No preamble, just content. Let's get to the SOTU staff's thoughts on Miami vs FSU:
Q1: How are you feeling heading into the showdown vs FSU?
Jerry Steinberg: I feel like we are finally at the crossroads. If UM loses this game, I suspect things go into a tailspan and the Golden Era may finally come to a close (though I do think he'll finish the season). If UM wins it could be the start of a revitalization and hopefully a successful 2015. Yeah this game is pretty important in my eyes.
Cam Underwood: If I were to say I feel good, I'd be lying. I'm dialed in, for sure, but I have this sense of impending doom. This team, this staff, this season, is in a critical place. A win would (hopefully) give us much needed momentum heading through the rest of season, and recruiting. A loss and man.....things could get ugly. Quickly.
John Pickens: I'm quietly confident, mainly because I haven't been impressed with Florida State so far this season. The Noles have significant issues on offense and if Dalvin Cook can't play, the Canes will be catching a huge break. Everett Golson is always capable of a few turnovers and I don't think there is a large talent gap between these two teams. It's hard to expect a win given Miami's history in big games under Al Golden, but I'm optimistic.
Mike Grunewald: Not feeling too great to be honest. Lots of vultures surrounding the program and Coach Al Golden’s regime and if you’re on social media you’re seeing it start to adversely affect the players attention. Is the criticism warranted? Yea, probably so we’ll have to see how they play in the make or break game of Al Golden’s coaching career at Miami.
Scott Salomon: I think Miami can win the game. This is more of a detriment to Florida State than it is an actual belief that Miami is at the top of their game. I do not think that FSU is all that good this season and have been lucky to maintain a perfect record. This might be the year that we beat them at their own game.
Devin Tucker: I'm feeling uneasy, but a bit accepting/confident at the same time. It's a very conflicting feeling because I know how Miami struggles against good teams, but they've shown up against FSU in recent years, and with FSU not looking great on offense, it gives me hope.
Craig T. Smith: I'm actually a little unsure. UM just got embarrassed and FSU just hasn't shown much offensively outside of Dalvin Cook, who remains a question mark for Saturday.
Chris Hayes: I always feel better going into big games. The Canes have shown they will play up to anybody's level over the past few years (unfortunately they also play down to mediocre teams). When FSU week comes up and add in the long losing streak against them, this team will play with a lot of emotion.
Q2: What have you seen from Miami to make you think the Canes will win?
Steinberg: Brad Kaaya and Joe Yearby are as good as any QB/RB tandem in the league. Corn Elder/Artie Burns are arguably the best CB duo in the league. There's clearly talent on this roster.
Underwood: Brad Kaaya is really good. Joseph Yearby and Mark Walton have found space and made many big plays (although several of Walton's didn't officially count due to penalties, but I saw them, and they still matter). The Receiving corps is deep and talented...and that's WITHOUT Stacy Coley, Braxton Berrios or Malcolm Lewis having contributed in any meaningful way so far. The Defensive Backs have been playing lights out. Deon Bush is the unquestioned leader, and Corn Elder is playing like a man possessed. Raphael Kirby has been solid at LB. And Trent Harris has made some plays up from. Oh, and Michael Badgley is good at kicking.
Pickens: Miami has confidence given how well the Canes played against FSU last year. The Canes running backs have had success this season and I expect that to continue. Brad Kaaya is capable of having a big game and Coley and Berrios being back healthy will help him. Miami is hungry to prove the Cincinnati loss won't define them. The players have rallied around each other and will embrace the underdog role.
Grunewald: When Miami is going well, everything is clicking. Play calling out schemes the competition, the play makers make plays and everything looks like a videogame on offense. The fact that FSU is probably the weakest they’ve been on offense in four years helps as well too. If the Canes can put together a full four quarters then they have a good shot of running away with this one. However, that’s probably extremely doubtful as the Canes have only done that a handful of times, most recently last year’s contest at Virginia Tech.
Salomon: Miami can win with ball control offense. If they can control the line of scrimmage and Yearby and Walton can hit the holes hard, that would go a long way toward Miami winning the game.
