Well, the door for Miami has been opened, but that doesn’t mean they can just waltz right through it either. After all, the Auburn loss earlier this week means that Miami is in full control of their playoff lives, but they need the win tonight to help bolster that, and Texas has set their sights on the first round bye and the SEC crown. Here’s what the Hurricanes need to do so as to avoid spinning out.
I want to preface what I’m about to say by stating, I think quarterback Jose Bueno has been impressive. His receivers in Nick Bagg, Maximillian Mack, and King Twixx have been threatening this season. Factor in how tight end Jacob Willey has been stepping up this season and it’s impressive. That said, last week’s loss to TCU exposed the problem Miami has. Bueno has been beat up all season, leading the league as the most sacked quarterback and is on pace to set the record. How do you avoid that? You run the ball. Halfback Speedy Love was brought in to do just that and doing so opens up the play action. Bueno isn’t Ray Tatum, so he shouldn’t try to be. Play his game, and allow Love to run the ball and then run play action off of that. After all, Love has only had two games of at least 10+ carries, and Miami won both. It would keep pressure off Bueno and limit his turnovers.
Defensively, they’re in a tough spot. After playing well a week ago by holding TCU to 19 points, and forcing two interceptions out of James Kovach, they need more this week. Corner Alex Dawson and safety Buster Bates were each responsible for one of those two picks, and defensive tackle Ryan Merelo recorded a sack. Still, Bates had 13 tackles, three which were in TCU’s backfield, and linebacker Jesse Horrigan outplayed his partner, Justin Thyme. Tonight though, they’ll need a complete effort from pressure to pass coverage in order to squeak out the upset.
They beat Auburn last week, and quarterback Ray Tatum’s track record is only getting better, to the extent that some want the offensive player of the year award named after him. And why not? After all, Tatum is on pace to put up 16,000 passing yards in a career and who knows how many passing touchdowns he’ll finish with. That’s only been possible, though, because of the talent around Tatum. His career began with receiver Jared Tetonis, and now Tatum is surrounded by receivers Vincent McCoy, Scooby Lewis, and Ray Conley. Add on the play of tight end Jackson James and it’s been impressive. Halfback Tarraj Walker has been complementary, but Tatum has been the story, and will be as this is his final season.
How about safety Jimbo Smithers last week? 11 tackles, five for a loss, a sack, and a pair of pass breakups. It took him a while, but he’s back in form, and he even has two interceptions on the season, scoring on one of them. Then, there’s this linebacking corps that has not missed a beat since the loss of Justin Boudreaux. In his stead has come the rise of linebackers Pluto Ross, Dallas Greene, and the leading Texas tackler, Howard Cook. Cook had seven tackles, four for a loss, and a sack a week ago, while Ross had seven tackles with two occurring in the backfield. This defense can be mean.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Look, Texas’ formula is simple, let Tatum do his thing. He’s recorded his best touchdown to interception ratio he’s ever had (currently sitting at 8:1). Texas’ aerial assault has been so methodical and consistent that teams don’t know which receiver will strike next, and that’s the beauty of their scheme. This Miami secondary will be tested, and former Texas corner Jalen Davis will have to work with his partner, Alex Dawson, to minimize the damage down the sideline.
Miami’s playoff lives don’t necessarily hinder on victory, but I’ll be darned if they can’t make a better case. After all, if Miami were to lose out then Auburn is in the playoffs instead. So this game is still mightily important to the Hurricanes and they did play Clemson close. There’s only one small problem. I don’t trust Jose Bueno against this Texas defense. Miami’s defense is talented, as is their offense, but the Texas defense has been on point this season and that leaves me with doubts considering Bueno’s nine sacks last week and the two picks he threw in the fourth quarter to help TCU force overtime, the Horned Frogs ultimately winning. Miami can’t afford to make those kinds of mistakes, but that’s easier said than done. Texas wins to set up an earth-shattering matchup with Clemson next week.