The last time the 'Canes traveled to Florida State for a game, they entered with a lofty top ten ranking, a 7-0 record, and the potential of returning to national prominence with a win.
They came home humbled by the count of 41-14, finished the season 9-4, and have not come close to anything resembling a conference contender nonetheless a national one since.
Last season they were 6-3 and hosted the Noles. You all know how that one and the season ended.
Let's just say there is something of an FSU hangover these past few seasons in Coral Gables.
This time around the Hurricanes head to Doak Campbell Stadium coming off an an embarrassing loss to Cincinnati.
They can ill afford another loss to open conference play.
And given their recent history of performance post-FSU, the season as well as Al Golden's future at UM, may hinge on this game.
It's that big.
I do not believe that a loss this weekend would prompt the firing of Golden mid season.
However I do feel that if they can not come up with the upset, the most likely scenario of how the season plays out would leave them short of their professed goal of winning the ACC Coastal, or much worse.
In my estimation this is very much a crossroads game for the staff and the program.
But we will have plenty more time to talk about that after this one.
Let's take a closer look at how the teams match-up.
When the 'Canes have the football: It will be imperative that UM get ahead in down and distance situations. Getting consistent early yardage from Joe Yearby and Mark Walton would open up the play action passing game for Brad Kaaya and Rashawn Scott. The 'Canes O line is penalty prone and looks shaky in pass pro at times, but they have down a good job for the most part creating space for their talented backs. Limiting mistakes and pounding the rock would seem like their best chance to win this game. The Seminoles also could be with out key players in LB Terrance Smith and SS Nate Andrews (though he did practice yesterday). If UM can soften that D up with the run, it could create huge opportunities over the middle for David Njoku, Standish Dobard, and Scott among others. If the Hurricanes become one dimensional and try to throw the ball 35-40 times, they will allow pass rushing opportunities for DeMarcus Walker, and INT potential for Jalen Ramsey. Ramsey is more of a cover corner this season than a blitzer/rover, but given how he absolutely destroyed Miami last season, Kaaya and OC James Coley need to account for him on every play. My overall feeling here is that the 'Canes can move the ball and find some success on the ground, if they limit mistakes. That's a huge if right now.
When FSU has the football: What a difference it could make if Dalvin Cook either doesn't play or isn't 100%. Cook is a legit Heisman candidate and a threat to take the rock the distance each and every time he touches it. Given UM's problems with open field tackling, he's the worst kind of player for them to face. My guess is he goes (he also practiced yesterday), but his touches are limited, as Jimbo Fisher knows his importance to the remainder of their season. Even when/if Cook is on the sidelines, the Seminoles have turned into a run first team. Back-up RB Mario Pender is definitely a no-go, so 3rd string tailback Jonathan Vickers and true frosh Jacques Patrick could factor big into this game. If Miami's front 7 featuring Raphael Kirby can stop the run, this becomes a very interesting game. Fisher does not want to leave the game in the hands of QB Everett Golson. Golson is doing a magnificent job protecting the ball, and he can make some plays with his legs, but he is not making anyone forget Jameis Winston. If Golson gets into a lot of third and longs, it plays into the favor of the 'Canes ball hawking D featuring Deon Bush, Rayshawn Jenkins, Corn Elder, and Artie Burns.
Game Prediction: I am sticking with my original prediction of 27-14 FSU. I desperately want to be wrong, but I just can't see the same team that bungled away the game in Cincy, showing up passionate and organized in Tallahassee. Player for player they match up pretty well with the Noles, but are just too mistake prone right now to win a big game like this on the road. I think Cook and Golson do just enough on O, and the Noles D stymies UM for the win.