The next chapter of the Miami versus FSU rivalry is set to take place this Saturday night, and it's every bit as important as it's always been; though, for much different reasons, both teams have to win this week. For FSU, it's to keep their crumbling foothold in the CFB playoff race; and for UM it's to keep their slim chances at a Coastal championship alive. Miami is still ahead in the all time series 31-27, but it's been a while since the Canes have gotten a win over FSU, and it's starting to get uncomfortable. Much has been made of FSU "not being the same team from last year", which is a good thing for Miami, considering FSU won 41-14 last season.
FSU: The Noles come in with slightly less gaudy stats than last year, but still damn good. They have reached the level of success and infamy that draws a giant, bright spot light; and so far they have taken everyone's best shot. With that being said, don't confuse their stats being down as a sign of them being any less capable of going undefeated. They currently have the 38th ranked offense overall in the FBS. They are ranked 97th in rushing, averaging 129 yards a game, and 10th in passing - averaging 319 yards a game. They come through when it matters though; Football Outsiders has the FSU offense ranked 6th in their OFEI which takes a bunch of factors into account. Not getting into all that here, but feel free to check it out. Bottom line is when they have needed to move the ball they did.
Jameis Winston makes everything go. He has a 66.7% completion rate, throwing for 2,540 yards and 17 TDs. Where he has had issue this year is interceptions. Winston has 11 so far, which surpasses his total for last year. He poses the same threats as he did last season; deadly through the air, and has the size and mobility to keep plays alive. As Miami learned last season he can take off and run; Miami has to keep him contained; and not allow him to extend drives because he was simply able to sidestep the defensive end and run for a first down. He's plenty capable of beating Miami through the air; they cannot allow easy yards on the ground.
Winston's main target is Rashard Green. Green has 71 receptions for just under 1000 yards and 5TDs. He's produced big numbers in every game, so it will be more limiting the damage he does than shutting him down. He's averaging about 14 yards a catch and is coming off a 13 reception 136 yard performance last week against VA. Pretty much what Alen Hurns was last year for Miami. There's a huge drop off stat wise between Green and the rest of the group. If Miami is going to try and pull off an upset, they will need to keep the rest of the receivers in check. Jesus "Bobo" Wilson takes care of the underneath stuff averaging 12 yards a catch. Small and fast, he has 33 catches for 400 yards. He was on record this week saying Miami never offered him a scholarship coming out of high school, so he should be looking to make a splash. Nick O'Leary is back again at TE; he's a bear, so while LB Jermaine Grace can run with the best of them, he will have his hands full actually bringing him down. Miami fans that follow crootin know all about the next two. Travis Rudolph and Ermon Lane were both UM fan wants, and as true freshman they have shown flashes of why. Rudolph has been used more with 19 catches, but Lane is the deep threat getting about two shots a game that go for twenty plus. Both have been getting better as the season has progressed and both are from South Florida, so they'll be looking to put on a show.
Rushing: FSU has been relying on Karlos WIlliams and Dalvin Cook. WIlliams has 119 carries for 520 yards, averaging 4.4 ypc. Cook has 79 carries for 416 yards, averaging 5.3 ypc. Williams killed Miami last season and seemed to be able to get around the edge at will. Cook is explosive, but Miami fans already knew that. The former Miami Central standout split carries with UM's Joesph Yearby which just seems unfair. The run game hasn't been as productive as last year, but still features two backs that can make life hell for Miami. There has been talk of RB Michael Pender being back for this week; fans seem to think he may be the most complete back on the team, but he has missed the last three games, so it's unsure how much (if any) he'll be able to contribute. He has 32 carries for 200 yards on the season.
On Defense FSU has been getting things on track. They have dealt with injuries all year, but still have a ton of talent on the field. Last week they seemed to put things together - just in time for Miami - awesome. So far this season the Noles have given up 135 yards a game rushing, and 238 yards a game passing. That has them coming in ranked 50th in the FBS in total defense (35th in rushing and 73rd in passing). Football Outsiders has FSU ranked 25th when they break down the numbers. As for matching up against Miami, it's gonna be tough for UM's injury riddled OLine to match up against Mario Edwards Jr and Eddie Goldman. You don't often see a 290 lb man standing up and roaming around, but that's what you get with Edwards. Pretty much a third of his total tackles have been for a loss. He has 3 sacks and tackles like Denzel Perryman. Keeping him away from Kaaya seems like a good idea. Defensive tackle Eddie Goldman will be Shane McDermott's problem Saturday night. He has 7.5 tackles for loss and 4 sacks so far this season; if Miami has a shot in this game those numbers will need to stay about the same. Reggie Northrup leads the team in tackles with 72 total tackles, 1 sack and 1 interception. There are plenty of other talented play makers on the defense, but those are a few of the more terrifying.
Miami comes in playing as good as they have all year on both sides of the ball. They rank 45th in overall offense with 200 yards a game rushing and 237 yards a game passing. According to Football Outsiders Miami is ranked 10th on offense, just four spots behind FSU and 31st on defense (six spots behind FSU). The defense has seemed to turn a corner and has looked good with a little aggression, while the offense has benefited from having one of the best backs in the nation. Miami has had two, hundred yard rushers each of the last three games. Something that has allowed QB Brad Kaaya to be able to sit back, pick his spots and take care of the ball. Duke and company will need to keep the trend going. Now i doubt UM will have two hundred-yard rushers, but they need Duke to have a big game. Making FSU commit to stopping the run will allow a player like Phillip Dorsett (who is averaging 30yards a catch) a chance to see single coverage. With the offensive line having some key pieces either out or playing less than a hundred percent, players like TE Standish Dobard and FB Walter Tucker won't put up much in the way of stats, but will impact the game by making blocks.
Defensively, Coach D'Onofrio will need to trust his guys and let them continue to play with a bit more aggression. Now they will have to make it count, because FSU has just a wee bit more talent on offense than say - North Carolina. Keeping a balance of bringing pressure for Winston, while also keeping him contained in the pocket, will be important. A healthy Deon Bush has helped, but he and the other DBs will need to do a better job than last year when it comes to getting off down field blocks. Last year, anytime Karlos WIlliams got around the outside he had an extra 6-7 yards because FSU's receivers did such a good job blocking. FSU will get yards; Miami will just need to make them work for them.
Prediction: If Miami's O line was 100% I would feel better. FSU 30 Miami 17
WATCH INFO: WE IN PRIMETIME YALL
ABC • Chris Fowler, PxP • Kirk Herbstreit, Analyst • Heather Cox, Sideline Reporter
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