The mess that is the current state of Miami Hurricanes football has yet another data point.
Heading into Thursday night’s bowl game, Manny Diaz wasn’t sure who his starting quarterback would be. A couple of hours before kickoff, a report surfaced that the Hurricanes would be parting ways with offensive coordinator Dan Enos after one season.
Amidst that tumult, The U proceeded to spit the postseason bed. Epically.
In the 14-0 Independence Bowl loss to Louisiana Tech, Miami was shutout in a bowl game for the first time since 1994. They managed just 227 yards of offense. For the game.
At 6-7, they finished below .500 for the first time since 2014. And the second time since 2007. And the third time since 1997.
Following the latest on-field embarrassment, Blake James issued a statement on Twitter in which he addressed “a disappointing finish” for a 2019 season “that fell well below the high standards of the University of Miami football program.” The athletic director indicated that Diaz will be back as head coach. The AD also indicated “clearly changes are necessary and expected.”
— Blake James (@CanesAllAccess) December 27, 2019
Now, as for those high standards mentioned by James.
Since 2003, The U has won 10 games in a season just once. Since joining the ACC for the 2004 season, the Hurricanes have won one division championship (2017). They have won zero conference titles.
Going on nearly two decades, The U has been nothing more than just another football program. And maybe that’s nothing more than they’ll ever be again?
WHO: No. 25 Oklahoma State (8-4) vs. Texas A&M (7-5)
WHAT: The 14th Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl
WHEN: 6:45 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas
THE SKINNY: The Texas Bowl became a Big 12-SEC affair in 2014; the SEC took the first two, but Oklahoma State will now look to extend the Big 12’s winning streak to four on Friday night.
Similarly, Texas A&M once owned this series of former Big 12 South bunk mates, taking 10 of the first 12 upon the creation of the conference, but Oklahoma State won the last four.
It’ll be a struggle to get to five, though.
With quarterback Spencer Sanders and receiver Tylan Wallace to take some of the defense’s 22 eyeballs off of Chuba Hubbard, Oklahoma State would walk into the game with a healthy expectation to move the ball. Alas, Sanders and Wallace are out, and Hubbard was limited to right around four yards a pop in two games sans Sanders, while replacement Dru Brown needed around 30 throws to get to 200 yards.
With a healthy Kellen Mond, a young defense, and a red-faced coaching staff angered by a blowout loss to LSU in their finale, expect Texas A&M to use another bowl win as a springboard to “Hey, this could be the year Jimbo wins the SEC” takes again in 2020.
THE PICK: Texas A&M 31, Oklahoma State 17
WHO: Michigan State (6-6) vs. Wake Forest (8-4)
WHAT: The 10th New Era Pinstripe Bowl
WHEN: December 27th at 3:20 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: Yankee Stadium in Bronx, New York
THE SKINNY: Michigan State and Wake Forest will meet for the first time when they step onto the field at Yankee Stadium, home to Major League Baseball’s New York Yankees and the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. The ACC-Big Ten matchup sees two programs that arrive in the postseason under much different circumstances. Wake Forest is looking to win nine games for the first time since 2007 as Dave Clawson has the Demon Deacons continuing to take steps forward as a program. Meanwhile, Mark Dantonio has Michigan State back in a bowl game for the 11th time in his 12-year run as head coach of the Spartans, although this year Michigan State slid their way to postseason eligibility by having to defeat Maryland at home in the final game of the season.
Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke hasn’t exactly had a banner season in East Lansing. He leads a struggling Michigan State offense with 16 touchdown passes to 12 interceptions, but hopes to end his collegiate career on a high note. Lewerke has been roughed up at times this season but will get to start the final game of his career. How long he remains the quarterback for Michigan State remains to be seen as Dantonio has said he will not shy away from playing sophomore Rocky Lombardi if a change of pace is necessary. A jolt on offense is always welcome for Michigan State as the Spartans rank 101st in the nation in total offense. Fortunately, the defense helps keep games from getting too out of hand most of the time, and that could be the case here.
Clawson is all about improving the offensive structure, and that is just what has been done with Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons come into the bowl season ranked 12th in the nation in total offense with 474.4 yards per game. But they will also be banged up for the game with leading wide receiver Sage Surratt out due to season-ending shoulder surgery. That will likely make Kendall Hinton a go-to option for Wake Forest. Hinton may be lacking in touchdowns (3) but he is certainly going to rack up yardage (70 receptions for 953 yards). Wake Forest’s quarterback situation will also be something to watch with starter Jamie Newman banged up and Sam Hartman preparing to go if needed.
Although Wake Forest’s offense will be tested physically by the Spartans, there may be enough scoring drives in them to edge Michigan State in the Bronx.
THE PICK: Wake Forest 20, Michigan State 17
As it turns out, Oregon will have Mycah Pittman at its disposal for the Rose Bowl. Probably.
In mid-November, Pittman suffered a broken right arm against Arizona. A little over two months later, the wide receiver’s head coach indicated that all signs are pointing toward him playing in the Granddaddy of Them All vs. Wisconsin New Year’s Day.
“We’ll get final word here in the next day or two,” Mario Cristobal said of the true freshman’s availability. “But all signs point to him being cleared and ready to go. He’s been practicing full-speed for almost three weeks now.”
The late-year injury was just part of a season that saw more than its fair share for the player.
In the six games he played in between injuries, Pittman caught 14 passes for 197 yards and two touchdowns.
A four-star member of the Ducks’ 2019 recruiting class, Pittman was rated as the No. 15 receiver in the country; the No. 17 player at any position in the state of California; and the No. 94 player overall on 247Sports.com‘s composite board. Pittman was the highest-rated skill-position signee for the Ducks that cycle.
WHO: North Carolina (6-6) vs. Temple (8-4)
WHAT: The 11th Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman
WHEN: Noon ET on ESPN
WHERE: Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Md.
THE SKINNY: At long last, North Carolina and Temple will meet on the field. It took decades for the Tar Heels and Owls to collide, and they’ll finally do so for the first time in the all-important time slot of noon Eastern on a Friday.
North Carolina won a win-or-stay-home game over NC State to reach this matchup, and expect the Heels to be fired up after losing nine games each of the past two seasons. UNC is led by freshman quarterback Sam Howell, who checked in at No. 28 nationally in passing efficiency in the Tar Heels’ six wins and No. 5 in their six losses, where he fired 19 touchdown passes against just three picks. Nine of North Carolina’s first 10 games were decided by one score.
Temple largely feasted on the worst teams on its schedule and struggled against the best, save for the win over Memphis in October. Quarterback Anthony Russo leads the attack with 2,733 passing yards and 21 touchdowns.
Though they’ve never met on the field and (obviously) compete in different conferences, the teams share one common opponent: Georgia Tech. Temple scored a 24-2 win on Sept. 28, while UNC posted a 38-22 victory a week later. If only the Yellow Jackets knew then the history they helped create.
THE PICK: North Carolina 34, Temple 24