Dan Mullen predicts a national title for Gators but doesn’t say when

Dan Mullen made a very public promise the other day. The Florida Gators are going to win a national championship in football with him as head coach, just like the two they won when he was Urban Meyer’s offensive coordinator in 2006 and 2008.

At halftime of Florida’s Saturday afternoon basketball win over Baylor, Mullen took the microphone to brag about the school’s standards for excellence, highlighted by the reigning

FILE – In this Nov. 27, 2017, file photo, Dan Mullen, the new head football coach at the University of Florida, is introduced during a news conference in Gainesville, Fla.(Alan Youngblood/Star-Banner via AP, File)

national championship baseball team, and then, with voice rising and arms flailing, he added “On the football field, that standard is not just SEC but national championships. That’s what we promise we’re going to bring back to you here in the Swamp in Gainesville and put the Gators back on top as the most dominating team in the United States of America.”

Now it’s recruiting season and all, a time when the sales pitch never stops and the salesmen sometimes get carried away, but there’s really no reason for Mullen to hold back.

The Florida fan base was spoiled long ago by the bold promises Steve Spurrier made, and the success he had in keeping so many of them.

At his introductory press conference on Dec. 31, 1989, Spurrier said there was no reason that Florida shouldn’t take control of the Georgia series, which had been pretty much of a disaster in the previous two decades. That came true, and so did the previously unimaginable reality of Florida winning its first SEC title, and then stringing a bunch of them together.

Just prior to his first game as Gators coach, Spurrier wrote a letter to be published in the student newspaper, saying “We trail FSU and Miami heading in the 1990’s. We have the resources to catch and pass them and that is our target.” That also happened when the Gators won the 1996 national title.

At SEC media days, Florida was predicted by sportswriters to finish seventh in the league in 1990. In addition, there were no offensive players from Florida selected to the preseason All-SEC team. Spurrier guaranteed that would change by season’s end, and it did, with Shane Matthews as the highlight. Fifth on Florida’s quarterback depth chart in the summer, Matthews earned SEC Player of the Year honors that year and the next as the operator of Spurrier’s outlandish Fun ‘N Gun offense.

Of course, Spurrier said a lot of other things during his 12 seasons at Florida and infuriated a lot of people in the process. These are just a few memories of what he did and how he acted before coaching his first Gator game.

That’s where we find Mullen now. He doesn’t have his quarterback problem solved right off the bat any more than Spurrier did when he took this job. He doesn’t have a lot of momentum from the previous season, either, with the Gators coming off a 4-7 faceplant. Might as well say what people want to hear, though.

In short, like always, Florida has the resources to catch and pass everybody, and if Mullen doesn’t do it or at least come close, he won’t make it to end of that six-year contract.

It’s the same rock that Willie Taggart is pushing up the hill at FSU, and Jimbo Fisher is pushing at Texas A&M, and the one that Mark Richt continues to push at Miami. Oh, and let’s not forget Josh Heupel at UCF. That sounds like a sin of omission to many these days.

More power to any coach with the courage and the credibility to try.

And one day, when Nick Saban retires at Alabama, it will be a lot easier for all of them to reach that ultimate standard.

[Who knew Hoffman was bound for Cooperstown when Marlins traded him?]

[Only accomplishment remaining for LeBron James is player-coach]

[Eagles coach Pederson once saved Shula’s bacon as Dolphins’ QB]

 

 

 

Mullen and Gators need to join SEC’s parade of true freshman quarterbacks

If Dan Mullen doesn’t start Emory Jones at quarterback next season, the Florida Gators hired the wrong coach.

That’s because freshmen are all the rage in college football these days. No more waiting around to get the system completely down. These big, strong, smart kids are having systems built around them, improvisations and mistakes included.

Former Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen gives the scoreboard in the closing seconds of the team’s 31-28 loss to Mississippi on Nov. 23, 2017. Three days later he was hired to coach the Florida Gators. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Is this any way to run a major college program?

Well, Nick Saban went 14-1 at Alabama in 2016 with true freshman Jalen Hurts. On Monday night he benched Hurts at halftime and got just enough from Tua Tagovailoa, another true freshman, to win the 2017 national championship over Georgia and Kirby Smart’s true freshman quarterback, Jake Fromm.

