The Daily Nole

FSU Football: First Look at Miami

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Few rivalries provoke the image that Florida State-Miami does. National contention hasn’t been in play for the past few iterations, but the hate is still very real. Miami has already opened up as a 2-touchdown favorite in Saturday’s contest, as it is riding a 4-game win streak and hosting the Seminoles.

Florida State has a very difficult task ahead of it. While Miami has played a very weak schedule besides the opener against LSU, the Hurricanes have handled their business and blown out teams they should’ve blown out. Florida State can’t say the same. What are the strengths and weaknesses of nationally ranked Hurricanes team? We examine below.

2018 Record: 4-1 (1-0 ACC)
2018 S&P Offensive Ranking: 24th
2018 S&P Defensive Ranking: 26th
2018 S&P Special Teams Ranking: 76th

On Offense

The biggest change here is that Miami finally wised up and benched quarterback Malik Rosier. Redshirt freshman N’Kosi Perry made his first start against North Carolina last week and started hot, helping lead the Hurricanes to a 47-10 demolition of the Tar Heels. Perry is a capable passer with a lot of potential on the ground, even if Miami has somewhat held back on the designed runs so far. The schedule difficulty to this point means that the Hurricanes haven’t had to reveal much before this Saturday.

Miami’s offense is just inside the top-25 thanks to a workhorse backfield led by Travis Homer and DeeJay Dallas. Those two have combined for 111 carries, 702 yards, and three touchdowns, and both average more than five yards per carry.

The Hurricanes also have a nice group of receivers on the outside with explosive deep threats Jeff Thomas (320 yards, 24.6 average, two touchdowns) and Lawrence Cager (174 yards, 19.3 average, four touchdowns). There’s also safety valves with Mike Harley (173 yards, 11.5 average) and Brevin Jordan (123 yards, 9.5 average, three touchdowns).

On Defense

Miami’s bread and butter returned much of its production from last year, mainly in a loaded linebacker corps that continues to shine. Shaquille Quarterman and Michael Pinckney are the two names to know from that group, as both are ferocious in run defense. However, the Miami defensive line has surprised many by elevating its level of play. Defensive ends Joe Jackson and Jonathan Garvin have combined for 47 tackles and 9.5 tackles for loss, while defensive tackle Gerald Willis has been a mainstay in offensive backfields with 10.5 tackles for loss by himself.

The secondary also contains a nice mix of players. Cornerbacks Trajan Bandy and Mike Jackson are a formidable duo and safety Sheldrick Redwine has recovered nicely from Cam Akers running him over in 2017. Safety Jaquan Johnson is a wild card, as he’s been dealing with a hamstring injury over the past few games. He’s a major talent who garnered second-team All-American honors in 2017.

On Special Teams

Jeff Thomas shows up again. He’s the main returner for both punts and kicks, and he’s averaging over 42 yards on the former. That being said, keep in mind that the bulk of his yardage came against Savannah State and Florida International. The Miami kicker Bubba Baxa is 4-for-5 on field goals and 27-for-28 on extra points. Punter Zach Feagles is a weak link that averages a little over 37 yards per punt, but few of his punts get returned.


It’s a bit difficult to assess how good Miami really is. The numbers and talent on the field suggest that the Hurricanes have a top-25 team — which is probably true. But they’ve faced just one Power 5 team with more than a single win. That team was LSU, and they lost 33-17 to the Tigers after being down 33-3 at one point.

The receivers will be a huge threat to the back end of the FSU defense. While Homer and Dallas are a powerful combo, they were shut down against LSU, whose run defense is closer to Florida State’s than any other team that Miami has faced. Miami’s real danger is receivers like Thomas and Cager who can take the top off the secondary. If FSU’s safeties replicate their performances against Louisville, this could be a blowout.

Florida State’s near nonexistent run game will now face its toughest front seven yet. There’s almost no way the Seminoles can make rapid enough improvements that they’re able to threaten with either Cam Akers or Jacques Patrick, who each ran well against Miami last season. Instead, their best chance will once again be through the air. Miami’s secondary is a quality unit but it also hasn’t been tested all that much.

Saturday looks grim for any hopes of the FSU offense finding its footing. Instead, it’ll need to hope that the defense can put together a masterful performance and somehow have the bounces go its way.

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