For the Hurricanes, it’s another week and another Tiger[s] to slay. These striped opponents hail from the plains of Savannah, Georgia, as opposed to their cousins from the Bayou. In the aftermath of last week’s opener against LSU, the Canes face a unique challenge against their Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference opponents — overcoming complacency.
Miami enters the week with a wealth of talent on the roster. This week’s matchup pales in comparison to its predecessor, so there’s a high probability that Miami will be able to trot out some of their underclassmen, showcasing what’s to come from the U in the near future. However, coming off of their previous game, this team does not have the luxury of looking past SSU based on their poor showing against LSU.
With that in mind, here are some of the matchups to look for on Saturday:
Iron Sharpens Iron (one vs. one)
DL Stefan Banks vs. OL Venzell Boulware/Haydon Mahoney
After living on the edges of the field a week ago, we’re going back to living life in the trenches. DL Stefan Banks has made a living for himself along the defensive line. Entering the season, the senior from Columbus, Ohio, has accumulated 20.5 sacks in his four years with the Tigers. His 10 sacks and 18 tackles-for-loss a season ago is a significant reason why he was named to the preseason All-MEAC First Team this year. The Hurricanes’ offensive line will see bigger lineman than the 6’3”, 265 pound star, yet given his production throughout his career, the Canes can’t afford to be taken to the cleaners by Mr. Banks.
Position Matchup of the Week
SSU’s Backfield vs. Miami’s Linebackers
A defined threat to run from the pocket, SSU offers the first test for the Canes in a schedule filled with capable dual-threat passers. If the season is a year-long test, with games against Georgia Tech, FSU, and Boston College still on the horizon, SSU stacks up as a pop-quiz on how to defend QBs who are fleet of foot. SSU does have a decent run game with QB D’Vonn Gibbons in the backfield. Gibbons led the Tigers with 462 rushing yards and 1,259 passing yards. He even contributed 16 total touchdowns — 10 passing and six rushing — as a freshman last season.
Gibbons is a mobile QB who operates well on read-option plays and becomes extremely dangerous in the red zone. When Gibbons feels pressure, he’ll lower the ball to his waist and scramble outside the pocket. To his credit, he does keep his eyes downfield, trying to extend the play as opposed to carrying the offense with his legs. The Tigers split carries between two backs. RB Jaylen McCloud rushed for 43 yards on 12 carries against UAB a week ago. Senior RB Rashad Saxton scampered for 6.6 yards per carry against the Blazers.
How can we reasonably put any unit against a linebacking corp of Shaq Quarterman, Michael Pinckney and Zach McCloud? The heart of Miami’s defense was M.I.A last Sunday, leaving many fans wavering on their prospects for the season, let alone for going to the pros. This game should be a reminder of why these guys should be considered the best starting LB corp in the country. Saturday is an ideal opportunity to unleash their frustration on an opponent searching for their first non-conference win in ages.
This should be a great game for De’Andre Wilder, Mike Smith, Romeo Finley and other LBs who don’t see a lot of snaps on game days to stand out. Will more snaps equate to improvement? We’ll find out Saturday night.
Caneseye Players of the Game
QB TJ Bell
SSU had themselves a quarterback competition in the offseason. QB TJ Bell has been fighting off D’Vonn Gibbons to affirm himself as the ace on the offense. Bell suffered a late-season injury in 2017, costing him the final four games of the season, and Gibbons came off the sideline to win three of the the Tigers’ final four games.
Bell started two games last season, the least among any returning QB for SSU. Not a fan of pressure, this Tiger QB takes his time looking downfield and has an elongated delivery that leaves him prone to sacks or having defenders jump the passing lanes.
WR JaMichael Baldwin
The most dynamic athlete on SSU’s roster is Baldwin. His 98 receiving yards on eight receptions won’t instill fear into the Canes Saturday, but this First Team All-MEAC kick returner works best in space and should receive plenty of targets on Saturday if the Tigers plan on making this game a contest.
TE Paris Baker
Not the athletic hybrid that you see in the NFL these days, Baker is more aligned with the traditional in-line blocking version of yesterday. At 6’2”, 230 pounds, the Georgia native does not have overwhelming size and his seven receptions for 203 receiving yards and one touchdown don’t move the thermometer. However, Baker makes up for his lack of statistic by selling out as a blocker in the run game — finishing blocks up the field, cracking down on defensive linemen, sacrificing his well-being to help churn out a space on the ground. It’s in Miami’s best interest to stagger the tight end at the line of scrimmage, disrupting his assignment as often as possible.
QB N’Kosi Perry
It’s time for everyone to see what the Hurricanes’ offense will look like without Malik Rosier behind the wheel. Perry has long been the favorite to usurp the incumbent QB and take the keys to the offense. CMR has been as vague as possible in regards to the pecking order between Cade Weldon and N’Kosi Perry, but — with fans starving for a change behind center — regardless of who takes command of the huddle Saturday, the move will certainly draw cheers from a fed up Canes fanbase. The hope here is that Miami laps the Tigers enough for Richt to finally put another QB in the game.
Defensive Backs Not Named Michael Jackson
LSU avoided Michael Jackson for a majority of the night, often opting to pick on fellow senior DB Jhavonte Dean. Don’t be surprised if this becomes a common theme for the remainder of the season. Pressure will be on the aforementioned Dean, Trajan Bandy, Al Blades Jr., DJ Ivey and Gilbert Frierson to endure an uptick in targets as teams throw away from MJ.
One Last Thing
According to ESPN’s Phil Steele, Savannah State has been outscored by FBS opponents to the tune of 60 points-per-game since 2012. As previously mentioned, the scoreboard should be running laps and the starters should not have to finish the game. If there are still starters in the game after halftime, then we could have ourselves a bigger problem than any of us imagined this season.
IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT THE U!