to communicate throughout the plane that he's going to be fine. They saw him around the training room today. From that standpoint, we're very fortunate he's okay. We're happy for happy for him. Obviously it's a relief. As it relates to Pittsburgh, we have football players and football coaches on our team. Football players and football coaches. We worked year round to play games. We have an opportunity again in Pitt, a team coming off a win, trying to fight for bowl contention. It's our last home game, our last home game for the seniors. It's a big game for us. That's where our focus needs to be."
Q: How did Herb Waters get hurt exactly?
"Herb is excellent as a blocker on the kickoff return. He kind of took somebody face-to-face. I think at that point his neck got strained. He ended up falling back on it as well. I don't know if that made it worse. At least all the extremities were good on the field. We were able to communicate that to all the players on the field. Dr. Kaplan was communicating that to me. From that standpoint, at the end of the day it's a strained neck. We just got to be careful and see where he's at here in the next couple days."
Q: Have you had conversations with Blake James about goals and the direction of the program and where it needs to be?
"We're in constant communication in terms of what the vision is and the things we need to do to move the program forward. From that standpoint the communication is pretty constant."
Q: Eight, nine days ago, before the FSU game, there was still something very tangible to play for in the Coastal Division crown. How tough is it to keep kids heads in it when there isn't that thing they can grab onto and say we're playing for this?
"There's no question it's a challenge. But it's not an excuse. I want to make sure I say that clearly. In answering your question, it's not an excuse. Everybody on the team is not only trying to improve or play their best. For example, I think Denzel Perryman played one of his best games. As did Clive Walford. We have some of our older players playing some of their best football. Clearly, we have older guys motivated to be the best players they can be, to finish the season off strong, win a bowl game, do those type of things. That's one side of it. On the side of it is, you would hope a lot of guys Joe Yearby, Darrion Owens, Chad Thomas, Brad Kaaya, who are playing for the first time, not only are they trying to improve, but establish a winning tradition and compete every day to get better and really relish these opportunities. There's so much motivation still even though it may not be the ultimate prize in terms of moving the program forward, in terms of getting better as a team, in terms of being the best player you can be as evidenced by what Clive and Denzel did."
Q: Any other health updates? Deon Bush didn't make the trip. Anybody else get hurt aside from Herb Waters?
"Deon we're going to know more honestly in the next 48 hours. It's really going to be the tell-tale for Deon. Herb is the only one coming out of the game [who was hurt]. Everybody else should be fine."
Q: Gus Edwards didn't play much at all did he?
"We're trying to get him there. He did some things for us. The cutting and start and stop and all of that were just not where we needed it to be. There were a lot of situations, short yardages where we really needed him. We just didn't feel like he's where he needs to be to help us. I can't imagine it going longer than a couple more days based on where we're at. He's going to keep practicing, controlling the environment in practice. Each week I hope when we get to those final 48 hours he's going to heal and feel really good and be able to do everything we need him to do to not only protect himself and execute."
Q: Did Gus Edwards not play at all?
"Gus played very limited snaps, not many. [Tackle on opening kickoff and] a couple kickoff returns as well. I don't if there were any other reps."
CHARLOTTESVILLE (pre-flight home) -- Hurricanes quarterback Brad Kaaya didn't know what hit him last night at Scott Stadium -- literally and figuratively.
Neither did receiver Herb Waters.
Thankfully, both are alive, if not well, this morning.
Waters, a warm, friendly junior from Homestead who is always smiling, was hit hard last night on a helmet-to-helmet episode during a kickoff late in the third quarter. From what I recall, he stumbled backward and his head kind of snapped back, and then he fell.
Doctors and trainers and lots of other people surrounded him for quite a while, and then he was strapped to a gurney and driven by cart off the field, as his teammates prayed on their knees and star tailback Duke Johnson cried.
He was taken by ambulance to University of Virginia Medical Center.
Thankfully, just before midnight, UM reported that Waters was released from the hospital and was cleared to return home with the team. That's awesome news that all of us needed to hear.
If you recall, last year's last home game was against Virginia, and in that game, UM cornerback Ladarius Gunter had the same type of experience with a neck injury. He also ended up being fine, after wearing a neck brace.
"I wouldn't say we lost our concentration, but everyone was sad after that,'' said UM safety Jamal Carter, who made his first career start because Deon Bush is injured (hamstring) and didn't travel. "He just waved to us and gave us a thumbs up so that we knew he was alright.''
Speaking of Deon Bush, UM needed him badly last night. After watching the touchdown play deemed No. 2 on ESPN SportsCenter last night -- the 23-yard pass that Canaan Severin of UVA acrobatically grabbed with one hand (gorgeous catch) and then fell into the end zone with 3:21 left in the second quarter to make it 10-7 Virginia -- it seems Bush would have known just what to do to prevent that.
Carter leaped awkwardly trying to make a play near, but not with, Severin. He needed to defend Severin and put a hurtin' on him (legally, of course). He also, obviously, shouldn't have spiked the ball after intercepting a 43-yard pass by Greyson Lambert with 12:30 left in the third quarter.
What was he thinking on the spike? I don't think much. I just think he's young and was very psyched about the pick and did something that he won't do again.