Now comes word from FAU coach Lane Kiffin that Tagovailoa probably would have transferred if he hadn’t gotten into that title game. That’s insider knowledge from Alabama’s former playcaller, as announced on Dan Patrick’s national radio show.

What’s more, the Seattle Times is reporting that Jacob Eason, a former freshman starter at Georgia, is expected to transfer to Washington rather than sit the bench behind Fromm.

Young people are impatient by nature, of course. They want to play. They want to know that the promises they heard during recruiting were genuine, and that they won’t be left out when all the high-profile signees start stacking up at quarterback.

More important to this discussion, Mullen needs to shake things up at Florida with a bold approach that has nothing in common with the cautious offenses that Will Muschamp and Jim McElwain rolled out before him.

If Jones, the nation’s No. 4 dual-threat prospect, was good enough to get offers from Alabama and Ohio State and FSU, he’s good enough to start for the Gators against Charleston Southern on Sept. 1.

After all, Florida made a coaching change because 4-7 doesn’t work around there. Mullen was the choice because he develops dual-threat quarterbacks into big winners. Jones was Mullen’s choice in his first round of Gator recruiting because the top target of the former Florida staff, Matt Corral, is more of a pro-style quarterback.

Add it all up and there’s no reason for the Gators to look toward anyone but Jones, who as a January enrollee is already on hand and ready to dive into offseason workouts and spring practice.

Feleipe Franks is brawny and can run but his decision-making is spotty and often too slow. It figures that McElwain would have played any of the other underclassmen last year if they were ready, if only to save his own job. If this isn’t the time for a fresh look at a freshman quarterback, when will it ever be?

The need is not so urgent for Mark Richt at Miami. He’s got a returning starter in Malik Rosier who has flaws but also has wins over Notre Dame and Virginia Tech and the honor of clinching the program’s first ACC Coastal Division title. Still, N’Kosi Perry spent his freshman season watching from the sidelines last season and Jarren Williams, the highlight of a great early signing period for UM, may prove to be better than both of them if given a chance.

It’s a risk playing freshmen at quarterback, but a waste to keep the best ones idle.

Most have forgotten this, but freshmen weren’t eligible to play varsity football or basketball until the NCAA approved the idea in 1972. The old Big Eight Conference voted against it at the time but in 1985 one of its members, Oklahoma, turned to true freshman quarterback Jamelle Holieway when Troy Aikman broke a leg in an October game against Miami.

Holieway, a great option quarterback, led the Sooners the rest of the season, helping Barry Switzer to the last of his three national titles.

[Somehow, the latest national title in Bama’s dynastic run came as a shock]

[Richt next task is to surpass his Season 2 highlights at Georgia and UM]

[$10 million sure didn’t buy Dolphins much with Jay Cutler]

Richt’s mission is to advance beyond the second-year highlights he’s had at Georgia and Miami

Miami fans are loving Mark Richt after this 10-3 breakout season, but soon they’ll want more.

Georgia fans did, even though Richt ripped off double-digit wins one season after another there while building an overall .740 winning percentage.

Miami Hurricanes head coach Mark Richt yells during a team drill before the Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., on Saturday, December 30, 2017. (Andres Leiva / The Palm Beach Post)

Now that the Bulldogs are in the national championship game with Kirby Smart, many fans are probably wishing they had made the switch sooner.

That’s not fair to Richt, who won more games as Georgia’s coach than anyone except Vince Dooley, the 1980 national championship coach who ran the show there for a quarter century. This is how the business works, however, and this may be why a guy like Richt gets so wound up during the Orange Bowl the other night that he grabs the arm of an official and draws a flag.

Nine times at Georgia Richt won 10 games or better, and it he would have had another if he wasn’t fired at 9-3 in 2015 just before a Gator Bowl win over Penn State. By the numbers, he should still be there, but the administration got tired of boosters grumbling about SEC titles that didn’t materialize and quarterbacks that didn’t develop and playcalling that didn’t crack the code against Alabama and Florida and other SEC irritants.

The job that is ahead of Richt now is to push past the wave of excitement that marks his second season at Miami and into a series of moves so dependable and signings so right that Clemson won’t be able to stand in the way, or FSU, or anybody else.

