"Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment." - Buddha
"I don't want to think about, what's gonna be after this, I wanna just live right now." - Kesha
All week we've reminisced about great moments in this rivalry. Miami fans remember the Wide Right games, Sean Taylor's heroics, and Jeremy Shockey's touchdown. Florida State fans remember the late 90's and the Noles' recent control of this series, winning the past four matchups in relatively convincing fashion. At the same time, fans of college football (including myself) are always caught up in the future. We talk of turning points and wins or losses that define careers. We talk about how a Miami win would impact the Canes in 2015 or even in recruiting for 2016. We run the scenarios for the Coastal Division and root heavily against Duke. We try to predict how hypothetical performances could impact a coaching staff or the hunt for postseason awards. For this week, I'm adopting Al Golden's mantra of calling the season "12 one-game missions." All that matters is this Saturday night. One of the greatest rivalries in America's best sport will be on display in primetime. Despite how some fans of both teams act this week and in the parking lots in Miami Gardens, the Florida State Miami series is one truly defined by mutual respect. This game is what college football is all about. Enjoy the moment. Enjoy your Saturday. Tailgate like you've been there before. Go Canes.
After the last few weeks of mediocre picks, friends have started to approach me and ask me how I'm dealing with my inability to put together a winning streak. Miami fans specifically are worried that I am going to pick Miami to win on Saturday night. The Pickens jinx has proven itself to be real in recent years, but I'm tired of worrying about it. I'm disappointed with my record this season, but I've put in too much work to give up now. This is how I feel:
"I'm hurt dawg. Don't ask me if I'm alright. State of the U said dominate and I'm not doing it. I put my heart in these picks. Let's go." - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LG_f1GzmwHo
MIAMI+2 vs Florida State 8pm - ABC
"Big time players..step up in big games. That's all I gotta say." - Santana Moss - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oOBCs7_C7GQ
This will be the game that cements Duke Johnson's legacy as one of the best players in Canes' history. By the end of the year, he'll have all the stats and records for his position at Miami. The only thing that's missing is a truly special performance in a memorable win for the program. Miami's offensive line has been terrific all year and I expect Duke to run for 150+ yards and 2 touchdowns. After getting injured in Tallahassee last season, Duke will have his revenge on the field and make sure the national audience knows his last name isn't Williams.
Brad Kaaya isn't a freshman anymore. He's played in big games at Louisville on Labor Day and at Nebraska in primetime. He's earned the trust of his teammates and has command of this offense. The opportunities will be there for a few big plays in the play-action game. Finding Dorsett for a big play and Walford on third downs will be crucial on Saturday night. FSU's defense was vulnerable against Louisville and Notre Dame. I think the Canes have slightly more talent on offense than those two teams. It's all about execution and play-calling.
Miami must win the turnover battle. Jameis Winston has been interception-prone this season and Brad Kaaya has done a good job protecting the ball at home. Miami can't afford to fall behind early and must limit mistakes. Florida State keeps coming at you in the second half and Miami's coaching staff needs to be able to make adjustments throughout the game. Jimbo Fisher has proven his coaching talent in numerous high-profile games the past few seasons. It's time to find out whether Al Golden, James Coley, and Mark D'Onofrio have what it takes.
Many Canes fans seemingly want Miami's defense to blitz 8 guys every play, but that's the worst thing a team can do against FSU. Jameis has shredded the blitz throughout his career and consistently finds Rashad Greene whenever he's in trouble. Miami has to blanket Greene as much as possible and force FSU's young receivers to beat them. Florida State's running game has been inconsistent this season. Look for Miami to utilize well-timed blitzes off the edge, especially using the CB's. Perryman and Kirby will continue to tackle well in space, but this is the game where Miami's defensive line must show up. One big play from Tyriq McCord could be the difference. Florida State is dealing with more injuries than the Canes and that will be a factor as well.
Miami wins a thriller 34-31. UM's ability to control the line of scrimmage in the fourth quarter is the key, as Duke Johnson picks up a late first down to ice the game.
"Precise mediocrity" is back with my 86-86-1 record, but at least I did go 10-8 last week. I have a winning record in the ACC, a winning record when picking the underdog, and I'm 12-9 when I pick a game involving a team from Florida. Miami and Florida State don't play in the Big Ten so I can pick the Canes with confidence. I apologize to the rest of the country for saying this, but it's going to be 70 degrees in Sun Life Stadium on Saturday night. Most of my other picks this week will be impacted by a polar vortex. I'll be cheering all of my new favorite teams from the parking lot while wearing shorts and a t-shirt.