As for poor Kaaya, after getting sacked four times and pummeled much of the night, it's understandable that he was shaky and rushed some throws and made some errant ones. The kid is a fighter. Love his attitude.
“I told the team, ‘You know, we’ve got senior night coming up next week. Forget about the seniors. Let’s do it for Coach Golden. He always puts the team on his back, never pinpointing anybody. We need to just go out and do it for him. Let’s not do it for anybody else. Let’s do it for Coach Golden.”'
Walford was basically asked why he felt compelled to defend Golden.
“Because, man, that’s a great coach,” Walford said. “He wants it as bad as we do. Every single week, if we come up short, he never points the finger at no player. He always takes the blame. I feel like it’s time for the players to start taking the blame and lay it on the line for coach.”
Linebacker Denzel Perryman, who had another impressive performance, with 15 tackles and a forced fumble, sat near Walford and agreed wholeheartedly. Both will soon be in the NFL.
“Clive pretty much just said it all,” Perryman said. “It’s time for us to take the blame and get the load off coach Golden. Like Clive said, he always gets up here in front of you all and puts the losses on the coaches. But at the end of the day it’s on us. We’re out there making the plays.”
Perryman said he takes the criticism of Golden "real personal because a lot of people are looking at it from the outside in. They really don’t know what’s going on. Outsiders, they think they know football. That really gets to me.
"Whether it’s family, friends, or just normal fans, that kind of stuff … they criticize the coaches, but little do they know, [the coaches] put us in great situations to make plays.”
Added Walford: "I feel the same as Denzel. You’ve got a lot of people who think they know football looking from the outside in, that don’t really know all the hard work and dedication that goes into calling certain plays and doing certain things. Me personally, I think coach Golden is a great coach. He always puts us in the right situation to come up and win the game.
“It ain’t on the coaches. The coaches coach. The players play. The players have to actually get out there and win the game.”
UM's final regular-season game is at 7 p.m. Saturday against Pittsburgh. At this point, nothing is a given, though UM plays very well at Sun Life Stadium. Hope some fans show for Senior Night.
Something kind of crummy for Hurricanes 'round the nation crossed my mind more than once. If UM should lose next week and then lose the bowl game, it would end the season 6-7.
Then again, if Miami wins its next two, it would finish 8-5. OK, not fabulous, to say the least. But it beats the alternative.
Off to the airport.
SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN
MICHAEL HILL NAMED 2015 FIRST PITCH BANQUET SPEAKER
’ prez of baseball ops to deliver keynote address at annual dinner
CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Miami Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill will serve as the keynote speaker at the 2015 First Pitch Baseball Banquet, head coach Jim Morris announced Thursday.
“We’re honored to have Mike speak at our banquet,” Morris said. “He’s a great representative of college baseball and what it can do for you. He rose to his position very quickly at the age of just 43.”
A 1993 graduate of Harvard University, Hill was selected senior class marshal and doubled as the Crimson’s top rusher on the gridiron and baseball team captain. A 31st-round MLB Draft selection by the Texas Rangers, Hill played two seasons of professional baseball before joining the Tampa Bay Devil Rays’ front office in 1995.
Hill has served in multiple roles in the Marlins’ player development arm since joining the organization in 2002, rising through the ranks to general manager and eventually president of baseball operations. He spent five seasons in Tampa Bay and three seasons with the Colorado Rockies.
He was appointed to his current position with the Marlins in September 2013.
“He has a lot of pressure on him to build something special with the Marlins, and his first big signing was Giancarlo Stanton – I’d say that was a good one to start with,” Morris said.
The son of a Cuban mother and African-American father, Hill is married to his wife Vivian and has three sons: Donovan, Xavier and Baron.
“It’s a great start. It’s always fun to know we’re right there, and it’s time to open our season,” Morris said. “To have a guy Mike speak is even better - he represents our community not only as a Marlin, but as a Cuban-American and a college guy who has been successful.”
The First Pitch Banquet is slated for Feb. 5, 2015. Stay tuned to HurricaneSports.com for more information about the First Pitch Banquet and other baseball preseason festivities.
MIAMI (6-4, 3-3 ACC) at VIRGINIA (4-6, 2-4 ACC)
> Kickoff, TV, radio: 7 p.m., ESPN2; WQAM (560 AM); radio CARACOL (1260 AM, Spanish).
> History: Miami leads 6-5 and won last year's meeting 45-26 at Sun Life Stadium.
> Background: Cavaliers, who beat Louisville earlier this year and fought UCLA tough at home before falling 28-20, have dropped four in a row and are playing for their bowl lives with an extra bye week to prepare for UM. The Hurricanes are coming off a tough-to-swallow 30-26 loss at home to Florida State, but have played their best under Golden over the last five weeks.