It was his second season that rang the bell at Georgia in 2002, too. The Bulldogs were 13-1 with a Sugar Bowl win over FSU that year, convincing the faithful, as Miami fans are convinced now, that the right coach finally was at the right place at the right time.

It was great, all right, but it didn’t get greater, and the national title opportunity that Smart has now did not come to be. It happens like this, the feeling that 10-3 over and over is some kind of a drag. If that doesn’t seem possible at Miami right now, think of how Larry Coker started out 35-3 as the Hurricanes coach but began to lose momentum with a couple of 9-3 seasons and soon, after just six years, was gone.

Oh, I know that Coker and Richt are not the same guy, that Coker inherited a championship-caliber roster and didn’t have the same legwork to do at first, but the point is this. Miami had a coach with an .800 career winning percentage and a national title but he wasn’t enough to satisfy anybody for long.

So you look at the Hurricanes’ 2018 season opener, a Labor Day weekend showcase against LSU at Jerry’s World in Texas, and it’s like Richt has something to prove again. A loss by Miami would be the fourth in a row. A win and the Hurricanes are only getting started, with anything less than another trip to Charlotte and the ACC title game to be viewed as a step back.

It’s the pressure that every elite coach at every major program accepts, and Richt means to be in the middle of it, too.

My hope is that his alma mater will be a little more forgiving than most if everything doesn’t go perfectly. That’s because nothing goes perfectly in college football, not when a team like Auburn can upset a couple of No. 1 teams and come off looking like a dog at season’s end with a 10-4 record and a bowl loss to UCF. Not when UCF can have its best season ever and forfeit a head coach in the process.

Good luck keeping it going, Mark, and keeping it together, too. All things considered, that one sideline meltdown in the Wisconsin game was probably a long time coming.

What he had this season wasn’t much different than Jim McElwain’s introduction at Florida, an exciting 10-1 start and a rapid return to the Top 10 after years of wandering, followed by three lopsided losses in a row to FSU, Alabama and Michigan.

Nobody wants to hear that, but it’s so.

[Does anybody out there, including Scott Frost, want a piece of UCF now?]

[Jeter missed the memo on how fed up Marlins fans are with fire sales]

[It’s OK to start wondering again if Tiger will return to Honda Classic]

Before Mark Richt became available, Miami interviewed Greg Schiano and Dan Mullen, too

Miami Hurricanes administrators can sit back and grin, satisfied that they’ve got the right football coach in Mark Richt.

In just his second season at the school, Richt has Miami in Saturday night’s ACC Championship game against defending national champion Clemson, and a win there should lead to a spot in the College Football Playoff field.

Miami Hurricanes defensive coordinator Greg Schiano (center) with Mike Boireau(left) and Damione Lewis (right) after a 1999 practice. Staff photo by Allen Eyestone, Palm Beach Post.

Could it have gone this well with any other coach available to at the end of the 2015 season? Impossible to know, but Richt was not the only candidate who got serious consideration.

Greg Schiano interviewed with Miami back then. The opportunity came at a time in his life when the former UM defensive coordinator would have given anything to be the boss in Coral Gables. Schiano was between jobs, having been fired as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach. He was volunteering as a high school coach, as a matter of fact, at Tampa Berkeley Prep.

There was reason to believe that something would come of it, too, since former UM star Jonathan Vilma, who played for Schiano, was a member of the six-person advisory staff that athletic Blake James put together to assist in the search process.

It’s a matter of timing in these things, though. Earlier, when Larry Coker got fired at Miami, the Hurricanes were turned away by Schiano. That was in 2006, when he was building something of his own at Rutgers, and formally asked to have his name removed from Miami’s list of candidates.

Lately, Schiano’s name was turned toxic when Tennessee pulled back from a decision to hire him because of an ugly social media reaction, buoyed by campus protests.

The advertised reason for the uproar was an unsubstantiated narrative that the coach somehow ignored or condoned Jerry Sandusky’s child molestation crimes while the two were assistants at Penn State. More likely a ton of Vols fans just thought they could do better than Schiano and coalesced around a convenient rationale to scare Tennessee administrators away from what had seemed a fairly straightforward hire of a well-respected coach.

