The Florida State Seminoles host Miami in a nationally televised matchup this afternoon. (If it's on ABC, it's a big deal, right?) And while this rivalry is not the Iron Bowl, it's the most significant in Florida State's ACC play. Miami enters the week with a 5-4 record (3-3 ACC) and the 'Noles sit 6-3 (4-2 ACC). The Seminoles have the most incentive to play well, seeking a great bowl game and tied for second in their division, while Miami is only seeking redemption for their soiled reputation this year. This may be Miami's last season of prominence for a while, with a death penalty from the NCAA still looming and few recruits higher than two stars. Additionally, Florida State is favored 9.5 points. So this should be easy right? Absolutely not.
Miami Offense vs. Florida State Defense
Miami was plagued by suspensions at the start of the season, but those players are back. Miami has the best college running back since C.J. Spiller in Lamar Miller, who has already rushed 1,000+ yards and stands 5'11", 215 lbs. as a sophomore. Miami has a quarterback that has learned to choose his passes very, very carefully and has become incredibly efficient. And this season shows they can score well and often, dousing the ranked Georgia Tech 24-7 and forcing turnovers all day long.
Miami has two NFL-bound wide recievers (look for #3 Thomas Benjamin midfield and #8 Tommy Streeter deep), and two stellar running backs to make up for their lack of tight end. They primarily play from the i-formation, which FSU should be ready for with the dominant defensive line and free safety Lamarcus Joyner. The Miami running game capitalizes on man-to-man blocking, which the Seminole defense excels at, and Florida State has three stellar corners (Xavier Rhodes, Greg Reid, Mike Harris) to Miami's two wide outs. Still ranked 12th, the Unconquered defense should be ready.
Worth noting: there's a difference between being ready and the match up being easy. While FSU has the advantage in style, the Hurricane offense is still potent. Keys to winning will be forcing turnovers, locking up the deep ball with good coverage (per our FSU affiliate Tomahawk Nation's description, think "soft cover-3"), limiting the run, and making QB Jacory Harris scramble.
Miami Defense vs. Florida State Offense
As good as Miami's offense has been, their defense has been worse. Ranked lower than Duke, Miami's defense has not shown up all season. The Hurricanes mitigate this problem by playing very, very, very slow football. Seriously, it's like watching the Red Sox play the Yankees. This is where Florida State can capitalize. Playing slow means a rested and ready defense for FSU, unlike the Oklahoma game.
The FSU running game will consist of QB E.J. Manuel's legs and freshman Devonta Freeman, and considering Miami has a one-dimensional run defense that's a plus. The air war will continue to use the four wide-out formation to spread the Miami defense thin, and we may even see a few targets on the hopeful tight-end-of-the-future Nick O'Leary, who shined last week with a 63 yard catch down field.
Miami's defense is also missing key players, including two major players on the D-line (Marcus Forston, Jordan Futch) - though their back ups are not lightweights, likely 350lbs - and their top safety Ray Ray Armstrong has been suspended, moving their best corner Jo Jo Nicolas to his position (and no, not everyone in their secondary has first names that repeat). In other words, Miami will not be able to play man-coverage, so the Seminoles will be facing a lot of zone defense. Add the multi-dimensional run game, and Miami will have no defense deep. The offense will have many options and opportunities. If the Noles keep themselves from turnovers and penalties they can win easily, but they must play smart and take the hand that's dealt by the 'Cane defense.
So let's go Noles! Let's beat the team Shapiro bought!
Florida State 41 - Miami 27