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Sunday Thoughts: Miami Dominates, Clemson Clinches

Florida State v Clemson Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Before we post the recap of Clemson’s basketball game against NC A&T, I wanted to share a few thoughts on this past weekend of ACC football.

Clemson beat Florida State despite Kelly Bryant having his worst game as a starter. Bryant missed on several intermediate throws - again skying a pass (or two) well over the outstretched hands of an open Hunter Renfrow. Bryant also fumbled the ball three times, twice resulting in turnovers. Clemson’s offense ended with 31 points, but much of that is thanks to a defense that totally dominated Florida State’s weak offensive line. The Tigers first two touchdowns drives were just 20 and 28 yards long, respectively. Etienne picked up all 28 yards on that second drive.

Ryan Carter suffered a head injury and Tre Lamar left with a stinger. Dexter Lawrence, Kendall Joseph, Marcus Edmond, and Mark Fields were all out. Clemson’s defense still managed to Cam Akers to just 40 rushing yards. Simply outstanding!

I’d like to discuss the Ryan Carter play specifically and the current targeting rule more broadly. Take a look at the play below:

In my view, there are three types of targeting calls. First, you have the ones like the critical play in Bedlam where the Oklahoma State WR went to the ground quicker than the tackler expected and head-to-head contact was almost certainly incidental (and fairly minor). A 15-yard penalty and ejection seems excessive in these situations. Second, you have tackles that use poor form and result in helmet-to-helmet contact. Finally, you have the above. That is an intentionally dirty hit to injure or intimidate. The NCAA must find a way to differentiate these plays. The FSU player in question missed the remainder of the Clemson game and will not play in the first half against Delaware State. The penalty there should not be the same as close calls where a receiver is dropping and the tackler can’t adjust quickly enough.

I don’t pretend to know the best solution, but the current situation should not be acceptable. (A 15-yard penalty and sitting out the reminder of the quarter while the replay/ACC office continues to review and get a final decision on additional suspension time to the field at the conclusion of the quarter seems reasonable though.) CTE is a serious problem that anyone who cares about football players should care about. Protecting the players while ensuring the game we love isn’t worsened is critical.

Now, if you made it home from Death Valley in time to see the Miami vs. Notre Dame game, you were probably stunned by what unfolded. The Hurricanes blew away the Fighting Irish 41-8. It’s not a stretch to say this is the most impressive victory any team has notched this season. This is not the same team that Clemson beat 58-0 in Miami two years ago. They are much better in the trenches and on the sideline. Mark Richt was always a good coach, but things have grown stale in Athens. He has Miami playing elite-level football.

If Clemson can get healthy and get Bryant back to form, they can certainly beat Miami. Those are two big “ifs,” but the upcoming game against FCS Citadel should help. The Citadel offers Clemson an opportunity to rest some banged up players and rebuild some of Bryant’s confidence. South Carolina, will be a tougher test. The Cocks will likely have 8 wins and will be looking for revenge after being embarrassed in Death Valley a year ago.

Miami has a better resume than anyone in the nation (it’ll be interesting to see where they land in Mark Gordon’s ACC Power Rankings this week). Barring a major upset, the Championship matchup should be a top 4 matchup. Those who want playoff expansion will defacto get it this year. It will be the best game of Championship weekend and maybe the best college football game of the season.

The same thing that benefited UNC in the 2015 ACC Championship Game, should benefit Clemson this year. That’s rest! Since Hurricane Irma delayed the Miami vs. FSU game until the two team’s planned bye week, Miami will be playing their 11th straight game when they face Clemson in Charlotte. How much that impacts them is hard to tell, but one would think that it could be a factor in Clemson’s favor. Sound off in the comments below about this and the other topics discussed here.

There will be no depth chart analysis for the Citadel football game this week, but look for a similar breakdown for the basketball squad to come soon.