On Nov. 23, 2019, Miami coach Manny Diaz called a 30-24 loss to FIU one of the “lowest points ever in this proud program’s history.” A little more than a year later, the merits of that statement still stand. That loss was, and still is, arguably the worst game result imaginable for the Hurricanes’ program. But getting boat-raced by North Carolina 62-26 to the tune of 554 yards rushing is up there.
When you think of Miami’s great teams, you think of bulldog defenders like Sean Taylor and Ed Reed. Even if the 2020 Hurricanes aren’t one of Miami’s great teams, you’d think they would at least take good angles to tackle. Instead, running backs Michael Carter and Javonte Williams had all kinds of room in the open field. And when someone was in their way, this stuff happened:
It gets worse. The 778 total yards racked up by the Tar Heels are the most allowed by the Hurricanes program — ever. And, yes, North Carolina has a great offense with a top-five unit coming into Saturday. But this is also still a North Carolina team that lost to Florida State. It’s a good team … but it’s not playoff good.
The storylines behind this offensive blowout are devastatingly poetic. Keep in mind that the coach on the other sideline, Mack Brown, was once Diaz’s boss at Texas. In fact, the last time a Manny Diaz-led defense gave up this many rushing yards (550 in a 40-21 loss to BYU in 2013), he was fired by Brown the next day.
Could Diaz make a similar move with defensive coordinator Blake Baker? At 8-2, the Hurricanes are good enough that Diaz’s job security isn’t really an issue, but other changes may be on the horizon. Still, Miami has now suffered two losses of a historic nature while Diaz has been in charge, which are bad omens under his watch.
Granted, 2020 has been taxing on everyone. Sometimes, you don’t know what team is going to show up, but Miami will end its regular season on a sour note with Diaz forced to take a hard look at the state of the U for 2021.
Here’s what else we learned from Saturday’s action in Week 15.
A wild shoe toss may have ripped the sole right out of Florida’s body, but in reality, Johnson had a bigger role in LSU’s surprising 37-34 win at Florida on Saturday night. The true freshman, making his first start — on the road, no less — was certainly good enough to put his team in position to win. To throw for 239 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions is a great place to start. Junior Myles Brennan will likely still be the starter moving forward, but Johnson, while not perfect, showed he was good enough to push Brennan. Don’t be surprised if one day this LSU offense is his to run.
Georgia will be the most hyped team of 2021
I’m calling it now. Deserved or not, the Bulldogs are going to get a ton of offseason love, and it’s going to have a lot to do with quarterback JT Daniels and a really good core of weapons around him coming back. A 49-14 win over Missouri was the image of what Georgia’s offense could have looked like in 2020. With Alabama and Florida showing off some of the best offenses in college football, Georgia couldn’t afford to win with just defense. It’s not entirely their fault; Jamie Newman opted out and Daniels wasn’t healthy enough to go until late last month. In any case, 2020 ended up not unfolding in the way many hoped — but there’s hope for next year. Daniels has been excellent in his three games at the end of the season, throwing for 839 yards, nine touchdowns and just one pick. With RB Zamir White and WR George Pickens having big games against the Tigers, there’s a lot to be excited about what’s coming back. Add in the Bulldogs’ normal defensive success, and this team looks loaded going into next year.
USC is college football’s greatest escape artist
Cats are jealous of how many lives USC coach Clay Helton has. In this modified 2020 season alone, USC has won three games it easily could have lost, the latest being a 43-38 thriller over cross-town rival UCLA on Saturday. It also pulled out narrow victories at the start of its season against Arizona and Arizona State, the latter of which just got a 70-burger hung on them by the former and fired their coach.
It feels like if the Trojans only had to play the final five minutes of a game, they would be a playoff-bound team. The win over the Bruins puts USC at least in a sports bar conversation about the playoff since it’s unbeaten. How the committee ranks this team on Tuesday will be interesting. But in effect, the Pac-12 hasn’t been a playoff factor this year. That doesn’t really change after this week, and now USC will play in the Pac-12 Championship Game against an opponent in Washington that’s well rested because of canceled games.
Greg Schiano should get Coach of the Year
With a 27-24 overtime win over Maryland on Saturday, Rutgers goes into the Big Ten’s Champions Week at 3-5 with a chance to get four wins for the first time since 2017. That may not seem like a big deal nationally, but consider what Rutgers was when Schiano took over. The average score of a Big Ten game for the Scarlet Knights in 2019? It was 39-5 with that team getting shut out four times. Rutgers was the least-funny joke that could have been told; they were beyond terrible.
Now look at them. They’ve been at least competitive in just about every game. They’re not that far off from being .500 or better; they lost on a last-second field goal to Illinois and took Michigan to three overtimes. In a year when it would be so easy to mail it in early, the Scarlet Knights were one of the few teams that looked like it actually wanted to be there every week.
There are multiple national COTY awards, and it’s true that they shouldn’t automatically go to the coach who overachieved based on preseason expectations. Guys like Nick Saban deserve credit for building absolute death machines at Alabama, but as someone who was skeptical of re-hiring Schiano, how do you look at this team compared to last year and not see one of the biggest transformations of any FBS program?
Iowa is quietly a hot team right now
Since losing 21-20 to Northwestern, Iowa has rattled off six straight wins, the latest being a convincing (albeit not perfect) 28-7 victory over Wisconsin. It’s a particularly meaningful win, too, since the Hawkeyes haven’t beat Wisconsin since 2015 as the Badgers have owned Iowa over the past decade.
Iowa has really grown over the past couple of months, and it’s lost its two games by a combined five points. This team is not that far from being unbeaten. Quarterback Spencer Petras has put together back-to-back good games, and the defense on Saturday held Wisconsin to 2.6 yards per rush when tossing out sack yards. (Separately, Wisconsin hasn’t been able to consistently run the ball this year.) Granted, Iowa’s road through the Big Ten West hasn’t been the most difficult, but it’s quietly put together a strong season. There’s a good chance the Hawkeyes will get Indiana next week in the Big Ten’s Champions Week — and it will probably be a more compelling matchup than Ohio State-Northwestern in the actual conference championship game.