State of the Program: With Winning Comes Pressure

Mike Ehrmann

Saturday September 7th, 2013 will always be a day I remember. Miami seized the opportunity and beat a very talented Gators team. My picks have had great success so far and my record has exceeded expectations. What does it all mean? Winning is contagious, but the Canes and I need to learn to deal with pressure.

What a Saturday. Miami beat the Gators in a great atmosphere at Sun Life Stadium for the program’s biggest win in years. It was great to see the support from Canes fans. Beating Florida was a surreal feeling and will be a great memory for years to come. I'm very proud of Miami's defense for rising to the occasion. Clearly Miami winning is my primary focus in college football, but the success of my picks is a close second. Boston College dominated Wake Forest on Friday night to keep my momentum going. When I got home from the stadium Saturday, I was 3-1 on the day with seven games to play. Georgia and Michigan came through in the big games and I won six of seven, with the only loser being the Texas debacle at BYU that cost DC Manny Diaz his job. I finished 10-2 on the weekend and exceeded even my own high expectations. My overall record on the season is now 20-7, highlighted by impressive showings in my favorite conferences and a 2-0 record on Golden Picks. There are several important parallels between the 2013 Hurricanes and my early season picking prowess.

Earning Respect

The Hurricanes have been through a lot the past few years. Throughout the offseason, Al Golden and his players insisted that this team was more mature and ready for the big stage. Golden preached mental toughness and Miami's roster was improved with more quality depth and experience. While this gave Canes fans excitement heading into opening night, most of the country didn't think Miami could beat the Gators. The predictions from national TV analysts and writers seemed almost identical. While Miami's offense has the talent to pull off the upset, the Canes probably aren't ready yet to match up with a tough physical SEC opponent. Miami hadn't beaten quality opponents in recent years, and many felt: "I'll believe it when I see it." The convincing win over FAU was fun while it lasted, but it proved nothing. In order to earn national respect, Miami needed to beat Florida. The stage was set. A capacity crowd arrived to see if the Canes were ready to capitalize on a huge opportunity.

In one of my first posts this summer, I boldly predicted that Clemson and Miami would notch huge wins for the ACC over the SEC. I wrote another article about why this year would be different for the Canes, hoping to rally fan support around this team. Joining State of the U this summer was exciting and I was anxious to gain credibility. When I wrote about my first game picks of the season, I talked about the importance of making a good first impression. After a 10-5 record in Week One, including a 7-1 showing on Saturday, I tried to remain humble. While some readers congratulated me on a strong start, most people needed to see results on a consistent basis. As one friend put it; "whatever, everyone gets lucky once in a while." In order to earn respect, I needed to keep the momentum rolling and step up in Week Two. I picked twelve games and predicted that Miami would take an early lead, then hang on in the second half to beat the Gators.

Increased Expectations and Pressure

Miami received key contributions from dozens of players and beat Florida 21-16. Fans rejoiced and began to dream about the possibilities that lay ahead this season. The confidence of Miami's players has significantly increased, knowing they can compete with and defeat a team like Florida. After one successful afternoon in September, the entire direction and focus has changed. Expectations have been ratcheted higher as the Canes were ranked 15th in the AP Poll released on Sunday. The same writers and analysts that picked against them are now praising the growth of the program under Al Golden. I remember the last time I saw articles that asked if "Miami was back." After Jacory Harris led the Canes to consecutive wins against ranked opponents to start the 2009 season, UM was launched into the Top 10 of the rankings. The hype and excitement was too much to handle and Miami laid an egg on the road in Blacksburg, blown out 31-7 by the Hokies. The 2013 team has a better leader at the helm. While Al Golden thoroughly enjoyed the UF win and wanted his players to savor the moment, he also understands the pressure his team will face down the road. His tweet early Sunday morning was perfect: "Complacency kills: #SNAPBACKSUNDAY." Winning is the best feeling, but in order to feel that again, it's time to get back to work. Savannah State and USF aren’t exactly vaunted opponents, but Miami needs to use those games to get in sync offensively. ACC competition awaits the Canes in October.

What can I say. When you’re hot, you’re hot. While I always expect to win games, my 10-2 record this past weekend was more than I could have asked for. As you can see from my stats below, these winning percentages are unsustainable for the long term, but I will do my best to keep the momentum going. Dozens of readers reached out to me on Saturday night, but generally there were two consistent refrains. One message was "Wow great week! I’ll be following you from now on." The second message was courtesy of a friend of mine who said; "Hats off to Mr. Pickens. He has crushed it this week. But let’s see how he performs now that the pressure is up." My bandwagon is fully loaded and leaving the station. I realize that the pressure is on and the expectations have been ratcheted higher. While Miami has the luxury of a bye week, I don’t get that same time off. After reading the tweet from Coach Golden, it was back to work on Sunday preparing for another week of picks. I re-watched the Canes game, highlight shows, and the now infamous Eminem interview. Resting on my laurels is not an option. There is a long season left to be played.

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Miami is 2-0 so enjoy the bye week. Coffee will taste better, 90 degree heat won’t phase you, and the Gators fans you know won’t be calling you. However, that doesn’t mean you can take a weekend off from following college football. There are still some big games across the country, highlighted by Alabama at Texas A&M. Media members everywhere will be pulling for Alabama to stomp Manziel and his ego, which means I hope Johnny dominates the Tide again. I will release my picks for this weekend on Thursday. Can this hot streak continue? Follow me @JPickens15 for your viewing guide to my picks every week.

This Year Will be Different. Full Speed Ahead.

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