Welcome back to rivalry week! The Miami Hurricanes face off against the rival Florida State Seminoles for the 2018 installment of the series between the teams. And, with Miami-FSU on deck, we convened the SOTU crew for our annual roundtable discussion about, well, pretty much everything heading into the game.
Here starts part 1 of our 3 part look at Miami-FSU. Part 2 runs tomorrow, with part 3, our game predictions, up for Friday.
QUESTION 1: Miami is 4-1 so far this season and on a 4 game winning streak. How are you feeling heading into the showdown against FSU on Saturday?
Cam Underwood: I feel good. The team has come together to rebound from the LSU loss, and displayed dominance vs teams they should have dominated. Sure, a couple games had closer scores than we may have liked (looking at you, FIU game), but Miami’s elite talent at the top of the roster is playing like it, and the defense is NAAAAAASTY (which I mean as the highest of praise). The ONLY thing I’d like would be a healthy Ahmmon Richards. But otherwise, I love everything about where this team is right now.
Evan Hadrick: I am feeling confident that the Canes are rounding into form and should take care of business against FSU. The defense is playing lights out right now, so that should help N’Kosi Perry and the offense time to continue meshing.
Matt Washington: Miami is trending in an upward trajectory since the season opener. Even though FSU has struggled in the early portion of the season, they still represent an intriguing challenge for the Canes. It’s a rivalry game and matchup that serves as a benchmark approaching the half way mark of the regular season.
John Camera: I think Miami is in a really good spot right now. The running game has started to find it’s groove and the passing game is dangerous, especially as Jeff Thomas, Mike Harley and Brevin Jordan are asserting themselves as true weapons (Cager has also upped his game this season)/ This offense should keep humming. The defense is really rounding into form as well and the defensive line especially is getting better each week.
Gaby Urrutia: I said after LSU that Miami just needed a win, even if it was against Savannah State, to get the ship going again. They got it and they have been playing at an extremely high level ever since. You have to love where Miami is at right now heading into this matchup.
Marshall Thomas: With the direction that the two programs are headed at the moment, and the fact the game is at Hard Rock, I feel pretty confident. That being said, its Miami-FSU, anything could happen. Though I feel like our offense is finally heading in the right direction, and our defense is just too good for the Noles offense.
Dylan Sherry: I’ll never feel relaxed during Florida State week, but I think Miami’s players and coaching staff are in a solid, confident place right now. A lack of enthusiasm and effort definitely won’t be the case for the 2 teams on Saturday, as the ‘Canes know how much lies on the result of this contest.
Kevin Fielder: If you had asked me 5 weeks ago after the LSU game, I would have been nervous. However, after a 4 game win streak, the nerves have turned to optimism with some cautiousness because of the rivalry implications with this game.
Craig T. Smith: Cautiously optimistic. I think the Canes have the talent edge but am aware that this is a grudge match.
QUESTION 2: Miami finally made a QB change last week, switching from Malik Rosier to N’Kosi Perry under center. What are your feelings about this move? How do you think this move will affect the offense this week and into the future?
Underwood: If you’ve read SOTU anytime since, IDK, mid-2016, you know that I’ve been a strong proponent of Perry for Miami’s QB spot. I’ve long held that he is the most talented player Miami has at this position, and am very excited for him to finally get the chance to play.
I love the move to Perry. Love it, love it, LOVE IT! I think the offense will be more efficient and equally if not more explosive (due to the increased efficiency) with a player of Perry’s talent and developing skill. I thank Malik Rosier for what he did bridging the gap from Brad Kaaya to N’Kosi Perry, but there was always an expiration date on him starting for Miami. I’m glad Mark Richt finally made the move to go from average to potentially great at QB, and I think Miami will be better for it.
Hadrick: I love the move to Perry, but I also love how Rosier handled it. Perry’s superior arm talent will allow the offense to fully utilize our wealth of talent at receiver. I also feel like Malik Rosier is a great backup to have.
Washington: Fair or not, Malik Rosier fielded plenty of blame based on his play or lack thereof. It was getting toxic, with the fanbase turning on the QB despite teammates having his back. With Perry named the starter, the offense has been sparked by his presence and production. Fans can live with Perry making some rookie mistakes here and there, in addition to the Hurricanes defense dominate as of late. Perry can mask some of the issues along the offensive line for UM, possessing the composure of a player that has more game experience than he currently does. Considering that Perry can only improve moving forward, the future is so bright that it’s pleasantly blinding.
Camera: This was a change that was long overdue, as I had wanted to see Perry get the starting gig going into Week 1. I wish Kosi had gotten in there sooner and had more starting experience heading into such an important game but last week, even with 12 pass attempts, he proved he can run this offense better than anyone on the roster. The Canes offense is no longer one dimensional and against a team like FSU, they need to be able to threaten that defense with the run and pass.
