The offensive line entered the season as the most highly touted unit on the Miami Hurricanes. It hasn't quite lived up to the post season accolades and with that, suffered its first casualty as RG Joel Figueroa will be benched this weekend for Texas A&M. In his place, the ‘Canes will slide former RT Chris Rutledge inside where the coaching staff feels he has potential after an impressive showing in that spot versus Florida. Senior Tyrone Byrd also saw ample time versus Florida and is now the first tackle off the bench in the rotation going into college station. The Hurricanes' 70th rated rushing attack will be going against the 113th ranked Texas A&M run defense.
Why you have to watch? The Hurricanes struggle on offense when the offensive line doesn't play up to its potential.
2. Offensive Play Calling and Third Downs.
There isn't much more to say that hasn't already been said over the past two weeks since the Hurricanes' loss in Gainesville that hasn't been covered by every medium covering the Miami Hurricanes. Randy Shannon and Patrick Nix had two weeks to prepare for Texas A&M and numbers that resemble the Florida game (1.6 yards per rush and 79 total passing yards) will be unacceptable to the ‘Cane nation considering Texas A&M's 83rd rated defense isn't exactly striking fear in the hearts of teams around the country. The Hurricanes should be able to move the football on offense. If they can't, don't expect the media to go easy on players and coaches as the Hurricanes go into ACC play a week later. Also, third downs during the Nix era at UM has been notably poor. The Hurricanes convert merely one out of every three third downs the team sees.
Why you have to watch? Offensive Coordinator Patrick Nix and the play calling in Gainesville has been the hot button issue for the past two weeks and how he and the team bounce back from the scrutinizing week will be telling where the Hurricanes are going THIS YEAR. Third downs have been the offenses Achilles Heel during the Nix era and converting on better then 33% is crucial to success when the clock hits :00.
3. Special Teams Coverage Units.
The Hurricanes made a few personnel moves after the Florida game in hope to improve a unit that allowed Florida's Brandon James to beat everyone but Matt Bosher several times late in the game (16 yards per punt return with a high of 31 yards and 27 per kick return). The first and second wave of punt coverage versus Florida left much to be desired, which is why you will see highly touted freshmen Brandon Harris and Arthur Brown be featured on the coverage units this weekend versus Texas A&M.
Why you need to watch? Field position will be pivotal, especially if the Hurricane offense is still sputtering.
4. Execution and Physicality.
The Hurricane pass catchers have not played to potential, much like the offensive line. Dropped footballs were an issue in Gainesville as the first three drives saw a handful of them which was a cause for an early 7-0 deficit the ‘Canes ultimately couldn't overcome. In the run game, the Hurricanes couldn't gain yards after contact and the receivers couldn't outmuscle the smaller UF cornerbacks.
Why you have to watch? The wide receiver that separates himself from the pack will be the first to find consistency and execute and the running game needs be generated with yards past the second level.
5. Mike Goodson.
Last season, the Hurricanes were able to hold the former top high school recruit to 28 yards on 9 carries in a 34-17 win. However, Mike Sherman now features Goodson as his primary weapon in A&M's pro style offense. In the Aggies opener versus Arkansas State, Goodson showed his worth with a 124-yard, two touchdown effort. A week later, versus New Mexico, Goodson suffers a knee injury. However, he is ready to go versus Miami and all eyes will be on him in what he hopes will be breakout performance.
Why you have to watch? Despite the 18th rated defense in the country, the Hurricanes were beaten by the Florida Gators with speed to the edges. Goodson has that in bunches. If Texas A&M wins, it will be on the legs of Goodson, their best player.