The Daily Nole

Preview: FSU Heads South for Top 25 Match-up with Rival Hurricanes

Jeff Romance/FSU athletucs

Who: No. 23 Florida State Seminoles (3-2, 0-2 ACC) at No. 10 Miami Hurricanes (4-0, 1-0 ACC)
Where: Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, Florida
When: Saturday, Oct. 8 at 8:00 p.m. EST (ABC)
Last Week: Florida State lost to North Carolina, 37-35; Miami beat Georgia Tech 35-28

Few college football rivalries evoke an image of heavyweights battling like Florida State and Miami. Each team was stocked full of NFL talent, and the games got nasty between many players who grew up together. For much of the series history from the 1980s to 90s, there was almost always a national championship appearance on the line.

That probably isn’t the case this year, unless Miami can pull off the near impossible under first-year head coach Mark Richt. Florida State has suffered two losses already: a blowout loss to Louisville and a heartbreaker against North Caroina. The offense has little trouble putting points on the board, averaging more than 41 per game, but the defense seemingly cannot stop a nose bleed (79th overall in S&P+ defensive ratings). While some of that is certainly related to level of competition, even the most casual observer can recognize the division between the FSU offense and defense.

Speaking of competition level, the Hurricanes are off to their hottest start in years. They’re 4-0 and ranked in the AP top 10 with a prolific offense that is scoring nearly seven touchdowns per game. This is in part because of the teams they’ve faced, which includes: Florida A&M, Florida Atlantic, Appalachian State, and Georgia Tech. Make no mistake, Miami still has a deadly quarterback in Brad Kaaya, who torched a much better FSU defense in 2015 to the tune of over 400 yards and three touchdowns. The Miami defense has largely not been tested so far. Editor Mike Ferguson and lead writer Clint Eiland weigh in on Saturday’s contest.

All-Time Series
Miami’s edge has slipped to just 31-29 overall after six straight losses to the Seminoles. The last Hurricane victory was a 38-34 thriller in 2009 that ended with FSU failing to score from the 2-yard line as time expired. Here’s a fun tidbit: both teams’ largest margin of victory over the other is 47-0. Miami beat FSU by that margin in head coach Bobby Bowden’s second ever game with the Seminoles in 1976. FSU returned the favor 21 years later in 1997.

Key Players for FSU

Clint: Dalvin Cook – Cook has been the key to defeating Miami for two straight years. In 2014 and 2015 combined, he has rushed for 314 yards and four touchdowns on an absurd 10.8 yards per carry against the Hurricanes. He has also chipped in with 65 receiving yards and one receiving touchdown. After back-to-back stellar performances against USF and UNC, the Seminoles will certainly be looking to let the hometown star dominate Miami one more time.

Mike: Ricky Aguayo — After picking up where his brother, Roberto, left off to begin the year, Ricky Aguayo is coming off a tough week, going 0-for-3 on field goals in a 2-point loss to North Carolina. Unfortunately throughout FSU history, kickers have been marred by key misses against Miami. In a game that has a spread currently under three, Aguayo could be a big difference maker.

Key Players for Miami

Clint: Michael Pinckney, Shaq Quarterman, and Zach McCloud – Why three players? Because this is the Miami linebacking corps that has impressed with 47 combined tackles and five sacks. The problem? They are all freshmen and have not seen a player yet like FSU running back Dalvin Cook. If they can actually contain him and force freshman quarterback Deondre Francois to beat them through the air, that helps Miami’s chances immensely. But they will need to do this quickly, as Jimbo Fisher will almost certainly try to exploit the young players immediately.

Mike: Brad Kaaya — Stopping effective quarterbacks has hardly been Florida State’s M.O. this season and when it comes to pure passers, junior Brad Kaaya might be better than any the Seminoles have faced this season. As mentioned before, Kaaya has passed for 721 yards in two career meetings against the Seminoles and last year’s 405-yard effort was against a top-10 defense. If the Seminoles continue to leave guys running free in the secondary, Kaaya will eat them alive.

Game Breaker:

Clint: Can the FSU Defense Get a Stop? – It’s going to be said repeatedly because it is simply the one factor that has led to much frustration this season. The good news is that Brad Kaaya does not have the same dual-threat ability as quarterbacks like Lamar Jackson and Mitch Trubisky. The bad news is that he might be the best passer out of all of them. This does not bode well for an FSU defense that is routinely sliced up through the air.

Mike: Can FSU Avoid a Disastrous Start? — As bad as the defense has been for Florida State, the Seminoles may still only have one loss if it weren’t for disastrous starts. In three of FSU’s five games thus far, the Seminoles have trailed by 21 points or more in the first half. FSU was able to rally from 22 down to beat Ole Miss and nearly erased an early 21-point deficit last week against North Carolina, but cannot afford to continue to make falling into early holes a habit.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply