This Saturday night at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Miami will be facing a major uphill battle. The game will kick off under the lights and will be a nationally televised game, as Miami-FSU games usually are. The College Gameday crew will be broadcasting live from the Florida State campus earlier in the day reassuring that this is the biggest matchup of the weekend in college football. However, the top-10 battle is not expected to be close as Florida State was a 22-point favorite as of yesterday, which is astonishingly high for a Florida State-Miami game. The Hurricanes have been living on the edge the past few weeks, needing 4th quarter comebacks against North Carolina and Wake Forest. Vegas apparently thinks that Miami will continue their trend of falling behind early, except this time they won’t be able to make up the ground in the 4th quarter due to Florida State’s talent on both sides of the ball. Florida State sent shockwaves through the nation when they went to Death Valley, a place where they had not won in 12 years, and dismantled Clemson, 51-14.
Jameis Winston dissected the Clemson secondary and his receivers proved why they might be the top receiving corps in the country. Rashad Greene and Kenny Shaw are experienced, reliable receivers with good speed, while Kelvin Benjamin is a match up nightmare with his 6-5 frame and tremendous leaping ability. Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, the Seminole defense has not missed a beat with the departure of key playmakers from last season. The defensive line anchored by Mario Edwards and Timmy Jernigan lead an effective pass rush that gets the opposing offensive line on their heels almost instantly. The linebackers are athletic with great sideline-to-sideline speed and do a great job of making sure that running backs do not turn the corner. However, the strength of this team is the secondary which is led by possibly the best defensive back in the country, Lamarcus Joyner. Joyner has been the best player on the field for the Seminoles in nearly every game and had a Deion Sanders-esk performance against Clemson.
Florida State is 8th in total defense (289 ypg), 4th in scoring defense (13 ppg), and 1st in pass defense (154 ppg). Those numbers do not bode well for a Miami offense that has sputtered for most of the season. Hurricane’s quarterback Stephen Morris has been anything but consistent this year, completing 60 percent of his passes, while throwing for 10 TDs and eight interceptions. Al Golden’s team only scored 27 points against North Carolina, and struggled even more against Wake Forest with just 24 points. So what can Miami do to help them leave Tallahassee with a win? It’s simple: score non-offensive touchdowns.
When Miami was at the top of the college football world they would always be a threat to score in all three phases of the game. Ed Reed blocked a punt against Florida State in 2001 that was returned for a TD, and Jonathon Vilma had a fumble returned for a TD in the same game. In 2003, Sean Taylor had a pick-6 against the Seminoles to help his team build the lead when the offense was struggling. And let’s not forget how Devin Hester was a threat every time the special teams unit ran out on the field. Miami was great because they were capable of scoring with their offense, defense, or special teams. Miami is 14-9 in Tallahassee, but the Hurricanes must get back to their old ways if they want to pull off the upset this year.
Whether it’s Duke Johnson returning a kick, Ladarius Gunter returning an interception, or the Miami front blocking a field goal, the Canes are going to have to come up big on something other than just offense. Stephen Morris is not capable of winning this game by himself, so Miami must be more than just fundamentally sound on special teams, they must to be explosive. Florida State’s Winston has not looked like a freshman yet this year, but Miami will have to end that trend if they want to leave the panhandle with the biggest win in Al Golden’s career.
Travis Patterson, Writer For ACC Rantsports.com. Football Writers Association of America Member. Follow on Twitter @tpat20. https://twitter.com/tpat20