The Miami Hurricanes have their 1st statement game of the season, Saturday night, 9pm against the Texas A&M Aggies. Pressure for this game changed last week after A&M lost to Appalachian St. The Canes will be entering a buzzsaw in College Station as A&M will look to save their season. Mario Cristobal was brought in for moments and games like this, and not to demolish Bethune Cookman and Southern Miss. The first 2 weeks gave us a glance of what the Canes could look like, and so far it’s been decent but not perfect.
Miami and Texas A&M played a home and home engagement in the late 2000s with the Canes coming out victorious in both contests. Miami dominated at home in 2007 winning 34-17, and would follow that up in 2008 with a 41-23 rout of the Aggies. A ton has changed since those matchups. Randy Shannon was Miami’s coach back then, followed by Golden, Richt, Diaz and now Cristobal. Mike Sherman was A&Ms guy and when he was let go Kevin Sumlin was hired, and then Jimbo Fisher. The Aggies would join the SEC and pour boatloads of cash into the program, and the expectations sky rocketed.
Kevin Sumlin's first 50 games at Texas A&M: 36-14— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) September 10, 2022
Jimbo Fisher's first 50 games at Texas A&M: 35-15
Fast forward to 2022 and this is a very important game for the direction of both Miami and A&M. For the Canes it’s the 1st opportunity for Mario Cristobal to get a signature win in Miami. Remember a year ago he took Oregon into Columbus Ohio and his Ducks were able to physically whoop Ohio St in an Oregon victory. For the Aggies, the preseason Top 7 ranking now seems a little foolish after they were pushed around in a 17-14 upset loss to App St. Jimbo Fisher and crew are at a crossroads of sorts. Highly paid coach, elite recruiting classes, worse results through 50 games than his predecessor Kevin Sumlin. Something has to give for them, let’s hope it doesn’t start Saturday night.
Matchup To Watch
The Canes have been susceptible to big plays so far through the first couple of games of the season. Miami’s defensive backs must do a better job of staying connected to wide receivers, and the defensive team as a whole must tackle better. A season ago Miami supremely struggled getting ball carriers to the ground, and even though it has been better so far this year Miami can Ill-afford for explosive plays to happen. Texas A&M really did not move the ball well against Appalachian State in a 17 to 14 loss, but the biggest play they had was on special teams when Devon Achane was able to return a kick 98 yards to get them back in the game.
Achane is not only is a great kick returner, but an explosive running back. In his first two years on campus he averaged 8.3 and 7.0 yards per carry. He he is a player who possesses 10.2 100 yard dash speed, and at at any time could break a big play.
On the outside is another explosive, play maker, and Ainias Smith. Smith is a 5’10” speed burner, who already has 10 catches 185 yards on the season with 2 TDs. Smith has been the most consistent receiver for A&M over the last couple of seasons. With quarterback, play, struggling, and a potential change from Haynes King to Max Johnson, imminent if King struggles for the third week in a row, the Canes can not allow singular playmakers like Achane or Smith to pop big plays.
Tyrique Stevenson, D.J Ivey, and all of the rotating safeties, must find a way to eliminate monster plays. Southern Miss was able to hit Miami for a long touchdown pass, and Bethune Cookman had multiple plays of over 20 yards. A&M was limited to less than 200 yards total of office in their 17-14 defeat to the Mountaineers one week ago. App state used a ball control offense, which had them hold the football for over 40 minutes to play, and outside of the one kick return, they made Texas A&M drive the length of the field.
A&M is quarterback challenged, and their offensive line is not nearly as productive as anticipated. If the Canes can allow their defensive line to live in the backfield, and avoid big plays, I don’t see a way that Texas A&M can win a football game by continuously, having long time consuming drives. Kevin Steele has done a good job changing some of the culture of the Miami defense. He has made sure the Canes have become a more sound, gap, integrity, team, and the last step is eliminating big plays. If Miami can hold the Aggies to less than three explosive plays, Miami should be able to go into college station and come away with an upset.