The Miami Hurricanes travel to face the Florida State Seminoles this weekend in a matchup of top-10 ACC rivals. The Canes, despite a 7-0 start to the season, are heavy underdogs in Doak Campbell this Saturday and will have to contend with one of the hottest offensive teams in college football. If they have any chance of pulling off the upset in this one, their defense will have to step up in major way and throw a wrench in the Noles’ offensive gameplan. The defensive secondary, in particular, will be the key to disrupting the FSU attack.
Miami ranks No. 3 in the ACC in pass defense this season, allowing just 200.6 yards through the air on average. They’ve only surrendered six touchdown passes in seven games this year and recorded the third most interceptions in the conference (12). They have four players with multiple interceptions this season, led by sophomore Tracy Howard with three, and had one returned for a touchdown by junior Ladarius Gunter in Miami’s win against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
But this week they will have their hands full. Jameis Winston has been spectacular under center this season, putting together a strong Heisman Trophy campaign throwing for 2,177 yards, 23 touchdowns and just four interceptions in seven games this season. The emergence of Rashad Greene (39 catches, 690 yards, 8 touchdowns) as a playmaker and the 6-foot-5 Kelvin Benjamin (23, 430, 5) as a red-zone monster have only helped Winston make dominating the ACC look so easy this season.
The Canes are going to be challenged by this passing attack but it is possible to slow them down (maybe). A lot of the Noles’ passing attack is made up of yards after the catch from Greene or jump balls thrown up to Benjamin. So the key for Miami will be to tackle in the open field and minimize YAC and make plays on some of the balls that Winston just throws up for grabs. In several games, Winston has taken advantage of defensive backs playing with their backs to the ball to get away with throws that aren’t always on target. If the Canes can locate the ball and make a play on it, there are opportunities for big plays.
Whether or not Miami can seize those opportunities will be the difference in this game. Florida State has playmakers all over the field on offense and will put pressure on the Canes’ D for four quarters. The best way for Miami to undercut their momentum and give the Hurricanes a fighting shot is to shut down the big plays after the catch in the passing game and create some turnovers. Does The U have the secondary to get it done?