CLEMSON – There’s a wonderful little website on that invention called the Internet by the name of CoachesHotSeat.com. The premise, er, needs no explanation.
Coaches are ranked in order of the toastiness of their rump. Some of it yields head-scratchers – sorry, Nick Saban at No. 15 and Bob Stoops at No. 19 is ludicrous – and some of it is spot on, as the site usually has a decent track record of identifying with coaches get shown the door sooner rather than later.
By far this conference’s coach under the most fire is the one leading the Adam Sandler of ACC programs: big in the 90s, underwhelming in the 2000s and horribly underachieving today.
Al Golden is the fourth-ranked object of Coaches Hot Seat’s affection, and for good reason. Despite not-so-subtle recruiting advantages – beaches, ladies and nightlife, to name three – and an exhaustive history of winning tradition, Miami has merely gone 16-16 in Golden’s ACC tenure with nary a league title game appearance or a bowl victory.
(Pop quiz: name the year, game and opponent represented by Miami’s last bowl win. If you can get one, you’re good; two, you’re a genius; three, you’re a cheater.)
Miami hasn’t finished a season ranked in the Associated Press poll this decade. Miami hasn’t defeated Florida State this decade. Miami hasn’t beaten a ranked opponent since Golden’s first year, with the exception of week 2 in 2013 – and that was by five points over Florida, which later lost by six points to Georgia Southern.
Other than all that, it’s going great in Coral Gables. Golden might want to think about not slipping up in October – at Florida State, Virginia Tech, Clemson, at Duke back-to-back-to-back-to-back – if he’d like to avoid boning up on moving van companies.
(By the way, the answer: Dec. 31, 2006, a mighty 21-20 triumph over Nevada in the MPC Computers Bowl in lovely Boise, Idaho. The Canes’ quarterback was Kirby Freeman. Their coach was Larry Coker, who’d already been fired. No, seriously. Look it up.)
Miami coach: Al Golden (28-22, 5th season)
Returning starters: 10 (5 offense, 5 defense)
2014 record: 6-7, 3-5 ACC
Scoring offense: 29.2 points per game (62nd in FBS)
Scoring defense: 24.3 points allowed (37th)
Series: Miami leads 6-3, teams tied 3-3 at Miami
Last meeting: Miami 30, Clemson 21: Oct. 2, 2010 in Clemson
Opposing beat writer to follow: Susan Miller Degnan, Miami Herald (@smillerdegnan)
1. Yippee Kaaya: Despite all that rabble-rabble above about the state of the Canes, Miami actually does have a somewhat bright immediate future in football. As is the case at every level of football, it’s because the guy playing quarterback has some game. Brad Kaaya did not set foot on campus until August, yet won the starting gig and ended up with 3,198 passing yards and 26 touchdowns in his maiden campaign. He was the highest-rated freshman passer in the country besides Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett (and no, Deshaun Watson was not eligible.) Since veterans typically improve upon their accuracy, Kaaya’s 58.5 completion percentage is nothing to worry about. Even though Duke Johnson’s gone at running back, and Phillip Dorsett and Clive Walford are difficult to replace at receiver and tight end, Kaaya should put up big numbers again.
2. Improved D: In 2012, Miami was rated No. 120 in total defense. Last year, that figure rose to No. 14. The Canes will be bolstered by the un-suspension of defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad Jr., and Deon Bush is a ball-hawker out of the secondary. Easily the biggest hole to fill is left by linebacker Denzel Perryman, but Mark D’Onofrio has experience at that position to help plug the gaps and let Kaaya win shootouts more often than not.
3. No home cooking: Because the location of Sun Life Stadium isn’t ideal, and the program has taken a significant downturn, Miami has not enjoyed home-field advantage like many of its would-be national competition. Heck, anytime Florida State or Clemson plays at Miami, the crowd is essentially partisan. Miami has been downed at home by the likes of Pittsburgh, Boston College, Virginia and Kansas State even as a hefty favorite. So with Clemson defensive products like Mackensie Alexander, Jayron Kearse, Adrian Baker and Richard Yeargin prepping to show out near their hometowns in south Florida, the Tigers likely won’t be daunted by this particular road trip.
Week before: Boston College
Next week: at NC State
On the horizon: Florida State