So who else did Miami interview in November and December of 2015 before Richt got the job?

Dan Mullen, freshly introduced as Florida’s new coach, talked with James and his search staff. At that time he was 54-35 in seven seasons at Mississippi State. Had he gotten the Miami job, he would have been just as enthusiastic about flashing the “U” hand signal as he was about doing the Gator Chomp in Gainesville on Monday.

Butch Davis also interviewed with Miami before the Richt hire. He had been out of coaching for a couple of years and was eager to a second stint as head coach of the Hurricanes. These days Butch is coaching at FIU and waiting to see which minor bowl assignment his 7-4 Golden Panthers will get.

All questions were answered, and quickly, when Georgia fired Richt on Nov. 30, 2015. Four days later he was announced as Miami’s coach.

No need to be smug when one of these frantic coach searches works out. For every athletic director who nails it there are 10 who regret ever being put in the position to choose, and scores who fear the moment when they will be out there scrambling to find the right man again.

[For Gators, Dan Mullen is a good solution who wants to be great]

[Because hiring Chip Kelly wasn’t easy for Florida, nothing else would have been]

[Hurricanes finally bring out the beast in antiseptic Hard Rock Stadium]

Notre Dame has already lost to one elite team but is Miami in that class?

 

Notre Dame has crushed every ACC team it has played this season, beating Boston College, North Carolina, North Carolina State and Wake Forest by an average score of 41-20, but maybe that’s not the way to measure Miami’s chances of knocking off the Fighting Irish on Saturday night.

Notre Dame offensive lineman Quenton Nelson in action during the first half of an NCAA college football game against North Carolina State, Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

If you want to believe that the Hurricanes are candidates to win their way all the way into the four-team College Football Playoff, it’s more encouraging to look at what Notre Dame did against another team in that elite class.

We’re talking about the Georgia Bulldogs, the only real threat to Alabama in the SEC and a team loved by the CFP ranking committee. In September Georgia went to South Bend and built a 20-19 signature win on swarming defense.

Mark Richt is right to talk about the muscle that Notre Dame packs on the line of scrimmage, offensively and defensively, yet Georgia did just fine.

The same Notre Dame team that rushed for 515 yards and seven touchdowns against Boston College managed just 55 rushing yards against the Dawgs.

On the other side of the ball, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel each averaged around 5 yards per carry against the Irish. It can be done, and it will have to be done by Miami if Malik Rosier is going to have time to hit some of his favorite passes way downfield to Ahmmon Richards and Braxton Berrios and Darrell Langham.

Overall, Georgia and Notre Dame were an excellent match, and it’s conceivable that they might meet again in the playoffs depending on the dozens of things that still must play out. Miami can either prove on Saturday night that it belongs in that same class or settle back onto the other good path that’s available to them, the path to a first-ever ACC title.

To me, the Hurricanes have a defensive front seven that plays and produces like Georgia’s does. The bonus is Richt’s playcalling on offense and a willingness to trust Malik Rosier in ways that Georgia coach Kirby Smart can’t quite do with his freshman quarterback, Jake Fromm.

There even were a few gadget plays early in last week’s 28-10 dismissal of Virginia Tech. That steals some of the confidence from a physical defense when it comes to teeing off on basic handoffs and conventional dropbacks. It slows down every reaction just a bit and keeps the strongest players slightly off balance, even when those gadget plays, throwbacks to the quarterback and such, don’t quite work to perfection.

Bottom line, I’m not so worried about the 710 yards in total offense that Notre Dame ran up on Wake Forest, a 2-3 team in the ACC. Same goes for the way that the Irish limited North Carolina State to 50 yards rushing.

Miami is supposed to be the cream of the ACC now and would be expected to muscle up on those conference rivals if they met them right now.

Instead it will be the Irish on Saturday night, a team that has pushed everybody around except Georgia, and should find the Hurricanes pretty tough to bowl over, too.

Don’t know what Miami will get from Syracuse, the team that lost to Middle Tennessee

 

College football is the world’s grandest carousel. You can laugh yourself silly riding on it, or throw up and wind up screaming to get off, or simply stumble away dizzy and a little unclear on what just happened. All on the same Saturday afternoon.

