The Daily Nole

Hot Take Tuesday: Saturday’s Contest with Miami is Biggest of Taggart’s FSU Tenure

Jeff Romance/FSU athletics

Saturday’s contest between Florida State and Miami doesn’t have the implications that the great showdowns of the late-1980s and early-90s did, but for FSU head coach Willie Taggart, there is plenty on the line.

The contest between the Seminoles and Hurricanes will feature two teams that will arrive with a record of 4-4. It’s well-known that the Seminoles finished just 5-7 in year No. 1 under Taggart and the second-year coach simply cannot afford to miss a bowl game for the second year in a row.

In last season’s contest in South Florida, FSU let a 27-7 lead slip away in a 28-27 loss to Miami. It was the Hurricanes’ first home win over Florida State since 2004 and ultimately the difference in the Seminoles not extending the nation’s longest bowl streak.

Although it hasn’t gone as so many have hoped, it is hard to deny that the product on the field for FSU has been better this year than last. Florida State’s 45-14 loss at Clemson earlier this month left much to be desired, but in its three other losses, it actually held a fourth-quarter lead. Aside from the largest blown lead in program history during last year’s 1-point loss to Miami, each of the Seminoles’ six other losses last season came by at least 19 points.

With that said, Saturday’s contest at Doak Campbell Stadium is one that Taggart simply cannot afford to lose. The Hurricanes under first-year head coach Manny Diaz have a couple nice wins over Virginia and most recently at Pittsburgh, but the Hurricanes were also the victim in lowly Georgia Tech’s only ACC win in addition to losing at home to Virginia Tech and having to hold off Central Michigan at Hard Rock Stadium.

With a win, FSU would almost assuredly be headed back to a bowl. The Seminoles would sit at 5-4 and with Alabama State slated for Senior Day, six wins would become the floor for FSU in 2019.

FSU would also be in position to make a late-season run with contests at Boston College and then the Hornets to follow. If the Seminoles could get to 7-4, they would have their longest winning streak since the end of 2017 and actually go into the rivalry contest at Florida with confidence. Getting to eight wins — with a bowl victory or otherwise — would be the biggest win increase for FSU from one season to another since going from 9-4 in 2011 to 12-2 and ACC champions in 2012.

On the flip side, losing to a Miami team that has largely been a laughingstock since hanging tough with Florida in the opener in Orlando would almost force FSU to win at Boston College to become bowl-eligible. It’s worth mentioning that the Seminoles have not won a road game this season.

At 9-11 during his FSU tenure and with doubt already looming, it’s hard to see Taggart bouncing back from becoming the first FSU coach to have consecutive losing seasons since Darrell Mudra in the mid-1970s. Taggart was able to right the ship after a tumultuous start at South Florida, but the patience for folks in Tallahassee won’t be what it was in Tampa.

A win for Miami would likely mean a bowl appearance for the Hurricanes, who have contests with Louisville, Florida International and Duke remaining. Take the prospects of Miami accomplishing more in the first year under Diaz than FSU had in its first two under Taggart on top of Florida’s success under second-year head coach Dan Mullen and a rough couple years would look much, much worse.

Regardless of what happens on Saturday, the odds are that Taggart will get a third season in Tallahassee. But with a losing record through two seasons and a roster that will likely no longer have Cam Akers or Marvin Wilson, Taggart would probably have to have quite the season in 2020 to make it to 2021. To avoid that apparent doomsday scenario, FSU will need to beat Miami on Saturday in what will be the biggest game of Taggart’s tenure thus far.

Mike Ferguson is the editor of The Daily Nole. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson. Like The Daily Nole on Facebook. To pitch an idea, author a post or to learn more about The Daily Nole, email Mike Ferguson at

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