> Favorite: UM by 5 1/2
> Counting recruiting stars - Miami: Canes have three Rivals.com five-star recruits (RB Duke Johnson, CB Tracy Howard, DE Chad Thomas), 15 four-star recruits (eight on defense), 22 three-star recruits (11 on each side), 3 two-star recruits (two offense) and 2 no-star recruits (starters Nantambu Fentress and Thurston Armbrister) on their depth chart. The draft: Among that group 10 players are projected to be taken in next year's draft according to NFLDraftScout.com. Those are: RB Duke Johnson (2nd RD), MLB Denzel Perryman (2nd RD), LT Ereck Flowers (2nd-3rd RD), CB Ladarius Gunter (4th RD), WR Phillip Dorsett (4th RD), TE Clive Walford (4th RD), DE Anthony Chickillo (5th-6th RD), LG Jon Feliciano (6th-7th RD), DL Olsen Pierre (6th-7th) and C Shane McDermott (7th-FA).
> Counting recruiting stars - Virginia: Cavalier have three Rivals.com five-star recruits who are all freshmen (RB Taquan Mizzell, DT Andrew Brown, S Quin Blanding), 8 four-star recruits (five on defense), 28 three-star recruits (17 on offense), 8 two-star recruits (four each side) and four no-star recruits on their depth chart. The draft: Among that group, only one player is projected to be taken in next year's draft according to NFLDraftScout.com. Strong safety Anthony Harris, tabbed a second to third rounder and the second best at his position.
> When Virginia runs the ball: The Cavaliers like to run a balanced offense, but the last two weeks they've been forced to throw more in losses to Georgia Tech (35-10) and FSU (34-20), their only double-digit losses of the season. Senior Kevin Parks (5-8, 200) gets the brunt of the work, but hasn't exactly dazzled along with the overall running game, which ranks 92 in yards per game (142.0) and 93rd in yards per attempt (3.81). The Hurricanes, meanwhile, have done a nice job since getting torched for 318 yards by Georgia Tech. UM has given up just 307 yards rushing on 111 carries since then (2.76 a carry). Parks did run for 130 yards last year against UM so the Canes can't sleep on him. Edge: Miami.
> When Virginia throws the ball: Sophomore quarterback Greyson Lambert ranks 91st in QB rating (116.42), 52nd in completion percentage (159.94) and has thrown more intercetions (9) than TDS (8). Five different pass-catchers have at least 20 receptions this year. The top receivers are senior Darius Jennings (24 rec., 466 yards, 2 TDs), junior Canaan Severin (34-441-4) and senior Miles Gooch (24-371-1). Mizzell catches a lot of balls out of the backfield (33-190-0) as does Parks (28-166-2). The Cavaliers rank 103rd at converting red zone trips into TDs (50%), but they are good on third down (44.10%, 38th). The Hurricanes, ranked 22nd in pass defense (192.9 yards per game) and 21st in opposing QB rating (110.13), faced a much more talented team last week. This week UM will likely be without starting safety Deon Bush, who leads the nation with five forced fumbles and has had a stellar season, but was listed as doubtful with a hamstring injury. FSU scored its final 13 points after Bush left the game against UM. Virginia has allowed just 12 sacks all season (19th fewest). UM has produced 25 sacks (38th most). The difference here could be turnovers. Virginia has coughed it up eight times in four consecutive losses. UM has taken it away 11 times over its last four games. Edge: Miami.
> When UM runs the ball: The Cavaliers held the nation's third-leading rusher, Pitt running back James Conner, to a season-low 83 yards back on Oct. 3. And now they'll take their shot at trying to slow down UM's Duke Johnson, who has eclipsed the 100-yard mark six games in a row and ranks eighth nationally with 134.3 yards per game. Virginia is giving up just 3.22 yards per carry this season (13th nationally) and 118.6 yards per game on the ground (15th nationally). A lot of what UM does running the football, though, will be predicated on how the Cavs line up defensively in pass coverage. When teams have lined up against the Hurricanes in zone, they've preferred to run and had lots of success doing that lately. Sophomore Gus Edwards, who missed the FSU game with an ankle injury, should be back for UM to provide depth. Still, this is going to be a stiff test for both sides. Edge: Split.
> When UM throws the ball: Virginia's defense, run by Jon Tenuta, lives and dies off turnovers. The rank eighth nationally with 95 points off 24 takeaways. The Hurricanes had been doing a good job with freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya protecting the football. But the Canes coughed it up three times last week against FSU including twice on fumbles by tight ends. Virginia's secondary has talent (freshman safety Quin Blanding has over 100 tackles) and experience with strong safety Anthony Harris and cornerback Brandon Phelps back there (65 starts combined). But they haven't been dominant. The Cavs rank 71st in passing defense (229.2 yards per game), 56th in opposer passer rating (12.32) and they've given up 16 TD passes (63rd) despite the 13 interceptions. They essentially live and die with the turnover and sacks (27, 28th most nationally). If Kaaya and the Hurricanes can throw against Virginia's Cover 2, Cover 4 and Cover 8 packages underneath they'll have success. UM struggled last week when FSU went from playing man-to-man in the first half to zone in the second. Edge: Miami.
> Special teams: Virginia kicker Ian Frye is a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award. He's made 17-of-20 field goal attempts this season. He's missed from 46, 52 and 50 yards out. UM kicker Michael Badgley made career-long 45- and 46-yard field goals last week against FSU, but had another extra point blocked and missed a 29-yard field goal. The Cavaliers haven't returned a kickoff or a punt for a touchdown and haven't blocked a punt, a field goal or extra point this season. They did surrender a kickoff return of a touchdown in the loss at BYU, but have only surrendered two kick returns of 30 yards or more all season. UM has allowed seven kick returns of 30-yards or more including one for a score against Louisville. Edge: Virginia.