These random and ridiculous thoughts come to me as No. 8 Miami prepares to play Syracuse on Saturday at Hard Rock Stadium. There are a couple of ways Mark Richt could play this.

SYRACUSE, NY – OCTOBER 13: Ervin Philips of the Syracuse Orange celebrates their 27-24 upset win over Clemson Tigers after fans storm the field at the Carrier Dome on October 13, 2017. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

He might say “Syracuse just beat Clemson, the defending national champion, so that means the Orange are as good as anyone in America.”

He might say “Syracuse lost to Middle Tennessee, and Middle Tennessee lost to Florida Atlantic, and FAU hasn’t had a winning season since the guys on our team outgrew trick-or-treating, so that means the Orange must be as bad as anyone in America.”

You know he won’t use that second option, but he could.

Likewise, Lane Kiffin could point FAU toward Saturday’s game with North Texas and build off the Owls’ recent 58-28 rout of Old Dominion. Here’s how that fictional rallying cry might go.

“Men, I’m going to be mightily disappointed if we have to settle for 58 points this week. North Texas got beat 54-32 by SMU last month. Then SMU went out and gave up 56 points to TCU. Now you tell me why we shouldn’t score 80 this week, and why I shouldn’t be benching some starters if we fall short.”

No, that would be stupid, and it’s nothing short of rat poison for me even to suggest it.

You just can’t build logical chains with these results, or else you wind up with something like this.

LSU beat Auburn.

Troy beat LSU.

South Alabama beat Troy.

South Alabama’s only other win this year is against an FCS team, Alabama A&M.

Conclusion: South Alabama should schedule Auburn for homecoming next year. Of course, that would never happen, and, of course, that would end very badly for South Alabama.

One more thought on Miami vs. Syracuse before we go.

In 1998, when those two teams were members of the Big East, I covered a game at the Carrier Dome in which the Orange utterly destroyed the Hurricanes 66-13 to clinch the conference title. Couldn’t have been more shocking, or more dangerous for what Butch Davis was trying to build. So what happened next?

Miami upset UCLA, then No. 3 in the AP poll, the following week. Syracuse, meanwhile, got rolled 31-10 by Florida in the Orange Bowl game.

That’s the way the carousel spins. It’s why Richt can legitimately say of the 2017 Hurricanes, “We’re a very, very solid football team that’s fighting like mad just to win the close battles.”

Clearly, he’s been around, and around, and around.

[Offensive line was stable foundation for Shula teams, but it’s gone sour now]

[Flying high again with the ever-changing Central Florida Knights]

[Even UM’s greatest teams learned how tough it is to run the table]

NFL Draft weekend will tell us if Brad Kaaya left Miami too soon

What a shame it would be if Brad Kaaya doesn’t go high in the NFL draft after skipping what would have been his senior season at Miami.

Sure, it would be tough on Brad, the Hurricanes’ all-time leader in passing yards and completions, but consider the continued indecision about his replacement in Coral Gables.

Mark Richt can’t name a starter coming out of the spring practice sessions and both Malik Rosier and Evan Shirreffs have been around long enough to show what they can do. Meanhwhile, top recruit N’Kosi Perry, a beanpole at 6-feet-4 and 178 pounds, doesn’t arrive on campus until next month.

MIAMI GARDENS – Miami Hurricanes head coach Mark Richt with former Hurricanes quarterback Brad Kaaya (15) and wide receiver Stacy Coley (3) at Hard Rock Stadium on September 1, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Kaaya may not have had the kind of blockbuster junior season that would have catapulted him into obvious first-round draft territory but he did throw 27 touchdown passes with just seven interceptions. That’s high efficiency, and it figures that he and Richt would have gotten more comfortable with each other if given another season to work together.

As it was, Kaaya got sacked way too much (25 times) which was partly the fault of Miami’s offensive line and partly his own. His footwork and his decision-making need to speed up before some NFL team is going to go crazy over him.

Depending on what you read in the pre-draft speculation chatter, Kaaya could slip all the way to the third-day developmental class, or some team might want to take him as high as the second or third round to school behind a certain starter.

