2013 Miami: Learning To Win - Saturday's Winning Picks

Streeter Lecka

I am proud to be a Miami Hurricane fan. Last night was my favorite win of the season. Al Golden and his players have made tremendous strides in 2013. This team is learning to win. I share my thoughts on the UNC game and also reveal this week's Golden Pick, plus 10 other winners.

This year is different. I recognize that Hurricanes fans have been through a lot in recent years. I’ve tried to hard to tell everyone to remain confident in this team and trust Al Golden and his staff. During the UNC game I tried to reassure friends and fans to keep the faith with time on the clock. I want to share with you a collection of tweets and texts I received during the first three quarters of last night’s game.

"The season is over."

"Run was good while it lasted."

"This game is over, we can't stop them."

"Same old Miami, not ready. Ebron is making us look pathetic."

"Dude, Morris isn't accurate enough. I think Williams should get a shot."

"Without Duke and Dorsett how are we going to score?"

"Even if we win tonight, we can't compete with FSU or even Va Tech."

After Miami’s special teams made a huge play in the first half by blocking a field goal for a touchdown, I tweeted the following: “These are the 2013 Hurricanes. Good teams find a way. Injuries and adversity can be overcome with confidence and maturity.” That statement looked shaky for most of the night, but when the pressure began to mount in the 4th quarter, Miami responded. Down 23-13 on the road in a stadium Miami never wins in? No problem for the Canes. Dallas Crawford played the game of his life and is now my favorite player on this team. The Canes fed off of his toughness and he carried the ball 33 times for 137 yards and 2 touchdowns. Miami’s tired defense made plays in the 4th quarter and Tracy Howard made a game-saving interception. Despite playing the worst game of his career for 56 minutes, Stephen Morris stepped up on the final drive and completed all three of his passes to set up the winning score.

In years past, Miami would’ve crumbled once adversity began to surround them. In 2013, Miami is confident, mature, and found a way to win. In college football, every week is a challenge and all the wins count the same. This team is 6-0 and that’s all that matters. Last night was Miami’s best win of the season because it truly shows how far this program has come under the leadership of Al Golden. For the fans that can’t enjoy this win and want to make statements about how we can’t beat Florida State or Virginia Tech, I can’t waste my time listening to that garbage. Miami will improve and has an opportunity to have a special season. All goals for this team are reachable. Winning games when you don’t play well is what separates 11-1 or 12-0 teams from teams that finish 9-3. Full Speed Ahead. Bring on Wake Forest.

Enjoy this Saturday of relaxation and game watching. Miami plays each of the next seven Saturdays (and yes I’m including the ACC Championship Game). The ACC has a showcase game between Florida State and Clemson and I can’t wait to watch Jameis Winston battle Tajh Boyd. UCF will keep things exciting on Friday night. I’m picking 10 games on Saturday and expect my success this season to continue. I never root for the Gators, but UF is my Golden Pick this week. My 6-1 record will be put to the test. Follow me @JPickens15 for Miami thoughts and winning picks.

GOLDEN PICK

FLORIDA -3 at Missouri   12pm - SEC TV

The unfortunate injury to QB James Franklin came at the worst possible time for the Tigers. Maty Mauk will be making his first career start against what I think is the best defense in the country. The Gators will make Mauk’s debut a nightmare with a dominant front seven and dynamic skill players in the secondary. Florida lost RB Matt Jones for the season last week, but I think Mack Brown and Kelvin Taylor can fill in admirably. While UF’s young QB Tyler Murphy went through some growing pains at LSU, I expect him to play better this Saturday. Missouri will stumble without their veteran QB and leader as Mauk turns the ball over at least three times. Look for NFL scouts to leave Missouri drooling about the talent Florida has on defense.

CENTRAL FLORIDA +12.5 at Louisville    8pm - ESPN – FRIDAY

Louisville is still vastly overrated. The Cardinals struggled through a supposed showcase game against Rutgers and failed to capitalize on four Gary Nova interceptions. Teddy Bridgewater is an elite talent, but he hasn’t been tested all season. Two of his favorite receivers are banged up heading into this matchup. Louisville’s defense is great statistically, having taken advantage of a soft early season schedule. UCF will be the toughest test of the season for the Cardinals. The Knights are 3-0 on the road and proved their toughness with a win at Penn State a few weeks ago. UCF also was competitive with South Carolina and gained valuable big game experience. QB Blake Bortles will make plays for UCF and RB Storm Johnson will help keep the ball away from Bridgewater. Louisville may end up winning a close game, but they won’t justify their #8 ranking tonight.

Tcu at OKLAHOMA STATE -7 12pm – FOX

TCU’s star DE Devonte Fields is out for the season, a big blow to a talented Horned Frogs defense. TCU has been turnover prone and I never trust QB Trevone Boykin. His lack of accuracy and poise will be an issue when testing Oklahoma State’s star CB Justin Gilbert. OKST’s defense has improved this season and I expect a strong performance at home. OKST will look to speed things up on offense again after getting players healthy during the bye week. RB Jeremy Smith and QB J.W. Walsh will play well and lead the Cowboys to a 14-point victory over a TCU team that is struggling for answers in a disappointing season.

Ucla at STANFORD -6 330pm – ABC/ESPN2

Stanford will bounce back at home. The Cardinal’s loss at Utah was surprising, but I trust David Shaw to have his team ready on Saturday. UCLA is undefeated and the hype surrounding the Bruins will provide motivation to Stanford. UCLA QB Brett Hundley has great talent and will be an NFL starter in a few years, but I expect Stanford to force a few turnovers. The Bruins will likely be without starting RB Jordon James and Stanford’s strong defense will take advantage. The attitude and passion that we have seen from Stanford football will return in a big game with significant conference implications. Condi’s squad gets a much needed ten-point victory.