Urrutia: N’Kosi Perry gives the offense a spark that we just did not see with Rosier. He is able to move outside the pocket and still make plays with his arm that Rosier simply couldn’t. Perry brought new life to Miami’s offense and I believe we will see the fruits of his labor in full capacity Saturday afternoon.
Thomas: I’m grateful for everything Malik did for us, but its apparent that this change needed to happen. I think playing N’Kosi is the best move for our future, and we’ll see how prepared he is for his first FSU start of his career.
Sherry: Richt’s decision to finally let go of Malik was a bold, and genius move. Starting a young, more talented quarterback over an experienced veteran is a new trend in college football; but more importantly, it’s a successful one. I’m glad that Richt is on the bandwagon, as N’Kosi has refreshed the entire offense, and has given them a new, higher ceiling.
Fielder: I’m feeling great switching from Rosier to Perry. No offense to Rosier but Perry is the better player with more strength and potential. I think the offense over the next few weeks will reach its full potential of scoring over 45 points in most games.
Smith: Watching the team respond so energetically and efficiently with Perry in the game further reinforces that him starting was the right decision by Richt. The one thing I worry about Perry more than Rosier is making a bad read, but if a guy is streaking open, I’m more confident in Perry getting him the ball...not to mention what he can do as a runner. Thus, the chance for more impact, chunk plays going forward.
QUESTION 3: Does Florida State’s scuffling (3-2 record, massive OL struggles, other unimpressive statistics) change how you feel about the Seminoles potential heading into this game?
Underwood: Kinda. I thought FSU would leverage their immense talent — and don’t let anybody lie to you, their roster is VERY talented — to success, at least early in the year. Instead, things have gone the other way, and if we’re being honest, FSU is very lucky to be 3-2 and could EASILY be 1-4 if Samford didn’t run out of gas, and if Louisville doesn’t make THE STUPIDEST PLAY CALL EVER.
So, I think things for FSU have gone differently than I thought they would, so that changes how I view them, because they’re not playing how I envisioned they would. Even still, I liked Miami’s chances against the Noles in the preseason and that part of things has not changed.
Hadrick: FSU will be riding a high after their comeback win over Louisville. Whether that’s enough to truly make this a game, I’m not so sure about. I do believe FSU could play their best game of the season this week.
Washington: I don’t buy into the record that much. The Noles have not been living their best life to start the season, but there’s something about this rivalry that gives the feeling of this game being closer than it should. Keep in mind, six of the last seven meetings have been decided by a touchdown or less.
Camera: This could be the first time, in a loooong time, where Miami has a legit chance to blow the Noles out of the building. Do I think it will happen? Likely not; this matchup is always close and even when Miami has been a bad team, they have kept their matchups with FSU close. But I do think that, if Miami fires on all cylinders, they can put the team from Tallahassee away early.
Urrutia: In a rivalry game you usually toss out the records and the stats, but Florida State’s struggles are simply too large to overlook. Their weakness’ are our strengths and that gives me confidence that Miami can dominate this game. The Seminoles are clearly talented on paper, but the coaching seems sub-par at best.
Thomas: It does at least for the 2018 season, I think this season is going to end up being a long one under Willie Taggart. However, we can’t forget just how much talent FSU has, and with the right coaching, they’ll be right back in contending in the nation.
Sherry: None whatsoever. Miami will always receive Florida State’s best, vice versa. This game is played on pride, not on stats or records. If Florida State was 0-4, then maybe so, but that will most likely never be the case. A victory against Louisville has given them more confidence, but even that has little significance to me, as Florida State will still play a better game against us than they did last Saturday.
Fielder: No, the Seminoles struggles does not change my opinion on the team. The Miami-FSU rivalry means more and players will play at 120% on both sides. Overall, FSU will compete with Miami, even if they shouldn’t.
Smith: Nope. Throw everything out. This is going to be a fight, as it has been at home for the past few matchups.
QUESTION 4: Miami finally got over the hump and ended a 7 year losing streak to FSU last year. What will Miami need to do to beat their rivals again this year?
Underwood: Keep on doing what we’ve been doing. Stifling defense. Solid running game. Improving and explosive passing game. As I wrote before the year, as long as Miami does what Miami needs to do, we’ll win games, including this one. So, basically, don’t come apart at the seams like we did against LSU, and we’ll win. Pretty simple, IMO.
Hadrick: If the Turnover Chain comes out early, this game could be over quick. Otherwise, the offense just needs to move down the field with some regularity like the first half of last week’s game against UNC. The defense should be enough to contain FSU’s offense, but they’ll need to a better job defending against QB runs with Deondre Francois under center.