Never that easy figuring out who should go and should stay. NFL scouts aren’t as adamant as they used to be about looking for quarterbacks from a pro-style offense, which diminishes any supposed bonus points that Kaaya might have earned at Miami. Also, there’s a drive to start first-round quarterbacks right away as NFL rookies, another relatively new trend, and Kaaya isn’t ready for that.

Overall, would staying with the Hurricanes for his senior season have gained Miami a few more victories in 2017 and pushed Kaaya significantly higher in next year’s NFL draft?

I’ll say yes to the first question and no to the second.

[Check this list if you think Dolphins have gone too long between titles]

[Russell Westbrook is a true stats machine, but nobody did it like Big O]

[Reliving Wilt’s 100-point night, with two Palm Beach County eyewitnesses]

 

FSU leads the nation in comprehensive competitiveness

Congratulations to Florida State for nearing a tipping point of achievement that rarely gets noted around here.

The Seminoles are ranked nearly as high in basketball (No. 10 in the latest AP poll) as the FSU football team was in 2016’s final poll (No. 8).

This is fairly amazing stuff, and there’s an opportunity for Leonard Hamilton’s hoops team to climb even higher with No. 15 Notre Dame and No. 12 Louisville coming to Tallahassee this week.

Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton reacts during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C., Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton reacts during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C., Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

For two-sport domination, no other school comes close at the moment. FSU is the only program with top-10 teams in football and basketball according to the most current polls.

The other contenders are well back.

Louisville is No. 12 in basketball and finished No. 21 in football.

Wisconsin pairs a No. 17 basketball ranking with a No. 9 football finish.

Florida is up to No. 19 in hoops. A little bit more and they’ll catch the Gator football team at No. 14. This has happened before, of course, with back-to-back national titles in basketball during Billy Donovan’s great years, but in a football-crazy state like this one, Mike White deserves more headlines for even coming close.

Miami has the most climbing to do. Unranked in basketball, the Hurricanes finished No. 20 in Mark Richt’s first season as football coach. Jim Larranaga just picked up his 600th career victory, however, and he’s gotten the Hurricanes to the Sweet 16 a couple of times so it’s obvious the school is in good shape across the board.

Here’s another burst of fireworks for FSU. The Seminoles also are No. 7 in the AP poll for women’s basketball. Miami’s women also rank highly at No. 14.

We’ll check back as the hoops season goes on, unless all you want to talk about by then is college football recruiting, which would mean that everything is back to normal no matter what three pretty competitive basketball programs have to say about it.

 

[Steve Shepherd, Dave Lewter enter Florida Boxing Hall of Fame]

[Bob D’Angio was king of close calls during great run at Forest Hill]

[Lane Kiffin revival tent comes to Florida Atlantic]

 

Running out of chances to see Brad Kaaya play at Hard Rock Stadium

 

Two home games remain for the Miami Hurricanes – Pittsburgh on Saturday and Duke on Nov. 26.

Probably the last few chances to see Brad Kaaya in person, in other words, unless the junior decides he needs to do more before going out in the NFL draft.

Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya looks to throw during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Notre Dame, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya looks to throw during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Notre Dame, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

I’m increasingly of the opinion that he does need to do more, but Kaaya’s pro style game is never going to work until Miami fixes its offensive line problems. Already he’s taken too much punishment. Already Mark Richt has run out of ideas on how to make Kaaya get the ball out faster or move out of the pocket or do anything else to get the Hurricanes offense fully ignited again.

It wasn’t supposed to turn out this way for the 6-foot-4 star, who likely will finish No. 2 all-time behind Ken Dorsey in passing yards by a Miami quarterback.

The best scenario would be for some NFL team that believes in Kaaya to draft him in the first round and set him aside for a season of training. That’s what the Los Angeles Rams did with No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff from the 2015 draft.

Goff played on a California Bears team that was 4-5 in the Pac 12 his junior year but won the Armed Forces Bowl 55-36 over Air Force. Miami could still rally to a similar finish with Kaaya, improving his overall profile along the way, but Kaaya is never going to reach Goff’s ridiculous total of 43 touchdown passes in his final college season.

