Week 3 Preview: Miami at Texas A&M

Max Johnson threw 35 TD passes compared to only seven interceptions in two seasons at LSU.

No. 13 Miami Hurricanes at No. 24 Texas A&M Aggies

Line: Texas A&M -6.5

Total: 44.5

Where: Kyle Field, College Station, Texas

When: Saturday, 9/17 at 9:00 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN

No. 24 Texas A&M will be in desperate need of a bounce-back victory when it hosts No. 13 Miami on Saturday night.

The Aggies are coming off a crushing loss, falling to Appalachian State as 18-point favorites last week. Miami has taken care of business in its first two games, blowing out Bethune-Cookman and pulling away from Southern Miss at home.

Oddsmakers opened Texas A&M as a 6.5-point home favorite, but the early betting action moved the line down to -6 for most of the week. However, the number was back up to 6.5 by late Friday morning. The total has seen even more significant movement, shifting from 48.5 to 44 before going back to 44.5. Texas A&M was held to just one offensive touchdown in its 17-14 loss to the Mountaineers last Saturday.

The Aggies were sloppy in their season opener, failing to cover the 36.5-point spread in a 31-0 win over Sam Houston State. One year after throwing three interceptions in the opener vs. Kent St., QB Haynes King was picked off twice and the rushing attack averaged a meager 3.3 yards per carry.

While those issues were not identical to the ones that doomed Texas A&M against Appalachian State, they were similar. King completed just 13 of 20 passes for 97 yards, averaging 4.8 yards per completion against a defense that had allowed 63 points to North Carolina the week prior.

According to a report Thursday night from The Battalion, Jimbo Fisher has decided to bench King in favor of LSU transfer QB Max Johnson. The son of Brad Johnson, the Super-Bowl-winning QB for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2002, has a 35/7 career touchdown-to-interception ratio and three rushing TDs from his two seasons with the Tigers.

Appalachian State dominated the time of possession last week, controlling the ball for nearly 42 minutes. One week after allowing 63 points against a North Carolina team that was without its two best WRs, the Mountaineers limited the Aggies to nine first downs and merely 186 yards of total offense.

One bright spot for Texas A&M, outside of another solid defensive showing, was junior running back Devon Achane. He rushed for 66 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries, averaging 6.6 yards per touch. He also returned a kickoff 95 yards for a score moments after the Mountaineers had taken a 14-7 lead.

Miami is off to a much less tumultuous start to the season, going about its business in blowout wins over Bethune-Cookman and Southern Miss. The Hurricanes covered the 49.5-point spread against Bethune-Cookman in head coach Mario Cristobal’s debut, but they came up just short of covering (-27.5) in the 30-7 win against the Golden Eagles last week. They trailed for most of the second quarter before scoring the final 27 points of the game.

Sophomore quarterback Tyler Van Dyke racked up 255 passing yards, with wide receiver Xavier Restrepo leading the team in receiving yards for the second consecutive week. Miami’s offense has been predicated around its rushing attack thus far, with sophomore running back Henry Parrish Jr. rushing 35 times for 205 yards and four touchdowns.

Sophomore Thaddius Franklin Jr. is also off to a hot start, turning 21 carries into 135 yards and three touchdowns. Van Dyke, who is projected to be a first-round NFL pick next year, will likely be asked to do more this week against stiffer competition.

“I missed throws that I never usually miss,” Van Dyke said after the Southern Miss game. “I make those throws in practice all the time. My mechanics sometimes get a little bit too low.”

He was sacked four times by the Golden Eagles, which will be an issue that Miami needs to address before facing Texas A&M’s defensive front. The Aggies ranked No. 11 in the country in sacks last season.

Miami has covered the spread in five of its last six road games, and it has covered at a 6-3 clip in its last nine games overall. Texas A&M is 13-2 in its last 15 home games, but it is 1-4 ATS in its last five games. The Aggies have gone ‘under’ the total in four of their last six contests.

The pick: Texas A&M -6 (-120)

I am not a huge fan of this scheduling spot for a young Miami team under a first-year head coach, as the Hurricanes are on the road for the first time this season in one of the loudest atmospheres in the country. Texas A&M, which was a 7.5-point favorite in the preseason look-ahead line, has zero margin for error following its loss last week. The Aggies have covered the spread in five straight games against ACC opponents, while Miami is 1-6 in its last seven games against SEC teams. Texas A&M’s defensive front should give Miami’s offense trouble throughout this game, and the Aggies’ offense cannot play as bad as they did last week. This is a turning point game for Texas A&M—I am not ready to fade the Aggies just yet, at least at this number.  

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