When the No. 6 Clemson Tigers (6-0, 3-0) visit Sun Life Stadium on Saturday afternoon, the Hurricanes will be looking for only their second win against a top-10 opponent since 2006.
To find the Canes’ last win against a top-10 team, you have to go all the way back to Oct. 3, 2009, when Miami narrowly beat No. 8 Oklahoma 21-20. To put that length of time into context, Miami was playing at Land Shark Stadium that day; “I Gotta Feeling” by The Black Eyed Peas was the top single and the movies “Up” and “The Hangover” were released. Yeah, it’s been a while.
It could be tough for the Canes to end that drought against one of the hottest teams in the country in Clemson. The Tigers have won nine straight games dating back to last season and already have a top-10 win of their own this season after beating then-No. 6 Notre Dame nearly three weeks ago.
Going against quarterback Deshaun Watson will prove difficult for the Canes, who struggled to contain a similar quarterback in Florida State’s Everett Golson. While Watson hasn’t had the Heisman-type season many expected, he’s still been outstanding for the Tigers, sitting second in total offense in the ACC behind sophomore quarterback Brad Kaaya.
“When the pocket breaks down, he can create. We have to make sure we try and keep him in there and don’t give him second and third opportunities on the play,” Miami Head Coach Al Golden said of Watson. “He can pull the ball at any point in the run game and get you a big one in the alleys. Not only do you need just one guy who can tackle, but multiple people, because he has the speed and length and can make you miss.”
On the other side of the ball, the powerful Miami offense could struggle against a ferocious Clemson defense that has yet to give up more than 24 points in a game this season. The Tigers have given up the sixth-fewest yards in the nation and have allowed just 16.7 points per game coming into Saturday.
“We’re going to have to adjust quickly. I think they’re ultra-talented,” Golden said of the Clemson defense. “They lost a bunch of guys on defense a year ago, a ton of them to the NFL Draft, and yet they’re being replaced by a lot of juniors and sophomores. They don’t play a lot of freshmen, so they’re deep.”
While it could be tough, Miami’s offense will have to find some way to put points on the board to match Watson and his offense. The Tigers are good against both the pass and the run, but their sixth-ranked passing defense especially could wreak havoc on the pass-heavy Canes. It will be crucial for Miami to finally establish the run game, which has vanished over the past two games.
This is the toughest game left on Miami’s schedule. The Canes come in as underdogs, but they are capable of pulling off the upset and picking up that elusive marquee win.
The Hurricanes face Clemson at noon on Saturday at Sun Life Stadium.