Miami Hurricanes look to win two in a row as Michigan State rolls into town

Manny Diaz’s first win

Miami, Florida – The Miami Hurricanes aim to stay within the Top 25 as they host the Michigan State Spartans at the Hard Rock on Saturday. UM’s start to the season has been a relatively weak one after the ugly win against Appalachian State. Now that the home opener is behind them, the 24th ranked Canes are searching for their first big win of the season. Miami is a favorite (by 6.5) for week three but MSU’s high-flying offense presents a major hurdle for both coach Manny Diaz and the defense.

If the Spartans go ham this weekend the offense will have to keep up and thus far it’s been disappointing. However, it’s pretty early in the season so the production should be trending upwards. On paper anyway. In the midst of a four-game homestand, the Hurricanes must justify their position as a ranked team against a vastly improved Big Ten power. Here we go.

Miami Hurricanes

Key’Shawn Smith (WR)

The second-year freshman receiver is overdue for a touchdown. With eight receptions for 110 yards, Key’Shawn Smith is averaging 13.8 yards in those plays making him a juicy option for Miami’s D’Eriq King. He’s spread evenly his catches but I think he’ll get more targets this week. Let’s see if Smith will make some big plays in his new role of being a starter. Against these guys, he might have to.

Charleston Rambo (WR)

Considered a four-star recruit by ESPN, Charleston Rambo is yet another sweet wideout for King to connect with. The redshirt junior is a transfer from Oklahoma who looks to improve Miami’s deep passing game. With 12 receptions for 86 yards, Rambo is another player looking to snag their first touchdown catch of the season. Can’t wait to see those hands make terrific catches as he did with the Sooners.

Will Mallory (TE)

Speaking of hands, I’m looking at you Will Mallory. Dropped passes and missed opportunities aside, the hope is Mallory will step up and generate some great numbers this weekend. If his hands are better this time around, I actually think he has a better shot at a TD than others. He can get open and make plays but until the tight end can secure the ball, prepare for a lot more groaning from fans.

Andres Borregales (K)

Talk about clutch. Andy Borregales kicked two crucial field goals in the fourth quarter last week, saving UM from an embarrassing loss. In fact, they’re still ranked because of him. If the battle versus the Spartans is a close one, you can count on this freshman to use that leg to give the Hurricanes their first great victory of the season. In 2021, he’s 5-for-6 in field goals with the longest being 43 yards. Borregales remains perfect in point-after attempts (3-3).

Michigan State Spartans

Payton Thorne (QB)

Coming off a 42-14 thumping of Youngstown State, Payton Thorne tossed four touchdowns (also 280 passing yards) and rushed for one more in an outstanding performance. The redshirt sophomore will be looking to keep on going now that he’s secured himself the starting position. Thorne played in four games last year, making his first career start against Penn State. With him under center, this high-quality offense can prove to be a problem against UM.

Kenneth Walker III (RB)

This junior is off to a fast start. Kenneth Walker has already generated 321 yards and five rushing TDs. The Wake Forest transfer is making some noise, showing good signs of being an NFL Draft prospect. Walker went off against Northwestern so it’s pretty safe to assume Miami has been studying this gentleman. He’s got speed, he’s got power. It appears the former three-star recruit has turned MSU’s running game into a formidable force.

Xavier Henderson (S)

Over on defense we’ve got this senior safety. Xavier Henderson currently leads the Spartans in both tackles (17) and interceptions (1). Versus Youngstown State, he recorded eight tackles including one tackle for loss and a sack. Henderson also snatched his first interception of 2021. As one of the best defenders in the program (if not THE best), he’s likely to be very active this weekend against King and company. Speaking of being the best, Pro Football Focus regards Henderson as the number one safety in the nation.

Jayden Reed (WR)

As a favored target of Thorne, Jayden Reed leads the team in receptions (9) producing 245 yards including two TDs. Both were made against the Penguins on a day where he went well above the centennial mark accumulating a fabulous 181 yards. I wouldn’t mind him on my fantasy football team. Miami’s coverage needs to keep an eye on Reed unless they want to see him in the endzone a couple of times Saturday afternoon. If they keep him under wraps, it takes away a major piece of MSU’s offense.

Prediction: 28-24

It’ll be a close game but the Spartans will manage to run away with it. The defense will find itself with its hands full and depending on the circumstances, the Hurricanes will be unable to keep up. Miami will have to score every other possession if this turns into a shootout and the offense may not be up to it. Barring some serious struggles, come Monday UM will no longer be ranked. It doesn’t mean they can’t creep back into the Top 25 but a big win will remain elusive until ACC play.

Prove me wrong.

Photo | Edwin Garcia

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