> Prediction: Several signs point to a Canes letdown. There's the FSU hangover; Virginia, coming off a bye, is playing for its bowl life; it's going to be cold and in the 30s. Truth is Virginia isn't that good and Miami is motivated. The Cavaliers generate much of their offense off turnovers and if the Hurricanes can avoid those they should win this game easy. I'm betting on just one or two UM mistakes and more from the home team. UM 36, Virginia 22.
It looks like four Hurricanes will be heading to this year's senior bowl: linebacker Denzel Perryman, cornerback Ladarius Gunter, receiver Phillip Dorsett and tight end Clive Walford.
Eric Galko, an editor at Optimum Scouting who also provides content for the Sporting News and the National Football Post, tweeted the news out Wednesday evening.
Expecting all four @MiamiHurricanes Senior Bowl invites (Perryman/Gunter/Walford/Dorsett) to accept. Doubt we see many guys pass this year.— Eric Galko (@OptimumScouting) November 19, 2014
NFLDraftScout.com projects all four players as draft picks for the Hurricanes with Perryman currently tabbed as the best of the senior group at 58th overall (2nd round) -- seven spots behind junior tailback Duke Johnson, considered UM's top draft prospect.
Walford, who is enjoying a stellar senior season, has seen his draft stock rise over the last couple weeks and is now tabbed as the second-best available tight end, and the 74th best prospect (2nd or 3rd rounder). Junior left tackle Ereck Flowers is also receiving a lot of love after his stellar performance against FSU two weeks removed from knee surgery. Flowers is tabbed the 77th best prospect and the ninth best draft-eligible offensive tackle (2nd or 3rd rounder).
Truth is, though, Flowers could soar even higher -- maybe into the first round.
"I think he'll go first round or early second," an NFL scout who spoke on the condition of anonymity told me by phone Thursday. "I haven't watched the [FSU] tape yet. But I don't have to. He's a big, physical, good player. And he's tough as hell."
In article by NFLDraftScout.com's Rob Rang on Wednesday Flowers was been tabbed the 30th best prospect overall.
30. Ereck Flowers, OT, 6-5, 322, 5.26, Jr, Miami: Flowers returns to the Big Board after a very impressive performance against Mario Edwards, Jr. and Florida State. He dropped off the list after undergoing knee surgery in late October but certainly looked no worse for wear against the defending champs. Flowers is light on his feet and balanced in pass protection. He is aggressive and active as a run blocker, including looking for defenders in pursuit. If Flowers checks out medically, he's a likely first-round pick.
Gunter is tabbed as the 18th best available cornerback in the draft and projected to go in the fourth round along with Dorsett, ranked the 20th best receiver.
Senior defensive end Anthony Chickillo, now expected to play at Virginia on Saturday and make his 45th consecutive start, is rated the 18th best defensive end and is given a 4th or 5th round grade. Other Hurricanes seniors on NFLDraftScout.com's projected board include outside linebacker Thurston Armbrister (210th overall, 6th round), defensive tackle Olsen Pierre (228th overall, 6th-7th round), guard Jon Feliciano (234th overall, 6th-7th round), and center Shane McDermott (298th overall, 7th round-free agent).
INJURY REPORT OUT
Defensive end Anthony Chickillo, who hurt his knee in the loss to Florida State and missed the first two days of practice this week before returning on Wednesday, wasn't on Thursday's injury report for Saturday's game at Virginia. But safety Deon Bush, who was hurt on the same play Chickillo was late in the quarter, is listed as doubtful.
Sophomore Jamal Carter got most of Bush's work in the fourth quarter versus FSU at safety alongside former walk-on Nantambu Fentress. Bush ranks third on the team with 48 tackles and is tied for the lead nationally with five forced fumbles. He had an interception and a forced fumble versus FSU.
Backup offensive lineman Alex Gall, who last played some against North Carolina according to UM's participation chart, has been ruled out.
It stinks to be 6-4. It stinks to lose Florida State. Nobody in Coral Gables is happy about that.
But coach Al Golden and his players said Monday you can't lose sight of the big picture. And that's that this team has improved over the last five weeks.
"You can't escape your record. Your record says what you are. But I think over the last five weeks we've gotten better," Golden said. "And we've gotten better with practice, better collectively in all three phases. Although we came up short, we can't lose sight. Those are the same things that gave us an opportunity to win that game the other night. But for a play here or a play there, we were going to do it.
"We need some guys to take the next step now and say 'Throw it to me. I'll make that tackle. I'll make that play. I'll block in terms of protection. Or I'll kick it through.' Whatever that case may be, whichever one of those plays can make a difference we've got to learn to make it and go do it. That starts with me and obviously the coaches and trickles down throughout the organization. There's no question we're getting better. We're learning. And now we've got to go play this team [Virginia]."
The Cavaliers are 4-6 and sputtering since getting off to a decent start. But Golden said the Cavs are tough.
