Hey guys, how's it going? Pretty boring weekend ahead of us, right? I mean, Mississippi State-Alabama should be fun to watch. Minnesota is playing well, maybe they could upset Ohio State? Pretty good slate of NFL games too. Oh, and how could I forget the final race of NASCAR season! Other than that, I can't really think of anything else happening.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot. The defending National Champs and sworn enemy of every Miami fan, the Florida State Seminoles, are coming to Sun Life Stadium Saturday for a prime time game with the 'Canes. That should be pretty fun.
All jokes aside, it's hard to express how important this game is for Miami. The last season plus, Hurricane fans have had to watch our arch rivals from the north enjoy the success that has been eluding our program for a decade. But, if any of you have ever read my work, you know that I don't usually like to dwell on the past. I will, however be a bit candid with you. I absolutely hate Florida State. Hate them. I have as long as I can remember, and seeing them be this successful lately has really bothered me. The worst part has been that Miami has not been able to put up a fight with them lately. This weekend, however seems a bit different than the recent games in this great rivalry. FSU has shown some chinks in it's armor lately, and Miami is quietly playing the best football since Al Golden became the head coach. We are going to take a look at a match-up in this game that might be flying a little under the radar, but could really help decide this game; specifically disrupting Jameis Winston: Miami defensive end Tyriq McCord versus FSU left tackle Cam Erving.
Season to Date
Tyriq "The Freak" McCord didnt start out the season living up to his nickname. He and the rest of our front seven struggled to get consistent pressure on the quarterback early in the season, which contributed to the team's overall poor play. McCord has picked up play of late, however, and so has the team. During Miami's 3 game winning streak, The Freak has 2 sacks, a fumble recovery and an interception return for a touchdown, according to hurricanesports.com. Aside from the stats, McCord looks like he is really starting to emerge as a force in the pass rush, living up to the potential he had coming out of high school. Erving has had a fairly disappointing season, considering he was coming off a first team All American season where he could have bolted for the NFL. Erving has struggled at times this year with blocking and penalties. There have even been reports of Erving taking snaps at center this week in practice instead of Left Tackle ( FSU has had injuries at center this year and Erving has filled in there at times). He did have a solid game against Louisville, earning ACC lineman of the week honors.
Erving is your prototypical big left tackle. He is 6'6, 305 pounds. Like all big linemen, what that means is pretty simple; its really hard to get past him.
McCord is a little bit of a tweener. At 6'3 245, he isn't quite big enough to be a full time lineman, but is too big and has too great of pass rushing skills to be a full time linebacker. McCord actually started the year listed as a linebacker, but has been listed on the official depth chart as a defensive end as of late. What McCord gives up to Erving in size he makes up for in speed, quickness and overall athleticism. He didn't earn that nickname just because it rhymes (although I'm sure that has a lot to do with it. Something like "Josh the Freak" doesn't have the same ring to it. I digress...)
Pass Rushing Skills vs Pass Protection Skills
I say pass rushing/protecting here because I think that will be the most important thing to watch. We have all seen the numbers about Jameis Winston passing against the blitz, and they are very good. What that means is you have to get pressure on the Heisman winner with 4 or less rushers.
As I mentioned above, McCord has really been emerging during Miami's winning streak. Part of the reason for that is he is starting to apply his athleticism to solid pass rushing moves. Early in his career he relied a little too much on his raw athleticism to rush the passer, but has really developed some solid speed rush moves.
Erving has some pretty solid athleticism for a guy his size as well. He is a converted defensive tackle that started all 14 games for FSU's title team last year. He moves well and gets a nice jump at the snap to get into position. Once he's engaged with a defender, he uses his long arms pretty well to keep them them away. Sometimes, however, he gets a little too good of a jump at the snap and has been known for more than his share of false start penalties this year. In passing situations, McCord is going to have to put pressure on Erving every single snap to be effective in this game.
Like most of these match-ups, these guys will not be seeing each other every play of the game. McCord moves around a lot in Miami's defense, especially in their 3-4 looks. While I just spent 1,000 words telling you about both of these guys, what this match-up is really about is getting pressure on Jameis Winston. Say what you want about his off the field stuff (and trust me, I do), but he is as good of a football player as there is in college football. Miami simply cannot let him get comfortable and find his dangerous targets without putting pressure in his face.
When I made my prediction earlier this week, I said I thought this game would turn into a shootout. Miami's run game and Jameis seem to suggest that it will. What that means is any time you get a stop, it is a big series. If Miami can find a way to get pressure and sack Jameis once or twice (or, even better, force him into bad throws). That might be just enough to tip the scales.
I know some of you still are not fans of this coaching staff, and I had my doubts about them early in the season as well. But Vegas has FSU as only a 1.5 point favorite (at the time this article was written). And, as they say, Vegas doesn't have all those big buildings from being stupid. It is a testament to just how well Miami has been playing lately. This game, however, is the ultimate measuring stick for this team and this program. It is so important in so many ways. Not just because they are our arch rivals, not just because we would hate Jameis Winston no matter who he played for, not just because of the recruiting implications, but because we want to get back to being Miami. And part of getting back to that means winning marquee games like this. The floor is yours, Miami. Let's make the most of it.