As a matter of fact, it’s difficult distinguishing Kaaya’s stats from the other quarterbacks remaining on Miami’s 2016 schedule.

See if you can pick his out from the following strings while matching the others to Nathan Peterman of Pittsburgh, Kurt Benkert of Virginia, Ryan Finley of North Carolina State and Daniel Jones of Duke.

  1. 11 touchdowns, 9 interceptions, 128.2 rating
  2. 17 touchdowns, 9 interceptions, 126.5 rating
  3. 13 touchdowns, 6 interceptions, 144.8 rating
  4. 12 touchdowns, 3 interceptions, 152.3 rating
  5. 13 touchdowns, 6 interceptions, 138.1 rating

Give up?

Kaaya is answer C, and he doesn’t really stand out by numbers alone.

The others are (A) Jones, (B) Benkert, (D) Peterman and (E) Finley.

Both Kaaya and Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer had their moments in Saturday’s high-profile game at South Bend. NFL scouts will see the Fighting Irish quarterback as more athletic and Kaaya as more of a ready-made pro. It’s all in the eye of the beholder.

[Is FSU over USF really the best college football win in the state this year?]

[Unless you’re smarter than me, predicting Dolphins is a weekly coin flip]

[Astounding all-time measurements for Jay Ajayi’s 200-yard hot streak]

What I see right now though is a challenge for Kaaya to finish strong, beginning with Saturday’s possible shootout with a Pittsburgh team that has scored at least 36 points in seven straight games. That’s the longest active streak in the FBS category.

Pitt has three losses but all have been to teams currently ranked in the AP Top 25 – North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Oklahoma State.

Make it work in the season’s final month and Kaaya’s draft stock could rise dramatically again.

 

Still holding out hope, rational or not, that Mark Richt will find his way to the 2016 ACC Coastal title

It would be a crushing disappointment if Miami doesn’t find a way to win the ACC Coastal title.

Sure, I should be past all of this now that the Hurricanes are 1-2 in conference play, but none of this adds up.

North Carolina, after all, is the only team in the division that is ranked in the AP Top 25, and that’s at No. 22. We’re talking two spots below Western Michigan and two above Navy.

Miami Hurricanes head coach Mark Richt questions an official during game against North Carolina Tar Heels in Miami Gardens, Florida on October 15, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Miami Hurricanes head coach Mark Richt questions an official during game against North Carolina Tar Heels in Miami Gardens, Florida on October 15, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

For that matter, Florida State is the only other ranked team on Miami’s 2016 schedule. The Hurricanes have the benefit of missing out on Clemson and Louisville this time around. If you’re wondering how important that is, the last time Miami played those two teams it didn’t turn out so well, with Clemson winning 58-0 and Louisville winning 31-13.

What’s more, Thursday night’s showdown at Virginia Tech really shouldn’t be the nightmare that everyone’s making it out to be. Miami has a two-game win streak going against the Hokies, and each time the Hurricanes scored 30 points.

Is there no way for all this to work itself out so that Mark Richt, the most reliable head coach since the national championship years, can win the ACC’s weaker division?

The best route would be for North Carolina and Virginia Tech, each 2-1 in the conference, to lose a few more games each. It’s not inconceivable, regardless of the competition. Already the Tar Heels have lost to Georgia, which it turns out is no great shakes, and the Hokies have lost to Syracuse, a team that yielded 50 points to Notre Dame and 45 to South Florida.

[Adam Gase tells hard truths as South Florida celebrates the relief of big win over Steelers]

[What Hurricanes and Dolphins have in common this year is a real kick in the gut]

[Shades of Tommy Vigorito as something happens to wake up Dolphins fans]

Miami also could beat the Hokies, meaning that the two-loss teams on top of the division could be caught in some kind of tiebreaker merry-go-round. The Tar Heels might not come out so well in that once their 34-3 loss to Virginia Tech gets factored in.

All right, so I don’t know all the tiebreaker rules. You got me there.

The best thing is just to play it all out, figuring that the worst of Miami’s schedule is over. That may seem like quite a reach with a Blacksburg Thursday night coming up, but you Can’t give up on something illogical happening in favor of the Hurricanes, since what already has happened makes no sense to me at all.