Indiana at MICHIGAN -7.5 330pm – BTN

Brady Hoke and his staff have been criticized all week for conservative play calling against Penn State. Hoke loves playing power football and will light a fire under his offensive line. Indiana’s run defense allows big plays and Michigan should be able to take advantage. QB Devin Gardner will get more chances to make plays at home on Saturday and I expect him to earn more confidence from the coaching staff. Indiana’s offense is dynamic and will put up points, but the Hoosiers aren’t good enough yet to win a tough conference game on the road. Michigan will play with more energy and passion coming off a loss and defend the Big House.

DUKE +2 at Virginia   330pm - RSN

UVA has lost three straight games and Coach Mike London is feeling the pressure of the hot seat. Duke already has two wins and the Blue Devils can begin to smell bowl eligibility. The return of QB Anthony Boone was huge for Duke as he threw for almost 300 yards and three scores last week against Navy. UVA’s offense is last in the conference in lost turnovers and the Cavs are playing with limited confidence. Boone will be the best player on the field on Saturday and lead his team to a victory on the road. The UVA crowd won’t be provide an intimidating atmosphere as the energy appears to have been sucked out of the program.


LSU -8.5 at Ole Miss   7pm – ESPN2

Ole Miss is in disarray at the moment, suffering through a brutal schedule and a three game losing streak. Injuries have hurt the Rebels who will be without at least five contributors on defense on Saturday. QB’s Wallace and Brunetti played well against Texas A&M, but it wasn’t enough. LSU is averaging more than 40 points a game behind the improvement of QB Zach Mettenberger. The Tigers will control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and I expect a huge game from RB Jeremy Hill. LSU has several elite receivers for Mettenberger to throw to and Ole Miss doesn’t have the depth or the experience on defense to stop them. Les Miles feasts on the grass in the Grove and the Tigers win by double digits.

IOWA STATE +34 at Baylor   7pm – ESPNU

Baylor finally came down to earth last week at Kansas State. The Bears dynamic offense was slowed a bit, and KSU was able to control the clock throughout. Baylor isn’t used to being undefeated and ranked in the top 15. I wouldn’t be surprised if Baylor overlooked Iowa State, especially given the Cyclones 1-4 record this season. Iowa State has lost close games in a variety of ways this year, but I believe this team is better than their record shows. Coach Paul Rhoads will build on a solid performance last week against Texas Tech and his players will be ready. Baylor pulls away in the second half, but only wins by 20. Seastrunk and Petty continue to put up big numbers.


Southern Cal at NOTRE DAME -3 730pm – NBC

Ed Orgeron’s first game was a huge success as his Trojans started having fun again and defeated Arizona. Things won’t be so easy this Saturday night. Orgeron can bring a fresh perspective and attitude to the locker room, but he has never won big games as a Head Coach. In close rivalry games, game planning and coaching adjustments are critical. Brian Kelly can coach circles around Orgeron and I expect the Irish to be ready coming off a bye week. USC WR Marqise Lee hopes to play against ND, but he won’t be close to 100%. Notre Dame’s defensive front four will make it difficult for USC to control the line of scrimmage. USC is still a fragile team emotionally and won’t have the mental toughness to come back if Notre Dame gets up early. The Irish win by a touchdown or more and Orgeron comes back down to earth. QB Tommy Rees will play well under pressure and has far more primetime experience than Cody Kessler.



Florida State at CLEMSON +3 8pm - ABC

I’m very excited to watch this game on Saturday night. Clemson fans will be ready and the noise level will be something special. When it comes to big games, I value experience the most. Clemson QB Tajh Boyd has played in games of this magnitude before, including a season opening win against Georgia. Florida State’s freshman sensation QB Jameis Winston has impressed, but hasn’t faced much adversity in his young career. Games at Pitt and BC can’t prepare you for a 3rd down at night in Death Valley. Clemson DE Vic Beasley is rapidly becoming a star and I expect him to make a few plays in the backfield. FSU Coach Jimbo Fisher has struggled on the road in the past. Boyd will carry his team in the 4th quarter and protect the football. Winston will play well, but make a few critical mistakes when he is forced into obvious passing situations. Far too many members of the media are comparing Winston facing Clemson with Manziel's win over Alabama last season. The two scenarios are very different. Manziel's team was 7-2 and was a significant underdog. JFF shocked the world and played without any pressure on him, with little expectation he could lead his team to victory. Winston has been proclaimed FSU's best QB ever after just five games and his team is a road favorite. All of the pressure to win sits squarely on the shoulders of Famous Jameis. The Clemson Tigers get the job done at home.


UNLV +24.5 at Fresno State   10pm

I realize that I am picking UNLV. Deal with it. This Rebels team is better than people assume. Quietly, UNLV has won four consecutive games since inserting QB Caleb Herring into the starting spot. Herring has 9 TD’s and just one INT, completing close to 70% of his passes. Fresno State QB Derek Carr is one of the nation’s best passers and he’ll find WR Davonte Adams often in space. That being said, UNLV’s pass defense has actually been impressive this season and I expect at least few stops from the Rebels. Fresno will win by two touchdowns, but UNLV will keep things interesting for two quarters. I look forward to watching this contest on ESPN Gamecast, constantly refreshing plays after midnight on Saturday.

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