The Monday After: How Miami has helped remind us of the fun this unusual season could bring

I haven’t made a secret of the fact that the first few weeks of the college football season didn’t feel right to me. I wrote in The Monday After last week about the time my mom bought me a pair of knockoff Jordans thinking that none of my friends would realize they weren’t the real thing, comparing that story to how I felt watching college football this year.

I don’t know if it was the weird circumstances surrounding the season, the lack of atmosphere in most stadiums or the postponement of games. At one point, I even began to wonder if it wasn’t the football at all, but me. Maybe I was depressed and didn’t realize it. Maybe 2020 had just worn me down, and the lack of a connection or spark between myself and the football I was watching was a result.

Whatever it was, it legitimately concerned me.

Then Saturday night came, and I felt it. The tingle had returned as I was watching a football game. It had started to gain momentum early in the day as Navy came back from a 24-0 deficit to beat Tulane. There was also a sense of electricity as I watched Oklahoma State struggle to get past Tulsa. The kind of “is this really going to happen” energy that had just been lacking.

But it wasn’t official until Saturday night when Miami took out Louisville 47-34. One of the things I love the most about college football is how delightfully stupid it can get. And, in the realm of delightfully stupid things any college football fan can do, there’s nothing quite like buying into the Miami Hurricanes.

That’s what I’m doing, though. I’m not declaring that The U Is Back, but the Hurricane Hype Train is starting behind me. Miami just looked fun on Saturday night. This is a team with an electric quarterback in D’Eriq King and a perfect complement at running back in Cam’Ron Harris. Then there are a bunch of giant dudes on defense flying around. They look like Miami. They look like a team with an identity — and a team that’s back to having fun — and I’m fully on board.

Now, there are limits to what being fully on board means here. It doesn’t mean I’m declaring Miami as a legitimate threat to Clemson in the ACC. I might be excited, and I might have been depressed, but I’m not that stupid. I do think Miami is the third-best team in the ACC, though, and I do believe that it could reach the ACC Championship Game.

Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee has brought a plan to Miami that didn’t seem to exist in the last few years, while King brings a level of competence to the QB spot that’s been missing. The two are perfect for one another, and when I watched the Miami offense at work on Saturday night, I was reminded of Lashlee’s offense with Auburn in 2013. Harris is a bigger Tre Mason, while King is Nick Marshall with a higher floor as a passer. That team went 12-2 while scoring 39.5 points per game and reached the BCS Championship, where it lost to Florida State.

Defensively, I had been amped to see front seven, but then Gregory Rousseau opted out of the season, and it became a question mark. Now, after two games, I remain impressed and wonder how good it could have been if Rousseau was still playing. They’ve only picked up four sacks as a team, but have 18 tackles for loss through two games, led by Temple transfer — Manny Diaz using those long-time Temple coaching connections — Quincy Roche’s 3.5. Jaelen Phillips looks like a player starting to live up to the five-star billing he had out of high school.

They even have a kicker now! Jose Borregales beat Miami with a field goal for FIU last season. Now he’s booting 50-plus-yard bombs for the Canes.

This is a team that’s been excellent in all three phases, and I am into it. Sure, the Canes will likely make me look dumb(er) because that’s what they do best, but I don’t care. I think this team is for real.

And while I’m not ready to fully commit to The U Being Back, it’s helped bring me back. For that, I’ll always be grateful.

Brand New World Tweet of the Week

I live in a state where sports betting is now legal, and let me tell you, it’s terrific. It’s also a bit of an adjustment because now 80% of the commercials you see when watching a sporting event are connected to gambling. There are no fewer than four million sportsbooks now open in Illinois by my unofficial count.

It’s also been weird seeing sports leagues who spent the last 100 years telling you how gambling was evil embrace it. However, what might have been the most bizarre moment of all was seeing this tweet from Boston College’s official account after beating Duke 26-6.

A direct reference to the point spread! What a time to be alive! 

