Miami Hurricanes head into bye knowing true test in No. 1 Clemson is on the other side

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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — The big question coming off of Saturday night’s lopsided 52-10 result: Was it more Miami Hurricanes good or Florida State bad?

The answer, of course, is that it takes both for one team to pound another by 42 points, but the true test of just how good these Hurricanes are comes in two weeks, Oct. 10, when UM plays at No. 1 Clemson.

It’ll be a top 10 showdown in Death Valley as Miami was ranked No. 8 on Sunday in both the AP and Coaches polls.

But UM coach Manny Diaz has another foe in mind before the Hurricanes (3-0, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) visit the five-time defending ACC champions that have played in four of the past five College Football Playoff national title games, winning two of them.

“We just told them in the locker room, ‘We’re going to face our most difficult opponent of the year, and that’s not Clemson,’” Diaz said. “No disrespect to them — it’s going to be this off week and, again, making sure everyone makes great decisions. … Really focused on being smart on this bye week and continuing to protect this program and giving us a chance to play, obviously, a team we’ve got a ton of respect for.”

Along with the advantages of allowing players nursing injuries to get healthy, teams riding high — like Miami is — always have to be cautious of losing their rhythm on an idle week. That notion is only accentuated in 2020 when players could be tempted to use some of their extra time off to socialize, possibly putting themselves in contact with the novel coronavirus and affecting their availability against the Tigers.

The coach’s message immediately after Saturday night’s victory appeared to get across to players, who echoed similar sentiments.

“We got to be safe on coronavirus,” quarterback D’Eriq King said. “That’s the biggest thing for us. We’ve got an off week, probably got a couple off days, so everybody’s got to be smart.”

Said receiver Dee Wiggins: “Now, we just have to stay in our bubble, keep working, just go to school on our off days, watch film and get better.”

The Hurricanes try to overcome a bit of a bye week curse they experienced last year. Having three idle weeks in 2019, each one was followed by a loss — at North Carolina in Week 2 after starting the season a week early against Florida, home against Virginia Tech in October and finally the embarrassing loss to crosstown little brother FIU at Marlins Park in November.

“You lose a little bit of the structure and the routine of game week,” Diaz said. “We’ll give them a couple off days because that’s what you have to do during a bye week. It’s so important that we give ourselves the opportunity to have everyone in that locker room go play Clemson.”

Miami has avoided having COVID-19 affect player availability. Two players that were unavailable at Louisville (although not necessarily due to a positive test, as UM does not disclose reasons for unavailability), receiver Jeremiah Payton and tight end Larry Hodges, were back on Saturday against FSU.

Tight end Brevin Jordan went into the locker room toward the end of the game Saturday, then came back out but didn’t return in the blowout. Diaz said postgame he was fine, but Jordan will get extra time to heal up for Clemson.

Offensive tackle John Campbell also can use the bye after he didn’t play on Saturday. Diaz said he was available, but Zion Nelson received much of the first-team work at left tackle in the week of practice and started over him.

UM, which will be without safety Gurvan Hall for the first half after his targeting penalty in the second half against the Seminoles, wants to be as close to full strength as possible against the nation’s top-ranked team, which hosts Virginia on Saturday while the Hurricanes are idle.

“Clemson is obviously one of the best teams in college football,” King said. “They have one of the best quarterbacks in college football (Trevor Lawrence), a great head coach (Dabo Swinney), great defense. They’re a pretty good team. I’m looking forward to it.”

While the Hurricanes have impressed through three games, they still have a mindset of seeking improvement.

“I don’t think anyone is sitting around and satisfied with where we’re at,” Diaz said, “but I think we’re sort of pleased with the way the first three weeks have gone.”


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