Tucker: Miami has athletes and players that can make plays, it just depends on if they will be allowed to. The offense is streaky and can do damage if they get FSU on their heals, so to me the outcome of the game will ultimately fall on the offense.
Smith: Miami has shown it can pound the ball and Joe Yearby, while not quite of the Cook ilk, has done an admirable job as the Canes' lead back. If good Miami OL shows up Saturday, Canes could create some offensive balance and set up play action, which might be the only way to beat this FSU secondary, what without a true game breaking WR. Pass protection has been pretty good this year, too.
Hayes: Deon Bush is back for a full game. When Deon Bush was in against Nebraska and Cincinnati the defense was lights out. As soon as he was ejected from the game against Nebraska (targeting), that is when the Nebraska made their comeback. In the first of the Cincinnati, he was still suspended and the Bearcats put up 24 points. As soon as Bush entered the game in the second half, the Bearcats were held scoreless and multiple three and outs. His presence and leadership makes this defense a lot better. He is the most important player on the team just barely behind Kaaya.
Q3: What have you seen from Miami that makes you think the Canes will lose?
Steinberg: Disorganization and penalties. They can't convert a third down and they do not maximize their potential. This team is awful at situation football
Underwood: Well, first of all, that piss poor effort against Cincinnati last Thursday night. Add in the terrible portions of other games (1st H at FAU, last 8 minutes vs NEB), and there's plenty that gives me substantial concerns. Outside of that, Miami has been flat out bad on the OL, worse at scoring TDs to end drives, and abjectly horrible on 3rd downs. Any 1 of those things can lead to a loss, but all 3? Man......that's a lot to overcome.
Pickens: Miami's 3rd down struggles and an inability to convert scoring opportunities into touchdowns. Halftime adjustments against FSU have been an issue in years past - Jimbo Fisher has been better than Miami's staff.
Grunewald: Well, there’s a lot. The offense seems to do 90% of things right per play but one player seems to mess up at the most penultimate moment possible (looking at you, offensive line). The defense seems to be back to their status quo of not getting much pressure on a quarterback and the zones… they’re everywhere…
Salomon: If Miami cannot control both lines of scrimmage, then they will have a long night. They must put pressure on Golson who has proven to be ineffective and he makes a lot of mistakes when rushed. If they do not get to him, FSU will use its speed to beat our linebackers and it will be a long night.
Tucker: FSU is better. Simple as that. Plus, Jimbo's play called always seems to be a step ahead. And that secondary is no joke, either.
Smith: Uh, where to start... Inconsistent push up front, disappearance of pass rush, game-changing penalties, and a coaching staff that can't make adjustments. Coaching stubbornness with ill-advised roster decisions.
Hayes: The youth of the offensive line. We saw it happen last week against Cincinnati. Some plays they looked great and others, the guard was five yards in the backfield. If the Cincinnati defensive line is able to do that, it might be a long night against FSU.
Q4: Who needs to step up for Miami to win?
Steinberg: Al Golden, Mark D'Onofrio, and James Coley. Put the best 11 on the field for every snap and have them in the best possible positions to succeed. Basically the opposite of last week.
Underwood: Coaches. Players. Offense. Defense. Special teams. Trainers. Ball boys. Water girls. In short...
Pickens: The offensive line needs to play better, the defensive line needs to get penetration, but, for me, it's all about Brad Kaaya on Saturday night. Miami is basically last in the nation on 3rd downs and that's not all on the coaches. 3rd down performance is one way to evaluate quarterbacks and, so far in 2015, Kaaya hasn't been good enough. Florida State's pass rush will be an issue on Saturday and it's time we see Kaaya extend a few plays and get out of trouble. I truly believe Brad Kaaya can be one of the best QBs in the nation. It's time for him to prove it on a big stage.
Grunewald: Kaaya needs to pull through and the offensive line needs to NOT commit penalties at the worst time possible like… I don’t know… in the redzone. Chad Thomas needs to go out there and be a man and show that a four star recruit can come to Miami and develop into not just an NFL talent but a college talent as well.
Salomon: The offensive line as a unit must step up and give the backs some running lanes and keep Kaaya's jersey clean.