"They can play rock 'em, sock 'em on offense, big physical team on offense," Golden said. "And a heck of a defense. I've said it before a million times before we even got to this week. It's going to be a great challenge at night Saturday."
Fifth-year senior offensive lineman Jon Feliciano said the goal now is to finish 9-4 again and win a bowl game.
"We haven’t done that here for a while. That’s are our new goal," Feliciano said. "I was talking about it and I’ve been thinking about it. If we started the season off right now where we are at right now I think it would have been another undefeated game going [against] Florida State. We’re a better team than last year. This is probably the best team I’ve been a part of either the record doesn’t show it. We’re so much better than we were went we went up to Louisville."
Would anything less than 9-4 at this point be a disappointment?
"Ummm… yeah," Feliciano said after a long pause. "I don’t know if I’m supposed to say that but personally yeah. I want to leave the program in an upwards motion when I leave here. We want to win the rest of our games."
WALFORD A SEMIFINALIST
Hurricanes senior Clive Walford has been selected as one of eight semifinalists for the John Mackey Award, given to the most outstanding collegiate tight end in the country.
Walford leads all UM receivers with 33 receptions this season and ranks second on the team with 522 receiving yards through 10 games. He's tied for the team lead with seven touchdown receptions.
A midseason All-America pick by Phil Steele, Walford stands as the most prolific tight end in UM history. The 6-4 senior has 1,599 career receiving yards and 14 career receiving touchdowns – both all-time bests for the position.
Joining Walford as semifinalists for the Mackey Award are E.J. Bibbs (Iowa State), Evan Engram (Mississippi), Ben Koyack (Notre Dame), Jimmay Mundine (Kansas), Nick O’Leary (Florida State), Jean Sifirn (Massachusetts) and Maxx Williams (Minnesota).
Walford is looking to become the second Mackey Award winner in UM history, joining Kellen Winslow II (2003).
"I don't know how there's a better one out there," Golden said. "He made a huge commitment to come back. He's never looked back. He's gotten better in every aspect. I think you guys know there were a lot of times in the last couple years where he would have gotten caught on that [61-yard TD catch versus Florida State]. That speaks to his strength, his endurance, his lower body strength to be able to rep that out for 50 yards against those guys. He's blocking hard. He's unselfish. We ask him to pass protect. We ask him to do everything a tight end needs to do. We don't just split him out [wide] there. He had to block two war daddies out there the other night. He's a big part of why we've been averaging what we've been doing the last five weeks in the run game. So, really excited that he's a leader for us right now and I know he's excited to finish this season."
> Safety Deon Bush (hamstring) and defensive end Anthony Chickillo (knee) were not at Monday's practice in shorts and hats because they were receiving treatment for their injuries. Golden said both players remain day-to-day.
> Golden said running back Gus Edwards (ankle) is doing "great." Edwards missed the Florida State game and Golden said he was sorely missed when Duke Johnson started cramping up and missing plays in the fourth quarter.
"It was really just Joe in his first game [versus FSU]," Golden said. "Joe did a really good job, but to shoulder the load late in the game late in that game was a challenge for him and something we were not really prepared for going in. No question that made a difference."
> What did Golden have to say about the news coming out of the University of Florida regarding coach Will Muschamp's exit at the end of the season?
"I have the utmost respect for him," Golden said. "I think he's an excellent coach. It's an unfortunate circumstance for he and the University of Florida... I think he's a world class coach. I think he's phenomenal."
Muschamp, a former defensive coordinator, might look good in green and orange. You never know.
> Golden said receiver Phillip Dorsett showed NFL scouts in the Florida State game he's not just a fast receiver who runs vertical routes.
"He's more elusive," Golden said. "He caught a bender over the middle against two high [safeties]. You have to have courage, you've got to have guts to do that. And he did that. And then, of course, how he's blocking speaks for itself."
> Offensive coordinator James Coley said freshman Brad Kaaya proved in his performance Saturday the stage wasn't too big for him.
Coley said Kaaya made a bunch of nice throws. Among the best: his 22-yard loop pass to Duke Johnson on third down; the 61-yard TD pass to Walford; the slant to Standish Dobard and the pass freshman Braxton Berrios dove for and dropped in the end zone.
"The more he plays the better he gets," Coley said. "He came out firing on all cylinders. I love the decision making he made for the entire four quarters. We executed really well in the first half. He had a couple balls tipped in the second half, but he was going to the right guy. So, as long as he approaches the game like he's been approaching it and he's systematic like he, is he's going to play good football for the Hurricanes."
Coley said the Hurricanes stayed aggressive in their play calling in the second half. The Seminoles simply played further back in coverage and tried to take the deep ball away.
"We wanted to win the game," Coley said. "When they got really deep we weren't going to be stupid and throw the ball into triple coverage. I thought Duke made some really good runs. He had some seven, eight yard pops that allowed us to convert some third and shorts early because they were taking shots. Sometimes we went 3rd and 1 we hit the post because they thought we were going to pound it. It's one of those deals where in a game like that every play counts. If there's a dropped ball it counts. If there's a fumble it counts. Because it adds on to the next play."
> Of that drop by Berrios in the end zone, Coley said: "Braxton's made that catch before against Georgia Tech. He's going to make it again. He's going to make that play."
