As part of the dwindling offseason, SOTU will preview each game on the Canes' schedule. During the season there will be much more in-depth previews the week before each game, but these will serve to get you ready for what is to come. Enjoy!
Miami finally has a real coach heading into the Biggest game of the Year
I'll keep this short: this was the game that really proved the Miami job was too big for Al Golden. Time and time again, his Canes weren't able to beat the Seminoles.
Now, Miami has a proven coach in Mark Richt, who comes in with more than 140 wins to his credit in his career. For Miami, hopefully this will portend good things (i.e. a return to wins over FSU) in this series.
Also, and this matters, this will be one of the biggest weeks for recruiting for Miami in the 2017 cycle. There are other good teams coming to New Miami Stadium (yeah, that's what we're calling it now) in the 2016 season, but none have the profile of FSU. So, if there's a game to bring recruits in for an official visit, or for local HSFB players to use their 1 complementary ticket to attend, this is the game. And, if you didn't know, the recruiting aspect matters because that's how you build a team. Want better players? Recruit better. Want to recruit better? A good showing and hopefully a win against FSU in front of hundreds of recruits in person and millions of viewers on TV will go a long way.
What was once a sizable series lead for Miami over FSU has become much closer in recent years. Florida State is currently riding a 6 game winning streak against the Canes, and have drawn close on the overall record.
Not long ago, Miami had a healthy 8 game edge in the head to head matchup at 31-23 after the win in 2009. But entering this year, the Canes only have a 2 game lead with a 31-29 overall record against FSU. That 6 game winning streak matters.
There have been many classic games in this series, with epic wins on both sides. The latest installment of the rivalry was a 29-24 FSU win last October in Tallahassee. Highlights below:
For Florida State, it starts on offense. The Seminoles are loaded with 4-star and 5-star recruits at every position. They return a majority of their offensive line from 2015, and they still have Dalvin Cook at RB. Head Coach Jimbo Fisher calls the plays, and favors a pro-style offense. He will look to exploit mismatches, however. And, you can count on wrinkles to the gameplan. We saw that last year when FSU busted out the option for the first time all season against Miami.
The question for FSU is who will be the QB? Returning starter Sean McGuire is a serviceable player, but doesn't have the high-end talent they've put out there in previous years. Diondre Francois is unproven as a Redshirt Freshman, but his ceiling is much higher than McGuire's. The offense will probably be similar with either player at QB, but who will play remains to be seen.
On defense, FSU might be the most loaded team in America. Yes, some of the names may be new, but when the roster is littered with top tier HS recruits year after year, there's no shortage of talent to choose from to replace the outgoing players.
For Miami, there's very good top end talent on the roster with the starters, but the depth isn't as great as it could be. This isn't going to be a "try out this new guy" kind of game. The starters, who should be established by this point on both sides of the ball, will play the vast majority of the snaps.
Players to Watch
RB Dalvin Cook. If you don't know him now, then I don't know what to tell you. 5-star recruit out of Miami Central HS (he was a teammate of Joseph Yearby). Heisman Trophy Finalist. Arguably the best RB in America. Nearly 1700 yards and 19 TDs rushing, and nearly 250 yards and 1 TD receiving put Cook among the most productive players in the Country. He's basically single-handedly beaten Miami in each of the last 2 years. So yeah. He matters.
S Derwin James. This kid is a freak. He can line up in a number of positions on defense, and is every bit the 5-star player he was billed to be as a recruit. Hardcore CFB fans know him already, but James will be a household name by the time this game rolls around.
WR Travis Rudolph. Another South Florida native, Rudolph is the top WR for the Seminoles. He's very athletic and developing his skills well so far in his career. He's yet to have a big game against Miami, but the talent is there for him to do so.
QB Sean McGuire or Diondre Francois. I've mentioned them already, but it's worth repeating. FSU will look to choose a QB to lead them this season, and these are the prime contenders for this position in my opinion. Whichever one plays will obviously have a big hand in this game.
I don't care what anybody says, this is the biggest game on schedule. This year. Next year. Every year. Contrary to what the previous Miami coach said, this game DOES matter more than the others.
This game is about bragging rights. This game pits friends, and relatives, and former teammates against each other. The level of familiarity between the teams is high because Miami and FSU recruit largely from the same pool of players. This isn't a random game vs West Texas State A&T. This is a game against that dude you played Optimist with. This is a revival of HS rivalries and battles. This game is so much more than just 1 game.
Miami and Florida State always play close games. When you look at the recent past, even though Miami hasn't been able to secure a win, the margins were only 4pts and 5pts in the last 2 years. Add on top of that a lead heading into the 4th Quarter in the game at SunLife Stadium back in 2012, that's 3 of the last 4 years with a very winnable game for Miami. No, I'm not saying it's okay that we lost close. I'm saying the games were close. Nothing more.
This game is why you come to Miami. It's why you go to Florida State. This is the game that fuels you through summer workouts. This is the game that gets your blood pumping the moment you think about it.
Santana Moss famously said "big time players step up in big games." For Miami and Florida State, there's no game bigger than the one they'll play on October 8th at New Miami Stadium.
This is a game you'll remember for the rest of your life.
This is the game that creates legacies.