Behind Enemy Lines: Miami beat writer breaks down Canes and Tigers


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Behind Enemy Lines: Miami beat writer breaks down Canes and Tigers

CHARLOTTE, NC - Clemson and Miami meet tonight in the ACC Championship Game at Bank of America Stadium, but the two teams haven't played since a 58-0 Tiger victory two years ago. What's new with the Canes?

TigerNet traded questions with Miami Herald and Hurricane beat writer Susan Miller Degnan. You can follow Susan on Twitter at @smillerdegnan.

Nikki at TigerNet: The last time Clemson and Miami met two years ago, the Tigers crushed the Hurricanes 58-0 in the worst loss in UM history. Could that game have any bearing on this one?

Susan Miller Degnan: “The answer is yes, but mostly in the week leading up to it. These Hurricanes have been driven all season by a goal of beating the four teams to which they lost last season – Florida State, North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Notre Dame. Clemson became a natural extension to that list, by virtue of the 58-0 humiliation at Hard Rock Stadium. That game was a blight on the Hurricanes program and a reflection of what UM had become. These 2017 Canes have a lot of pride, and they seem to do better when the pressure is on, the lights are on and they are the underdogs. Once they get on the field, anything goes. But if that is part of the motivation that drove them to an exemplary week of practice, then coach Mark Richt and Hurricanes fans will gladly take it.”

Nikki: How can Miami compensate for this week’s season-ending losses of tight end Christopher Herndon and All-American receiver Ahmmon Richards, both with knee injuries?

Susan Miller Degnan: “With great difficulty. I’m not convinced Miami really can compensate for those losses. Herndon, a semifinalist for the Mackey Award that goes to the top tight end in the nation, is a 6-4, 252-pound clutch receiver who catches everything that comes his way and blocks as well as anyone on the team. Tight end is among UM’s shallowest positions, and Herndon replacement Michael Irvin, a 6-3, 248-pound sophomore, has only caught five passes for 56 yards to Herndon’s 40 catches for 477 yards and four touchdowns.

"Regarding Richards, who broke UM legend and Pro Football Hall of Fame Receiver Michael Irvin’s freshman record last season with more than 900 receiving yards and three touchdowns, he has been injured all season (mostly hamstring but also ankle and Achilles’ tendon). Yet despite all those ailments, Richards still was UM’s third-leading receiver with 24 catches for 439 yards and three touchdowns in eight games, some of them in which he barely played.

"There’s no way you can suddenly go without those guys and it not have an effect. The Canes must spread the ball around, and notably increase the presence of players such as 6-4, 220-pound Darrell Langham, who caught the game-winning pass at FSU and saved the game against Georgia Tech.”

Nikki: How do you see this game playing out?

Susan Miller Degnan:“Well, common sense tells me that the brutal Clemson defense will take a page out of last week’s Pittsburgh plan and put its emphasis on stopping the run and making UM a one-dimensional passing offense. Then, with Herndon and Richards out, that defense can work on Rosier getting frazzled and making mistakes.

"If that happens, UM is doomed. However, UM has a pretty special defense itself. And if the turnover chain has anything to say about Saturday’s outcome, I wouldn’t put it past the Canes to force some fumbles or make some interceptions. At that point it would all come down to the Miami offense. If the Canes can’t produce some points, Clemson rolls.”

Your prediction?

"Against all odds, the Canes wake up and smell the playoffs. Canes in an upset 27-24.”

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