Touchdown Pass of the Week

This 69-yard touchdown strike from Syracuse QB Rex Culpepper was nice on its own, but you might be wondering why I’d highlight a touchdown thrown by a QB whose team lost 21-10 on Saturday. Well, what you might not know or remember is that Culpepper was seeing his first extended action for Syracuse since he was diagnosed with testicular cancer two years ago. I’ve no doubt a win would have felt better for Culpepper, but to succeed after the adversity he faced must have been pretty sweet.

Backdoor Cover of the Week

I knew about everything that Louisiana Tech’s football team dealt with to start its 2020 season, but that didn’t stop me from making the Bulldogs my Lock of the Week in The Six Pack. The Bulldogs, coming off a 10-win season, were 5.5-point underdogs against a Southern Miss team that played so poorly in its season opener against South Alabama that it made a coaching change.

The Bulldogs — who were down about 20 players from their two-deep thanks to injury, COVID-19 and contact tracing — were down 17 points in the third quarter, but they battled back to not only pull off an exciting victory but get The Six Pack a hell of a backdoor cover as well.

Fanbase of the Week

Listen, it was a mostly miserable day for Georgia Tech fans in Atlanta on Saturday. A week after pulling off an upset over Florida State, the Yellow Jackets were swatted by UCF. The Knights racked up 660 yards of offense en route to a 49-21 victory, and it made for some fantastic crowd reaction shots.

There was also this shot from Georgia Tech, proving that time is definitely a flat circle. I can’t wait to see this photo recreated yet again in 2121.

Worst Narrative of the Week

Speaking of UCF, as I said, it was an impressive win. The UCF offense didn’t look rusty at all in its first game, and Dillon Gabriel showcased the same deep-ball accuracy he impressed us all with last year as a freshman. He finished with 417 yards and four touchdowns, and the Knights looked like the might be the team to beat in the American yet again.

But I saw too many “this is a College Football Playoff statement” type responses to the win. I mean, is it really? Does beating Georgia Tech make UCF a legitimate playoff contender now? Yes, Tech beat Florida State last week, but I don’t know how good Florida State’s going to be in 2020. It certainly didn’t look very good against Georgia Tech!

Also, this is a Georgia Tech team that went 3-9 last year and even lost to The Citadel. It’s not exactly a powerhouse. UCF needs to beat every Power Five opponent it can get its hands on to prove a point, but color me skeptical that the CFP Selection Committee will convene a few months from now and say, “yeah, but remember UCF’s win over Georgia Tech?”

There’s a theory this season that a Group of Five school would have had a better chance to reach the playoff due to a lack of overall teams playing. Well, that door probably slammed shut for good when the Big Ten announced its plans to start its season next month, but I never bought into the idea to begin with.

If anything, the Big Ten and Pac-12 initially opting out of the fall season was just great news for the SEC and maybe the ACC. It nearly guaranteed that one of them would get two teams into the playoff. I just didn’t foresee a scenario in which the CFP would want to set a precedent allowing G5 teams into the field. If they did it once, even in 2020, it’d be that much harder to justify leaving them out in the future.

Social Media Exchange of the Week

On Saturday morning, the Big Ten did what the Big Ten had done numerous times already in 2020: it released a schedule. When seeing it, one couldn’t help but feel as if the conference was punishing Nebraska for being too squeaky of a wheel over the last month or so.

Nebraska will open the season on the road against Ohio State before getting Wisconsin, Northwestern and Penn State. Having the Huskers only two games against the East come against the two best teams seemed like too much of a coincidence for it to be a coincidence.

Still, while Nebraska AD Bill Moos was grousing about it publicly, at least the school’s social media account decided to have some fun with it.

Remember, Ohio State was pretty vocal about its desire to play this fall too, but for some reason, the Big Ten decided not to punish it as severely as it did Nebraska. Can’t imagine why!

College Football Playoff Projection of the Week

  1. Clemson
  2. Alabama
  3. Ohio State
  4. Oklahoma

Until the next Monday After!

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