Sims: The Spiral has to Stop at Clemson

'Canes fan waves a flag and holds up the number one to celebrate during Miami's game against Georgia Tech at Hard Rock Stadium on Oct. 7, 2023. Photo credit: Alexandra Fisher

On the morning of October 7, the Miami Hurricanes were an undefeated football team ranked 15th in the country. The letdown and despair were in the past, and ‘Canes football was on the up and up. Cristobal was proving he could turn this program around; one of the best recruiting classes in school history was already paying dividends, and all the issues last year seemed to stay in the past. New coaches were scheming up great things for the players. Tyler Van Dyke was back playing like he had before the injustice, and everything was trending up for the ‘Canes.

Until it wasn’t.

All they had to do was take a knee. The Georgia Tech loss was a stepback but not the world’s end. Sometimes, good teams falter. It happens. Cristobal harps on his group’s mental toughness and preparation as they go through each game. “We try to go 1-0 every week,” said Cristobal after a post-game win earlier this season. This team seemed poised. They seemed ready for the tough road ahead of them.

Miami played a solid game against North Carolina until the second half. They made Drake Maye uncomfortable and held the lead by three points going into the break. That is until Tez Walker took over, and the bending ‘Canes defense broke.

The Miami defensive unit covered Tez Walker, like students show up to 8 A.M. classes. Walker, in his first game for UNC, scored three touchdowns. He racked up 175 yards on twelve catches. Maye was targeting him all night, and the ‘Canes had no answer.

Miami’s offense responded to all three UNC scoring drives with absolutely nothing. A turnover and a punt put UNC back in position to score, and score they did. Tyler Van Dyke and Miami scored zero points in the third quarter, and Lance Guidry and the defense allowed the Tar Heels to score three times. The score going into the fourth was 35-17 UNC.

The disappointment in the coaching staff cannot be understated. The idiotic penalties from Guidry that helped keep a UNC drive alive were a killer. How can you let that happen as a collegiate coordinator? The players see that foolishness and wither down the respect bit by bit.

While the final score may indicate that Miami was in that game, no, Miami was never. The game ended in the third quarter when a “tough” team came out and got walked all over by a team shooting themselves in the foot. UNC set a record for most penalty yards against in that game. 14 penalties for 147 yards. Most in school history. The problem with that is that both teams were committing the penalties that day. The ‘Canes just had a bigger stick: four turnovers and seven penalties of their own defined the day for Miami.

So, with back-to-back losses and the sky starting to fall, Clemson comes to town. The Clemson Tigers’ name is used to strike fear into their opponents. Not so much this season, but that does not mean the ‘Canes can underestimate this Dabo Swinney-led squad.

Clemson is still 4-2, and they’ve had a strict schedule. They have only lost to Duke, now ranked 16th in the nation, and Miami’s rivals up in Tallahassee, the fourth-ranked Florida State Seminoles. Clemson is battle-tested and will not be afraid to throttle a vulnerable team like Miami. That being said, Clemson is beatable. They have some talented players. There are players on both sides of the ball that will be NFL players. Miami must recognize this team.

If the ‘Canes can’t hold off the Tigers at home, they are facing a 4-3 record, 0-3 in ACC play, and Cristobal will still be winless at home against an ACC foe in his tenure as head coach at the University of Miami. Everything about the program will be questioned.

This week, Clemson is a prime example of a team that if Miami wants to get “back, “they have to beat. But Miami does not just have to beat Clemson to prove they are not an embarrassment. Miami has to beat Clemson to stop the sky from completely falling. Three consecutive losses to ACC opponents make Miami look bad. Yes, UNC is a great team, and Georgia Tech came as a fluke. The expectations were sky-high to enter this season, and Miami raised the bar through the first five weeks. If Miami loses at home this Saturday night, we’ll all wonder what happened.

Miami made themselves the laughingstock of the college football landscape with their antics against Georgia Tech. If Miami comes out of that game, responds with two demoralizing losses to beatable teams in UNC and Clemson, falls to 4-3 with no hope of getting to the ACC championship game, and falters after all the hype, then they are a joke.