BOWLING GREEN -13 vs Kent State 8pm - ESPN2 - WEDNESDAY
QB James Knapke will have a big night. BGSU stays hot and continues to control the MAC East. Kent State is 1-8 and will struggle on the road.
CINCINNATI +3 vs East Carolina 7pm - ESPN2 - THURSDAY
Both Munchie Legaux and Gunner Kiel will likely see the field at quarterback on Thursday night. The Bearcats have won three straight and have an edge playing at home. East Carolina hasn't been impressive in a month and has struggled with turnover issues.
CALIFORNIA +14.5 at USC 9pm - ESPN - THURSDAY
Cal is one of the most improved teams in the nation and I love QB Jared Goff who has 27 TD and just 4INT. The Bears can score on anyone and will keep this game competitive. USC's talent will be eventually win out, but the final margin will be less than 10 points.
CLEMSON -3 at Georgia Tech 12pm - ESPN
QB Deshaun Watson is back for Clemson and I think the Tigers are a Top 10 team with him in the lineup. Georgia Tech's option offense has been dominant in recent weeks, but Clemson's defense is the best Tech will face all season. Clemson wins by 7-10.
DUKE -4.5 vs Virginia Tech 12pm - ESPNU
Duke continues to win, much to the disappointment of Canes fans. I hope the Blue Devils trip up and lose to the Hokies, but I just don't see it happening. Virginia Tech has lost three straight and isn't playing with confidence. Senior QB Anthony Boone will lead Duke to a win at home.
SOUTH CAROLINA +7 at Florida 12pm - SECN
Steve Spurrier will be ready for the Gators. Florida has won two straight with Treon Harris as the starter, but I'm still not convinced. Beating UGA was impressive, but the win over Vanderbilt doesn't prove much. South Carolina can score points on any defense and the Gamecocks will stay within a touchdown throughout.
ILLINOIS +5.5 vs Iowa 12pm - BTN
QB Wes Lunt is back for the Illini and his presence makes a huge difference for his team. Iowa is still trying to figure out what happened in last week's debacle at Minnesota. This game is close throughout and Illinois will have a chance to win it in the fourth quarter.
RICE +21.5 at Marshall 230pm - FSN
I'm sticking with my Rice Owls, who have won six straight games. Marshall hasn't beaten anyone of significance and I think The Herd is overrated. Rice keeps this game close and has enough talent to upset Marshall and become a factor in the CUSA West division.
TEXAS TECH +17 vs Oklahoma 330pm - ESPN
QB Davis Webb should be back for Texas Tech and Oklahoma comes in to Lubbock following an embarrassing loss to Baylor. Trevor Knight won't be 100% and isn't confident enough to take advantage of a bad Red Raiders' defense. This game will be closer than most people think.
ALABAMA -8.5 vs Mississippi State 330pm - CBS
It was a fun run while it lasted, but Mississippi State will lose on Saturday. The Bulldogs have two road wins against Kentucky and LSU, but they were fortunate to catch the Tigers at the beginning of the season. Winning in Tuscaloosa will be a much bigger challenge. MSU has a below average secondary and Bama QB Blake Sims has been lights out at home.
WISCONSIN -6 vs Nebraska 330pm - ABC
This is a matchup of two of the best running backs in college football. Wisconsin has a significant advantage with the game being played in Madison, plus Nebraska's star Ameer Abdullah is still dealing with an injury and won't be at full strength. The Badgers pull away in the fourth quarter and win by 10-14.
TEXAS -2.5 at Oklahoma State 730pm - FOX
These two teams are moving in opposite directions. OKST has lost three straight games and has scored a combine 33 points in those losses. Texas has turned things around, winning three of four. The Longhorns clearly love new HC Charlie Strong and are playing with passion on both sides of the ball. Look for Texas to win a low scoring close game on the road.
ARKANSAS -2 vs LSU 8pm - ESPN2
This game will be one of the most physical contests you'll see all year. Arkansas is 0-5 in the SEC, but the Hogs are favored at home. This is the night they finally break their conference losing streak. LSU is coming off a tough overtime loss to Alabama and Arkansas was able to rest during a bye week. This is just the third true road game of the season for the Tigers and I expect the cold weather and the crowd to be a factor.
ARIZONA STATE -9.5 vs Oregon State 1045pm - ESPN
Oregon State can't stop anyone and Arizona State's offense should put up 40+ points on Saturday night. The Sun Devils control their own destiny in the race for a Playoff spot. Look for Todd Graham's team to dominate this game from the opening kickoff. Taylor Kelly and D.J. Foster will put up big numbers and move to 9-1 on the season.