Washington: On offense, Miami needs to take shots down the field, specifically in the deep middle. FSU has struggled all year on seam routes, blowing assignments or stuck in two-deep coverage that has led to giving up huge yardage. Meaning that Saturday could see the evolution of N’Kosi. For that to happen, Miami needs to keep DE Brian Burns at bay. Burns has the talent to stifle UM’s gameplan all on his own, and should be chipped as often as possible. On defense, it comes down to two words; communication and containment. Miami’s defensive secondary needs to be locked in to their assignment with the various route concepts for the Seminoles. UM’s DBs need to be on the same page for the entire game if they expect to walk away with the W. The containment refers to Miami’s front-seven, who need to limit RB Cam Akers from breaking out this week. As a freshman Akers rushed for career-high 121 yards against the Hurricanes in debut to the feud. The defense will need to account for motions and jet/fly sweeps that the Noles will employ in order to slow down an aggressive Canes defense.
Camera: They need to not beat themselves. It’s simple as that. FSU has talent at most positions but aren’t coached all that well this season. If Miami doesn’t commit stupid penalties and turnovers, they will come away with their second straight victory over the Seminoles.
Urrutia: Miami just needs to play their game. If the Hurricanes go out and play the way they are capable of playing then they win. It is that simple. Don’t turn the ball over and wreak havoc of defense.
Thomas: Several things, but establishing the running game and taking advantage of the Seminoles offensive line struggles are the two biggest things. Also, not letting the emotion of the game get the best of you, play with your mind more than your heart. This’ll be key for N’Kosi, stay calm and deliver accurate passes.
Sherry: Miami needs to come out firing, and keep their foot on the gas. Mark Richt is a moral man, and never tries to run up the score, but Florida State is a different entity. Any chance of a comeback will be taken by them.
Fielder: Much like other weeks, Miami will have to win the turnover battle and play as mistake-free as possible on both sides. Even with how good the defense is, you want to let your offense dictate the game and control the time of possession battle or the game could get out of hand.
Smith: Harass Francois and win at the point of attack on defense. Miami should have the edge in the trenches when FSU has the ball. They have to overwhelm FSU’s underperforming line, make running lanes disappear for Akers and put Francois in obvious passing downs.
QUESTION 5: What is your initial impression of Willie Taggart as FSU’s head coach?
Underwood: The sound bytes are fine, because you have to say something to explain when your team isn’t playing well, but it doesn’t seem like he has the range. I know he’s installing his system, and “getting his guys” in there.....but those are things that Al Golden said at Miami, and we see how that turned out. Maybe Taggart gets a generational talent or two to play for him at FSU and that helps him win games. But, absent that, he’s looking exactly how I though a coach with a career losing record would look leading the Noles.
Hadrick: My initial impression is that the FSU players have not fully bought in yet. Taggart’s style is eccentric enough to fall on deaf ears with established players, but I expect their performance to become a little more consistent next year and going forward. I’m not convinced they’re on a path back towards the prominence of the Jameis Winston-era.
Washington: Yikes! Do we have to say more? Outside of football, I don’t know if I would personally buy into what he’s selling. It’s his first season in Tallahasse, but former head coach Jimbo Fisher didn’t leave the cupboards bare. The talent is there, and the team appears to be going through an adjustment period. Though nobody should adjust to the Turnover Bag, that thing is beyond lame.
Camera: Prior to the season, I thought it was a great move. Getting his start at USF, he really built the program from the ground up and took them to two straight bowls. Oregon was a colossal failure and I thought with Taggart back in the state of Florida, he’d be better. That hasn’t proven to be the case and his time with USF looks more like a fluke with each passing week. Perhaps the spotlight is just too big for him ala Al Golden.
Urrutia: Unimpressed. Hype machine. Overrated. Lethal Simplicity is only lethal to those watching the game and dying from boredom.
Thomas: Not very good. Though we hate them, we have to respect FSU as a premier team in college football. The vibe surrounding the program is a little too laid back, and the discipline that Jimbo and Bobby Bowden installed just isn’t there.
Sherry: I respect Taggart for his career before moving to Oregon, but I was never impressed with him at the Power 5 level. The thought of him leading them to greatness in his first season was ridiculous to me, and it’s been proven that they’re not ready to return to stages like the ACC Championship Game. That’s also why Saturday’s game is so important though, as a win over their ranked rivals would give them momentum, and vital confidence.
Fielder: My initial feelings on Taggart is a disappointing mood but also no surprises. I didn’t think Taggart was fit to take the FSU job but the Seminoles struggles mean less national lore to the rivalry.
Smith: Over his head, at least right now. It’s hard to say how he can handle the pressure of leading a major program, as he left Oregon so quickly. He’s a fine offensive coach, but does he have his team’s attention after this awful start? Winning at Louisville might have helped that.
That’s it for the 1st part of our roundtable. Be sure you hop in the comments and keep the conversation going.
Be sure you check back tomorrow for the 2nd part of our roundtable tomorrow morning.