From Sunday night's day-after loss to FSU teleconference with Miami coach Al Golden:
I know there are no moral victories, but are there things you can take away from last night and keep these kids thinking about the opportunity of next two games and what an 8-4 season would mean?
“We were better on third down than we have been, we controlled the clock. We had 74 plays to their 61. We had 19.8 yards per completion and 9.3 yards an attempt. There were a lot of things we did well in the game. In the end we needed to be plus 1 in the to margin, we had a couple of costly to and we didn’t convert a lot of our shots.
"I’m looking at my sheet here.. 6 or 7 shots in the second half and other than the one we hit to Clive up the seam, we really didn’t have the explosive plays we needed to get to knock them out, whether it was the one we dropped just before half and then we missed the field goal that was a big turnaround. Certain the third and 11 that we knocked up in the air and then they caught and scored, was a four point swing there. Any of those plays could be the difference in the game. Our kids are going to understand that. It’s not going to make them feel better but they’re going to understand that moving forward."
Regarding second half, was conditioning an issue, is depth an issue?
"They made explosive plays. They are a deeper team. I don’t think there’s any question about that. They made some plays and we didn’t. We had some opportunities. It’s not like I’m sitting here giving you a laundry list of 15 things and they all had to happen. We just needed a couple of those things, better execution on a play, we gave up two long run that we haven’t given up in a long time and both of them were missed tackles on the line of scrimmage, one was a 26 yard run and one was a 44 yard run and both those times they ran through a tackle. We hadn’t done that in a while. We obviously missed an extra point that was big and we missed a field goal. A lot of different things that we need to do better."
Pretty young team that has seen a lot, what do you want them to take from what they’ve seen so far?
"A lot of our guys are growing. We’re playing the defending national champions last night with a starting freshman right tackle. Joe Yearby is getting a lot of reps and obviously Kaaya at quarterback. So it’s a great challenge for those guys. They’re going to learn a lot. That’s not going to relieve anybody’s pain. More than anything we’ve got to stay strong, stay together, the seniors and leaders have got to continue to lead and we’ve got to finish. We’ve got to finish the season, we’ve got to go to a bowl game and we’ve got to continually go to a bowl games and start winning them and understand how to do that process. Most of the guys on our team have only been to one bowl game. We’ve got to learn how to do that. It all starts with packing our bags and going to Charlottesville this week. We’ve got to pick ourselves up and get going because this is a good team we’re playing and I think everybody knows it’s an excellent defense."
The extra point misses this year?
"We work on it like crazy. We were a little slow on that one so obviously we increased the probability that they would block it. And of course they did block on it. We had good timing on the field goal; We just hooked it. That’s something we work on all the time. We’ve been unfortunate there a little bit because we lost Sean Harvey who’s on that unit. Sean Harvey is on the wing and we lost him on Wednesday for this game. Hopefully he’ll be back next week but we’ve had an inordinate amount of injuries there and sometimes that impacts the timing a little bit so we have to keep working it. We have a young kicker that’s kind of learning on the run as well. He’s doing well. We just have to keep working with him."
LT Ereck Flowers’ knee? How is he?
"As I said last night, he played his ass off. He’s a warrior. He’s a competitor. I know everybody here appreciates the effort that went into that. He welcomed that challenge and he played well. No setbacks. He’s in here today getting treatments again. He’s been disciplined with it, he’s taking care of it and we expect him to really leave that behind now and finish this season really well."
In second half you guys were up 23-10 and you throw pass to TE and he lost the fumble. Offense went back to running. Is that when you guys decided to be more conservative?
"Again, as I’m looking at it, Stan fumbled on play 17 of the second half after a 20-yard gain. Play 19 we had a 28-yard run, on play 20 we had a shot and had Joe open – we ran Clive and I think Phillip deep; we tried to take a shot and then Brad went to the flat late and it got batted, otherwise Joe Yearby is going to have a 20-yard gain; On play 22 we had a wide-open Stan again on a seam and the ball got deflected; on play 24 we took a shot and got hit and we were incomplete and we had to kick a field goal. On play 28 we took another shot with Phillip and Stacy and we had to settle for a checkdown. Our whole – and that’s not including the five shots before Stan fumbled the ball -- mannerism, everything we were trying to do was trying to knock them out. They were playing a little bit more Cover 2 so we were getting some good runs in there. The longest run of the game came.. at the beginning of the fourth quarter Duke had a 28-yard gain so they were giving us some cover 2 so we were making more 7,8,9 yard runs than the 3,4 and 5 variety. Hey, we’re OK with that because with Duke, he’s going to get an X (explosive) play. It doesn’t have to be a pass.
"But we took some shots in the second half. I’m looking at 9 or 10 right here. Other than Clive, obviously Stan [Dobard] we threw a slant to and he fumbled it, but other than Clive’s 21-yard completion the seventh play we didn’t connect on the ones we needed to connect on. We opened up with a double post to start the second half and then four plays later we take a shot down the Florida State sideline. We got him open and it’s just out of bounds. I told those guys, don’t leave anything in the bag. We didn’t. They made some plays. We didn’t. We had our opportunities. End of story."
SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN
AL GOLDEN TRANSCRIPT POST-GAME
On the effort of his team...
“I’m real proud of the effort. I think there’s no question they prepared and entered the game believing and knowing that they were going to win. Obviously we were just a couple of plays short at the end of the day. They made a couple more plays than we did. That was the difference in the game.”
On an incompletion call in the fourth quarter...
“I was communicating and there were about three or four different views of it. The guy that I was talking to was pretty sure he never had possession of it.”
On the performance of Florida State in the second half...
“They made more plays than we did. It was a hard-fought game. That’s what this game should be like. This game should be like this every year. I’m proud of our guys for fighting. They fought their tails off. They just made a couple more plays than we did. It was as physical as anything we’ve been involved with. Hats off to [Florida State]. They made a couple of plays when they needed to."
On his team’s final offensive drive...
“We were in good shape. We had three timeouts and 1:30 [left on the clock]. After the made first, Brad [Kaaya] took a little too much time on the ball there. I think he got a little confused with the look and we had to use a timeout after an incompletion, I believe it was. That was disappointing. But it didn’t have any bearing on whether it was 3rd & 9 and 4th & 9. We didn’t make a play. We got hit on 3rd & 9, and intercepted on fourth [down].”
On the injuries to Anthony Chickillo and Deon Bush...
“It’s too early to tell. That was a big loss. Both of those guys were playing really well. Not having [running back] Gus [Edwards], as much as we wanted to run the ball, I think that hurt. Gus was kind of a game-time decision. He just didn’t look like he was where he needed to be.”
On if there is any solace after an impressive performance by his team...
“Not in that locker room right now. Nope. We have to make a couple more plays, it’s as simple as that. We turned it over a couple of times. They made a couple more plays than we did. And that’s it.”
On the performance of quarterback Brad Kaaya...
“He’s doing a good job. We’re asking him to do a lot. That’s a big stage and a big moment. I think we certainly can take from this that it’s not too big for him. He grew up a lot this season and obviously we just needed to finish it better. We stayed aggressive with our play-calling, we left too many X plays on the field on offense. We really did. A couple of overthrows, a couple that we did not connect on. It came back to hurt us.”
On miscues, missed field goals, turnovers...
“You can’t make those mistakes in a game like this. We held them to a pretty close field goal. Stan [Dobard] catches a slant and he looked like he got us about 20 or 25 yards and then he put it on the ground. I’m not sure if I’m exactly correct, but I think we would have been on the 35-yard line there – we’re knocking on the door again there. In a game like that, there are a number of plays that we needed to make. We just came up a little bit short.”
On field position after penalties...
“The one we had that backed us up, we ended up getting 40 yards on the field and were able to swing it. If you didn’t have the 15-yard penalty there, you’re in much better shape. Too tough ones there – facemask and a late hit out of bounds.”
On the second-half injury to Duke Johnson...
“I think it was a cramp. I don’t know specifically. It seemed like it was a cramp, at least I know it was early on. I don’t know if it became something else. He’s playing really hard, obviously a lot of energy spent in the emotional part of the game. It would have been nice to have Gus [Edwards] to spell him a little bit more."
On the performance of Ereck Flowers, who returned from injury and started...
“Amazing. That guy is a warrior, Ereck Flowers. That guy...that’s crazy what he did. He played a really good game, worked his tail off to get back after surgery. It wasn’t too big for him. He played his ass off and he was ready to go.”
The Hurricanes (6-3, 3-2 ACC) will try to put an end to Florida State's 25-game winning streak tonight. Kickoff is set for 8:14 p.m. on ABC.
Here's a breakdown of the game I did from earlier this week. FSU is 1 1/2 point favorite.
My pick: I'm 8-1 this season picking Canes games (Georgia Tech only loss). I'm calling for Al Golden's biggest win yet tonight. UM 30, FSU 27.
Talked last night to Cassandra Mitchell, Miami running back Duke Johnson's No. 1 fan, who also happens to be his mother.
Cassandra had a feast Thursday night for the Miami Hurricane running backs and defensive backs.
It's called a "Unity Dinner,'' and Cassandra said that UM coach Al Golden started the tradition when he began coaching the Hurricanes in 2011.
"Every Thursday before home games they have a meeting,'' Cassandra said of the players, "and all the position groups break up and go to dinner.''
Usually, the running backs head to Cassandra's house in Miramar.
But because this week is the heralded UM-FSU game, the Mitchells invited the DBs as well.
"I wanted to invite the O-line,'' Cassandra said, "but I didn't think I could feed them all.''
What was served for this week's Unity Dinner? Just a little something special in honor of FSU quarterback Jameis Winston.
"Barbecue chicken, barbecue ribs, corn on the cob, baked beans, seafood rice, salad, steaks and... crab legs,'' Cassandra said, laughing. "That was my husband's idea. He had to have crab legs."
Duane Mitchell, Cassandra's husband and a Miami Beach police detective, "does the cooking,'' she said. Her dad, Alvin Williams, "does the barbecuing, and I do the seafood rice. They cook enough for an army.''
She said it's a pleasure to watch the players "interacting without being serious -- relaxing. They're laughing a lot. Everybody is on their phones, on Twitter, but I make them put their phones down.''
