"What's wrong with being confident?" - Demi Lovato
At the start of the season, Miami was being projected as a 7-win team in Las Vegas. The Canes were unranked, young, and dealing with a new coaching staff. Florida State was thought of as a playoff favorite. After very successful recruiting classes under Jimbo Fisher, FSU's overall roster was consistently praised for depth and talent this offseason. What a difference a month makes.
Florida State is 3-2 after losing ACC games to Louisville and North Carolina. FSU was embarrassed by Lamar Jackson and helped launch his Heisman campaign. The Seminoles have two aspirations every season according to Fisher - to win the ACC and to win the national championship. After a tough month, both of those dreams are gone. FSU fans are blaming defensive coordinator Charles Kelly for the team's struggles, with his unit leading the nation in big plays allowed (20+ yards). The loss of safety Derwin James to injury has been even more significant that most people expected.
The Canes have played nearly perfect football so far this season. Miami is near the top nationally in numerous statistical categories. Sitting at 4-0 and ranked 10th, Mark Richt is already a hero in Miami. Fans have dramatically ramped up their confidence levels, and expectations for this season are now sky high. FSU has looked vulnerable and the Canes have dominated every opponent. Miami is favored by 3 and is now expected to win. Herbstreit and Fowler are on the call and this showdown will have better ratings than Kaine vs Pence. Every writer that covers the sport, both locally and nationally, has already written an article scheduled to publish at 11:59pm when Miami finally beats Florida State. They will all be titled the same way: "The U is Back."
"The cautious seldom err." - Confucius
I used the cover photo for this article for a reason. It shows Frank Gore running against Florida State at the Orange Bowl in 2004, the last time the Canes beat the Noles in Miami. I was in Tallahassee in 2009 when Jacory Harris led Miami to victory over Florida State. Had you told me that night that FSU would win the next six meetings, I would've laughed in your face. The Noles have dominated this rivalry recently so don't be lulled into a false sense of security this week. I feel good about Miami's chances to win, but approaching the game with cautious optimism is far better than overconfidence.
After two September losses, Florida State is now being underrated. The FSU SBNation site Tomahawk Nation put out an interesting piece this week, showing that while FSU's defense clearly has issues, the weaknesses were exposed as a result of playing a brutal early schedule. Florida State has already played UNC, Ole Miss, Louisville, and South Florida. Miami's toughest tests came on the road against App State and Georgia Tech, two teams that would probably be underdogs against all four of FSU's FBS opponents. If FSU had faced Miami's schedule, a 4-0 start would be the most likely outcome. I love how Miami's freshmen linebackers have played, but facing Dalvin Cook is a whole different challenge. Miami will face more NFL players on Saturday night that it's seen in the first four games combined.
MIAMI -3 vs Florida State - 8pm - ABC
Mark Richt's experience as a head coach will be crucial on Saturday night. In recent years, Al Golden and Randy Shannon were overmatched on the sidelines in this rivalry. FSU has a tendency to fall behind early, but is always a threat to mount a comeback with Jimbo Fisher's innate ability to adjust at halftime. Florida State's defense was repeated exposed by Ole Miss, Louisville, and UNC. Expect Mark Richt to use Stacy Coley in the slot to create mismatches. David Njoku will be a key player for the Canes on Saturday night. Ole Miss TE Evan Engram had a huge night downfield in the season opener against the Noles, and that was with Derwin James on the field.
As good as Miami's defense has been, don't be surprised if the Canes give up 28 points on Saturday night. The over/under is 64.5 so this game is expected to be high scoring. Florida State's offense has too much talent to be held down all game. Dalvin Cook was the difference maker in this rivalry in 2014 and 2015 and young QB Deondre Francois has looked the part of a star quarterback at times. Miami's defense must hold FSU to field goal attempts to have a chance to win. Ricky Aguayo has attempted 14 field goals in four games against FBS opponents. FSU's inability to finish drives proved costly in the loss to UNC.
The Canes' offensive line has played well this season and managed to stay healthy. Communication will be critical when trying to slow down FSU's star DE Demarcus Walker. Miami will try to maintain balance on offense, featuring a heavy dose of Walton and Yearby. That being said, this game will come down to the play of Brad Kaaya. Mock drafts have Kaaya going high in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. It's time for him to live up to those projections and stake his claim as one of the best quarterbacks in the nation. Big plays will be available downfield in this matchup. This is his opportunity.
I expect a close game throughout, with the Canes winning by a touchdown. A win against FSU to break the streak would be monumental for this program. I keep seeing fans calling for a blowout, but would urge those people to stay confident yet cautious. I picked Miami -3, but a one-point win would be thrilling enough for me.
Yet another disappointing Saturday for my picks. I badly need a winning week to gain some momentum. Many of you probably just saw my overall record and immediately panicked because I'm taking Miami on Saturday night. Don't worry, I have dominated the ACC all season. The Big Ten is another story.....
Since it’s Miami FSU week, I don’t expect many readers to be excited about learning why I picked Tulsa or New Mexico or Wyoming. I haven’t been winning and I already wrote an essay about the game Saturday night. Maybe simply listing my picks will turn my luck around. If you have questions about a specific game, feel free to ask in the comments.
For everyone impacted by Hurricane Matthew this week, stay safe. Hopefully college football will be a nice distraction on Saturday. Go Canes.
TEXAS A&M -7 vs Tennessee - 330pm
USC -4.5 vs Colorado - 4pm
WASHINGTON -9 at Oregon - 730pm
KENTUCKY -3 vs Vanderbilt - 4pm
WESTERN KENTUCKY -2.5 at Louisiana Tech - 8pm
MEMPHIS -10 vs Temple - 8pm
CLEMSON -17 at Boston College - 730pm
TULSA -16.5 vs Smu - 8pm
NEW MEXICO +17 vs Boise State - 9pm
PENN STATE +1.5 vs Maryland - 12pm
MINNESOTA +1.5 vs Iowa - 12pm
OKLAHOMA -10 vs Texas - 12pm
NOTRE DAME +2.5 at NC State - 12pm
LSU -3 at Florida - 12pm
WYOMING +10.5 vs Air Force - 330pm
ILLINOIS -10.5 vs Purdue - 330pm
DUKE -4 vs Army - 330pm
ARKANSAS +14 vs Alabama - 7pm
TEXAS TECH +8 at Kansas State - 7pm
GEORGIA -7 at South Carolina - 730pm
UTAH -10 vs Arizona - 10pm
ARIZONA STATE +10 vs Ucla - 1030pm