“Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted, One moment
Would you capture it? Or just let it slip.”
Since Brent Musburger will be calling Saturday night’s game, I decided to start my article with a quote from his friend and colleague Eminem. It is officially Miami Florida State week. My last trip to Doak Campbell was victorious as I watched the Canes hang on to win 38-34 on the game’s final play. This rivalry has always been a special part of my life. I am very excited that College Gameday will be in Tallahassee on Saturday. Miami has come a long way under Al Golden and an appearance on college football’s biggest weekly stage is well deserved. My favorite memory of the UM FSU rivalry was Miami’s 27-24 upset win over Number 1 ranked Florida State in 2000. The Orange Bowl ran out of water and food due to the intense heat, but adrenaline carried the fans through the afternoon. Dan Morgan dominated and Jeremy Shockey earned his spot in Miami lore with the game-winning touchdown. Ken Dorsey shined under pressure and set the stage for an incredible winning streak from 2000-2002.
As many readers know, the Wake Forest game was my first experience watching a Miami game from the press box. I was able to remain professional and quiet for the most part, but my hand motions and facial expressions told the story of a nervous second half. I was basically a version of Kramer repeating “Serenity Now” to not respond loudly to what I was experiencing. Against FSU, my role will return to watching games as a fan and I expect to lose my voice early in the second quarter due to pent-up energy. I enjoyed discussing ACC football with ESPN.com’s Andrea Adelson during the Wake game. We were the only ones focused on trying to watch Georgia Tech play Virginia while covering UM WF simultaneously. It was exciting to have the national spotlight back on Canes football where it belongs. Follow me @JPickens15 for picks and stadium thoughts from games across the country.
I was surprised that even local reporters that cover the Canes didn’t seem to give UM any chance of beating Florida State. After leaving the postgame press conferences, everyone piled into the elevator to head back up to the press box. Someone asked if people had seen the FSU score. I quickly responded (because I’m gamecasting every game on my phone at all times), “FSU is up 35-0 near the end of the first quarter.” There was a collective sigh and some jokes about what UM FSU will look like. I responded with a popular refrain that I used in my last article. “THAT’S WHY THEY PLAY THE GAME.”
MIAMI HURRICANES +22 at Florida State 8pm – ABC
Jimbo Fisher to the media earlier today: “You ain’t undefeated for no reason.”
State of the U and Tomahawk Nation will have numerous articles analyzing play-calling and positional matchups this week. I will focus on the intangibles that might help decide the game on Saturday night.
There is endless motivation for Miami’s players this week. Everyone seems to be forgetting the fact that the Canes are 7-0. Winning in college football is extremely difficult and Al Golden’s team isn’t getting enough credit. In the post game press conferences following the Wake game, some reporters immediately asked players questions about how good FSU is this season. Questions like: “Have you watched Jameis Winston, what makes him so good?” Stephen Morris entered the season with NFL Draft hype, but his struggles on the field in recent weeks have taken his name out of the spotlight. Miami’s defense is probably already tired of hearing about Winston’s Heisman candidacy. The Canes are 22 point underdogs and likely won’t be picked to win by a single member of the media. Al Golden will play the “No Respect” angle in the locker room in the days leading up the game. Saturday night is Miami’s opportunity to make a statement to the nation that this team deserves their Top Ten ranking.
Florida State was hyped up to play Clemson. The game was billed as the biggest in the history of the ACC. Jameis Winston was starting to emerge on the national stage, but the matchup with Tajh Boyd was his Heisman campaign launching moment. FSU’s absolute domination of the Tigers sent a message to the college football world, leading to significantly increased expectations for Jimbo Fisher’s team. Many FSU fans have openly talked about how they were more excited to face Clemson, with the thought being that Miami’s slow starts in recent weeks means FSU will blow out the Canes easily. FSU fans and media members are caught up in whether the Noles are ranked 2nd or 3rd in the BCS rankings. Florida State players know they are favored by more than three touchdowns. Playing at home as a huge favorite, after weeks of everyone discussing a possible national championship, could lead to feelings of overconfidence. Miami enters Doak Campbell Stadium on Saturday night with nothing to lose. Al Golden has talked all season about his team embracing a “bunker mentality.” Rest assured, the message this week will be: “It’s Us Against the World.”
I think James Coley’s knowledge of Florida State and Jimbo Fisher is being overlooked this week. Other than the NSA, few people understand Jimbo’s thoughts better than Coley. The two coaches spent five years together at Florida State and Coley had the opportunity to work with Jameis Winston last season while he redshirted. Miami has been conservative on offense in recent weeks, largely due to the inconsistency of Stephen Morris. James Coley will be ready to show his former mentor some wrinkles the Canes haven’t unveiled yet this season.
Miami’s running game has excelled in October led by a powerful and experienced offensive line. The Canes will be able to sustain drives and keep Winston off the field enough to stay close. Duke Johnson and Dallas Crawford will be able to move the chains, giving Stephen Morris an opportunity to make something happen in the play-action passing game. Morris has shown toughness and will step up under the lights against FSU. His ankle injury continues to improve week after week. WR Stacy Coley is emerging as a star. Morris has never been very accurate in the short passing game, but no one throws a better deep ball. One big play early could give the Miami sideline confidence that they belong on the big stage.
Following FSU’s blowout win over Clemson, I combed the internet for reactions to the impressive performance. “@TomahawkNation Again, I say, do not blitz Jameis Winston. Play soft coverage, hope to force a field goal in the red zone.” By now, everyone has seen Winston’s incredible stats against the blitz. Bud Elliott’s defensive suggestions to FSU’s opponents resonated with me. As a Miami fan that has complained for years that Mark D’Onofrio doesn’t blitz enough, I have seen the Canes constantly employ this strategy. Miami plays a significant amount of “bend but don’t break” defense and has been fortunate enough to force turnovers and field goals in games this season. Expect the Canes to play conservatively on defense and make Florida State drive the full length of the field.
Before FSU fans relentlessly comment on how I’m a homer and that’s the only reason I’m giving Miami a chance, I want to clarify a few things. I realize how good Florida State has looked this season. Sorry to Dabo Swinney, but your team only beats the Noles once or twice out of ten games. That being said, this is still college football. Expect the unexpected. Miami will play their best game of the season.
I have been relentless in my belief and faith in this year’s Hurricanes. Miami has learned how to win and will make enough plays to hang around in the first half. The nation has fallen in love with Florida State and Jameis Winston, but I think the 22-point line is inflated. Momentum means everything on Saturdays and Miami needs a big play early on either defense or special teams. If any doubt begins to creep into the minds of players on the FSU sideline, this game could become very interesting in the fourth quarter. Florida State hasn’t played in a fourth quarter that mattered yet this season. Al Golden will have his team prepared and ready to shock the nation. This isn’t the same Miami team that was dominated on the road by Kansas State and Notre Dame in 2012.
This Year is Different.
Full Speed Ahead.