The game of the year for the Miami Hurricanes is early in our countdown and early in the season.
At Florida State.
The stage is set for the next chapter...— Canes Football (@CanesFootball) May 25, 2017
Canes vs. Noles | 9.16.17 | ABC | 8 pm pic.twitter.com/oqLHll4U2X
There isn’t much for me to say that isn’t already known. ESPN previously announced that the game will be nationally broadcast in primetime (much to the chagrin of Clemson and Louisville fans, whose game, while impressive, got bumped for the elite national brand of UM-FSU). And, this is a rivalry game. Both teams give their best in this game, every year, period.
For Miami, it’s been 7 years of losses to FSU. Everybody knows that. FSU fans will trumpet that ad naseum. But, that’s a right they’ve earned by virtue of their wins. I just wanted to get that out of the way because we know that.
Now, for the 2017 game, FSU brings back QB Deondre Francois. He’s a tough and rugged player who took plenty of punishment from the Canes’ front 7 last year, but made enough plays to win the game. That wheel route to Dalvin Cook was a huge play for the Seminoles, and a back breaker for Miami.
Outside of Francois, FSU replaces a ton of skill position talent. Gone are all-world RB Dalvin Cook — who basically beat Miami single handedly each of the last 3 years — and WR Travis Rudolph. Replacing Cook will be RBs Jacques Patrick and much ballyhooed freshman Cam Akers, among others. Seminole fans are quick to anoint Akers, saying he’s as good as Cook was last year OR BETTER, but that’s a bit premature. He’s a great talent, sure, but a freshman better RIGHT NOW that the all-time leading rusher in FSU history? That’s crazy. Stop being crazy.
FSU always recruits WRs well....they just don’t do anything when they’re in Tallahassee. So, there’s plenty of 4-star and 5-star talent at the position (Auden Tate, George Campbell, DJ Matthews, Keith Gavin, Da’vante Phillips, et al), but the production of that talent leaves much to be desired. Well, not for me, cuz I’m a Miami fan. Their lack of production is a great thing, in my humble opinion.
On the defensive side of things, FSU is stacked. Absolutely loaded. Their DL is deep and talented. Their LBs are good. And their DBs are stellar. It’s basically everything you want in a defense.
When singling out players on defense, one must start with S Derwin James. He missed the majority of the 2016 season with an injury, but he’s a freak. He can play OLB, S, or CB, and FSU will walk him around into all of those places. He is a player who, if given the chance, will take over a game by himself. He’s the best S to play at FSU in many years. He’s very good. And Miami will be wise to account for him on every snap.
Joining James in the secondary is CB Tarvarus McFadden. After an FBS-leading 8 interceptions in 2016 — including a big on vs Miami last year (my GOD that was a terrible throw by Brad) — McFadden has a top tier reputation as a cover corner, and the production to back it up.
Freshman All-American DE Brian Burns is long, lean, and fast off the edge. He had 9.5 sacks in his freshman year, and will look to up that number this season. At the point of attack, Burns is one of several DL that Miami needs to pay attention to.
Lastly, LB Matthew Thomas has finally moved past the discipline and injury issues that held him back early in his FSU career to display the 5-star talent that made him one of the most highly sought after recruits in the 2013 cycle.
NOW, I know you’re saying “CAM! THIS IS SOTU!! TALK ABOUT THE CANES!!!”
And I hear you.
Our resident coach Justin Dottavio wrote this piece about some of the X’s and O’s we could see when Miami and FSU battle on the field. So, that’s a good place to start.
As the cover picture shows, RB Mark Walton will be a key to Miami’s success vs FSU. Walton has notoriously struggled vs top P5 competition, but there are scheme and blocking issues that have been part of that problem as well. In his junior year, Walton will most definitely look to have his best game against FSU, and in doing so, hopefully propel Miami to a long awaited victory.
The Canes’ defense has, in my mind, the best front 7 in America. And this is when they’re going to have to prove that. The DL — Joe Jackson, Chad Thomas, Kendrick Norton, RJ McIntosh, Trent Harris, Demetrius Jackson, Anthony Moten, Gerald Willis, Jonathan Garvin, D.J. Johnson, Pat Bethel, Scott Patchan — is DEEP with talent. Against a questionable FSU Offensive Line, Miami’s DL will need to dominate this matchup.
Miami’s trio of LBs — Shaq Quarterman, Zach McCloud, and Michael Pinckney — are as good a group as you’ll find anywhere in America. They are all dynamic playmakers and will need to prove that vs FSU. The run support of this trio is elite, but they can be hurt in pass coverage at times (such as was the case on that Cook wheel route TD last year). Hopefully they’re working on that during the offseason.
The question for Miami is the secondary. Having lost many players, the Canes will rebuild the defensive backfield. Newcomers Dee Delaney, Jhavonte Dean, Amari Carter, and Trajan Bandy will join with returners Jaquan Johnson, Sheldrick Redwine, and Malek Young to slow down FSU. While Delaney and Dean are coming to Miami from FCS and JUCO, respectively, they haven’t played in a game of this magnitude.
I saved the most important question for Miami until last: who is going to play QB? This is only game 3 of the year, so whoever it is will be playing in their first big game at Miami. RS JR Malik Rosier has played in games before, leading Miami to a win at Duke in 2015. RS Soph Evan Shirreffs has yet to play, but is tied with Rosier atop the depth chart at current. And Freshman N’Kosi Perry is, without a doubt, the most talented of the players at the QB position, but he’s only been on campus for about a month at the time of this article, and will be playing in only his 3rd collegiate game should he see time against FSU.
The QB situation is the key for Miami. Perry was Mark Richt’s hand selected QB of the future in the 2017 recruiting class, but he’ll only get experience vs Bethune-Cookman and Arkansas State before facing FSU. And, even if he does get experience in those first 2 games, I find it hard to believe that Miami will hand over the keys to Perry so early in the season. I would expect to see a multiple-QB system featuring one of Rosier or Shirreffs along with Perry in this game.
Miami and FSU is a good matchup. Both teams have tons of talent, a strong desire to beat the other team, and season-long goals that can take a big step forward with a win in this rivalry game.
There’s really nothing left to say. The FSU game is, without question, the biggest game of the year for the Miami Hurricanes, and a win — a first in the last 8 years — would be HUGE.
Are there other games on the schedule? Yes.
Are there other games on the schedule that matter? Yes.
Are there other games to win that will help Miami reach their overtly stated goals? yes
Is there another game that matters as much as the FSU game? No.
That’s how I feel about it. Let me know how YOU feel about it in the comments below.