It’s the week Miami fans and players wait for all year, every year. It’s a rivalry with as much significance historically as any in college football. Even though it may have taken a slight detour off center stage with some underperforming programs the past few years, UM-FSU is still as big as it gets.
For the first time in a long time, Miami comes into the game thinking it should win. Miami is heavily favored. Florida State has been struggling in all facets for most of the season. This bodes well for the Canes.
Consider this, Miami has won three times in Tallahassee since 2005. FSU has also won all six times in Miami since 2004. The records and season trends for the teams rarely mean much when they take the field. Miami clearly has the better defense, especially across the linebackers and secondary. They have the deeper skill position unit, and one would assume, the edge in head coaching. They also had an extra two days of preparation after playing last Thursday night.
What Miami doesn’t have is experience at quarterback, with freshman Nkosi Perry making just his second career start. Perry played well against UNC last week, but was not asked to do much, requiring just 8 completions in a Miami blowout. The stakes are much higher now, and it will be the first time Perry faces a defense littered with players expected to be drafted into the NFL in the next year or two.
I expect Mark Richt to lean heavily on running backs Travis Homer and Deejay Dallas, both coming off outstanding efforts last week. The Canes are also expected to get star Jaquan Johnson back from injury. Linebackers Shaq Quarterman and Mike Smith, who exited the UNC game with injuries, should be good to go as well. Ahmonn Richards, who is becoming a redshirt candidate as the season goes along, will not play Saturday.
Florida State Seminoles
Florida State barely beat FCS opponent Samford, needing a 4th quarter comeback to avoid humiliation. The Noles’ got blown out in two ACC games against Virginia Tech and Syracuse. FSU even needed another incredible comeback late to beat Louisville on Saturday. That doesn’t matter, this is their Super Bowl. Beating Miami will either elevate their season to new heights, or a loss would simply be the expectation. So a loose, hungry team with lots of talent, predicted by every ‘expert’ to lose this matchup, is a dangerous opponent.
Miami should be able to exploit FSU’s biggest weakness, their much maligned offensive line. Joe Jackson and Jon Garvin could potentially create havoc for Seminoles QB Deondre Francois, who beat the Canes at Hard Rock Stadium in 2016. Cam Akers, FSU running back who was preseason all-ACC, has had his struggles as well, but he’s the total package behind that poor line. If Gerald Willis, Shaq Quarterman, and the rest of the interior of the defense isn’t in top form, Akers could carry 22-25 times.
I think the Canes should win. I think they will win. But I also feel like being 13 point favorites in this game is a bit wild, considering that FSU hasn’t lost in Miami since the Orange Bowl was still home to the Hurricanes. Miami will make enough plays defensively to contain a relatively average Seminole offense, and Nkosi Perry makes just enough quality plays to solidify his starting job. Miami wins 27-19, with possibly a special Jeff Thomas moment to ink his name in Hurricanes lore.