Tucker: The coaches. We know what Miami players can do what. It's time for Golden & Co. to step and prove their worth. Let the nation know that Miami is for real.
Smith: It's always on the quarterback. Although Yearby needs to have a big game, Kaaya needs to be sharp, make the right calls at the line, and get UM in the right play. Defensively, the linebackers will have to make sure to avoid letting Cook break loose, if he goes. Obviously as Cook goes, so does FSU.
Hayes: The receiving core has to help Brad Kaaya complete passes and take pressure off the running game. It would be great to see Waters or Coley (if he's healthy) pull in 7 catches for 150 yards and two touchdowns. That type of production will open up the box for the Yearby to take advantage.
Q5: What about Florida State concerns you heading into this game?
Steinberg: If Dalvin Cook plays and is healthy, he is good enough to destroy Miami's D, even if they play up to their potential. He is awesome. I also worry about Everett Golson scrambling for first downs on third and long, and Jalen Ramsey making Kaaya's life difficult as a blitzer and in coverage.
Grunewald: FSU kind of reminds me of Miami before the Nebraska game. They’ve held back lots of their offense and gone vanilla on play designs. I think they pull out lots of things they haven’t shown yet.
Q6: What would a win against Florida State mean for the Miami Hurricanes Program?
Hayes: Would quiet people for a week and those that really want Golden out will say it was a down year for FSU. It is too bad because even with a win, their is so much venom right now, fans might not appreciate this.
Q7: How do you see the game playing out? (aka PREDICTION TIME)
Steinberg: FSU doesn't believe UM can beat them. Until Miami proves else wise, why should they? I like the Noles by a score of 27-14. It's just hard to imagine Miami coming into Doak fresh off last week's loss, and playing the inspired and efficient football they need to get the win. If Cook plays and is 100% the score could be a lot worse than this. Player for player, UM should be able to hang in. But Jimbo Fisher and his staff always seem to outfox Coach Golden and his staff and make the adjustments needed to get the win. Perhaps Kaaya and Yearby go off and the 'Canes get the upset. It seems like a long shot at this point though.
Underwood: I think Miami comes out strong early. I think we'll play with a lot of enthusiasm, and try our hardest. But, in the end, I just don't believe this team and this coaching staff has what it takes to win. I said this week multiple times that we have to beat FSU twice: we have to beat the mentality that they're invincible in this game, and we have to beat the team on the field. Last year, we beat the team on the field....for a time. But we couldn't beat that mentality and that's what they relied on for that comeback win. I want Miami to win. I want it so badly I can't put it into words. I just don't think it'll happen. FSU 30 Miami 20
Pickens: No official score prediction to avoid jinxing the Canes. I am taking Miami +9.5 tho.
Grunewald: I actually do think Miami has the same talent as FSU besides maybe the linebackers because of injuries but I doubt the coaching staff has figured out in 10 days how to utilize and or teach it how to overcome adversity in this environment they’re stepping into.
I see this game ending somewhere like 31-21, Noles and in so doing starting the beginning of the end of the Golden tenure and the start of guessing who the next coach at Miami will be.
Salomon: Miami wins 34-17. I see Yearby winning the battle of the Miami Central Running Backs and that he takes the game personally and puts the offense on his shoulders. Miami rattles Golson and he never gets uncorked.
Tucker: FSU will be too much in the end. It will look good in the first half, maybe into the fourth, but Miami won't have enough to pull this one out. Of course, I think it will be due to questionable calls/plays from Miami that will ultimately be the difference. 31-17 FSU
Smith: I'd love to pick the Canes here. But, Al Golden has shown time and again that he can't adjust when trailing (3-19 when trailing at the half), and more recently he can't hold a lead (FSU & NEB in past year). His teams have always lacked fundamental discipline, shooting themselves in the foot time and again. If you can hit chunk plays, you can make up for mistakes. UM just doesn't have that in the passing game this year, and especially not against a secondary as good as FSU's. The seat gets hotter, if that's possible. FSU 31-UM 20.
Hayes: Miami 27 - FSU 24, Michael Badgley with the game winner!