I asked Cassandra how excited Duke is for Saturday's game.
"You know,'' she said, "I can't get any emotions out of Duke. The only think he keeps saying is, 'It's just another game, Mom. Don't change anything, don't do anything extra. Let's keep it the same way since we've been winning.'''
Here's to some hearty appetites -- on and off the football field.
SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN
About 2,000 tickets remain unsold for Saturday night's showdown between No. 2-ranked Florida State (9-0) and the Hurricanes (6-3) at Sun Life Stadium according to UM.
Those tickets are $89 each and can be purchased at Canestix.com.
According to TiqIq.com, the average price for UM-FSU tickets on the secondary market were going for $231.14 on Wednesday -- nearly $80 more than the last time the two teams met in Miami in 2012.
According to SeatGeek.com, UM-FSU tickets were the third-most expensive tickets selling this weekend in college football entering the week. Auburn-Georgia and Mississippi State-Alabama were the only tickets selling for more.
> Starting left tackle Ereck Flowers (knee) and backup running back Gus Edwards (ankle) have been listed as probable on UM's injury report for Saturday. Flowers missed the North Carolina game and had minor knee surgery shortly after. Backup offensive lineman Alex Gall (back) has been ruled out.
Barring an unexpected setback, it's looking more and more like Ereck Flowers will be starting at left tackle for the Hurricanes on Saturday.
Coach Al Golden said Flowers ramped up his workload Wednesday and took more reps than he did during Tuesday's practice. During the 20-minute portion the media was able to watch practice, Flowers was lined up at left tackle with senior Jonathan Feliciano at left guard and freshman Trevor Darling at right tackle.
"Everyday is a step. Hopefully we'll have good luck and not have any swelling or setbacks," Golden said of Flowers. "He's doing great. He's getting the best care he can get in college football and just doing what he needs to do."
Golden said Feliciano could play left guard or right tackle Saturday and was taking reps at all three spots -- left tackle included. Golden said Darling worked at tackle and guard. Freshman Nick Linder, who has started the past four games at left guard, was also working at center according to Golden.
Golden said the Hurricanes will end up rotating linemen against the Seminoles. UM hasn't done much of that in games thus far, usually playing its starting five from beginning to end in close games barring injury.
"This is a heck of an outfit we're getting ready to play," Golden said. "So we're going to need to rotate anyway."
FSU DROPS IN RANKINGS
Even though they're still unbeaten, the Seminoles (9-0) dropped from No. 2 to No. 3 -- behind one-loss Oregon -- in the latest college football playoff rankings released Tuesday night.
"They haven't lost in a long time," Golden said. "I can't imagine there's one, let alone two or three better [teams] than them in the country."
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher, on the ACC teleconference call with reporters Wednesday, said he paid little mind to the latest rankings. His reaction? "Nothing," he said. "I kept watching film of Miami."
Still, one has to imagine the Seminoles will have some extra juice for Saturday's game considering the slight. "It can motivate you in that you want people to respect what you do," Fisher said of dropping.
"We've played a great schedule," he continued. "Oklahoma State had four straight years of 10 wins. Notre Dame is a great team. They had one bad game this past weekend. They played well against us. I'm very happy the way we've played. We're winning games and we're winning by significant margins also. You don't win games like we did last year. Nobody had done it in 68 years. But thing is we're very resilient. We're great in our way. Maybe, each team has a different style. But I love this team. They understand how to compete and playing extremely well -- especially when we're getting everybody's best week in, week out. Everybody plans for you in the off-season, studies you in the off-season when you're the champ. I'm very proud of this team and I think we've played well."
> Golden said freshman quarterback Malik Rosier has been playing the role of Jameis Winston in practice.
"We're wearing him out," Golden said. "He's had a tough week. He could be the MVP of the week though. Overall, he's getting better, doing a good job throwing the ball and running. He's athletic. Its a good fit for him. I really appreciate the kind of effort he's giving this week.
"There's only one Heisman trophy a year. That should give you an idea of how unique that young man [Winston] is. But we're getting what we need from [Rosier], which is great."
> Asked how many recruits will be at Saturday's game, Golden responded: "The max. I don't know what that is, but it's going to be a big number."
What would beating FSU mean for UM's recruiting efforts? "I say it to you guys every year, winning the game is great and it helps. But the recruiting is not seasonal anymore," Golden said. "It's year round. For a lot of these guys the relationships started two or three years ago. So, although it's a huge game and has great ramifications and all that, really from a recruiting standpoint we've identified who we want to go after and so have they. There may be some fence sitters. But other than that I'm not really thinking about that right now."
> Florida State hasn't returned any kickoffs for touchdowns this season and ranks 104th in kickoff return average this season (19.07 average). But that doesn't mean the Hurricanes aren't weary of their issues on kickoff coverage or the fact FSU's Kermit Whitfield led the nation last year with a 36.41 average and two scores. UM has surrendered seven kickoff returns of 30 yards or more this year (109th worst).
"We've got to get good kicks," Golden said. "It's hard to cover line drives when there's no hang. This group is going to test us here for sure. They got great returns and they got a lot of guys that block like crazy. It's going to be a challenge for us. But I hope we have the right mix."