Saturday, October 6.
While the Canes have designs on a big season with double digit wins, and we know that every game in a season matters, this game, on the first Saturday in October, is one that means just a bit more.
As we look at our week 6 game, the rival Florida State Seminoles make their way to Hard Rock Stadium to take on the Canes. This, the first of two crossover games against ACC Atlantic division foes, is the biggest game of the year. Yeah, I know the opener vs LSU, yeah, I know “every game is important”. but let’s be real: this is the biggest game of the regular season.
In case you missed it — and how could you if you’re an SOTU reader — Miami beat Florida State 24-20 last year, breaking a 7 game losing streak to the Noles. What, you want highlights from last year’s game? Well here you go, fam!
OK. Now that we’ve looked into the past with Miami’s last second win in Tallahassee from last year, it’s time to look into the future with this matchup for this year.
Gone from Tallahassee is coach Jimbo Fisher. After an 83-23 tenure with the Noles, including a national championship, another college football playoff berth, and consistent top 5 recruiting classes, Fisher left for greener pastures and a bigger paycheck. Fisher agreed to a FULLY GUARANTEED 10 year, $75M contract with Texas A&M and bolted from FSU like a thief in the night.
Replacing Fisher is Willie Taggart. A program builder who took bottom feeders Western Kentucky and USF from doormat status to competitive, the Bradenton-native Taggart comes home to Florida after 1 year at Oregon. This is far and away the biggest job he’s ever had, and he’ll need to prove himself quickly.
Taggart will try to do so by employing his “Gulf Coast Offense”, a version of uptempo spread. SB Nation football writer Ian Boyd wrote this piece about Taggart’s offense, and how he figures to use it at FSU. Definitely worth a read, so you’re a bit familiar with what you’ll be seeing from the Noles on offense this year, as it’s QUITE different than what Fisher was running, especially from a tempo standpoint.
Speaking of FSU’s offense, there is a question about which QB will be starting for the Noles this year. redshirt junior Deondre Francois started in 2016 and played in the opener in 2017 before tearing his patella tendon and missing the remainder of the season. True sophomore James Blackman stepped in as a freshman and QB’d the Noles last year in a seaso that was less than what they, and their fans, expected.
With Francois back healthy, FSU has 2 options at QB who have each started a full season. That position battle will be one to watch in camp, and through the first part of the season. My money is on Francois starting, for the record.
Apart from the QB situation, FSU has plenty of blue chip talent at the skill positions. RB Cam Akers may be short, but he’s damn good. He put up 20 carries for 121 yards as a freshman against Miami last year, and he looks to have that level of performance or better this season. Jacques Patrick has been at FSU seemingly forever, and he’s back for another year in the backfield as well. Add Khalan Laborn, Zaquandre White, and Amir Rasul (remember him?), and FSU has plenty of options at RB.
At WR, Nyquan Murray, Keith Gavin, and George Campbell are the top options. Murray is the speed/explosive option of those 3, so look for him to get the ball in a number of ways. Gavin is big at 6’3” 225lbs and uses his size to his advantage. Campbell is the prototype at 6’4” 210lbs and can get open deep with ease, but has struggled with inconsistent hands. FSU has a bunch of younger guys at WR — namely RSFr Tamorrion Terry true frosh Warren Thompson — who look to improve on the Noles’ recent performance and player progression at that position.
FSU’s TEs are bad and have been bad for years. I still remember when Bud Elliott told me that Ryan Izzo — RYAN IZZO — would start over David Njoku and Christopher Herndon IV. LMAO. Pure comedy. And that being said.....Izzo would be a big upgrade over the group on the roster in Tallahassee now. So yeah.
(And before FSU fans come at me about Izzo’s TD last year, that came because a green Miami DB was out of position. So shut it already.)
Like Miami, Florida State’s offensive line could use improvement based on previous years. If they want to wait until other games than this one to make those steps forward, that would be great. The Gulf Coast offense, what with its zone blocking and zone-reads, may be helpful for them. Less man on man blocking could suit their skills better.
No matter what FSU fans might try to tell you about the talent being down on the roster, that’s not the case. Nearly every player I listed on offense was a blue chipper, and the same is true when you look at the defense.
FSU’s DL has several NFL-caliber athletes in that group. Players such as DEs Brian Burns and Josh Kaindoh and DT Demarcus Christmas are top talents who can disrupt any play. Miami’s OL will need to step up to deal with them, and their compatriots along the DL.
Dontavious Jackson is a very good LB but FSU will need to find some other players to join him in that position group.
FSU’s roster depth which I noted in several other positions can be seen at DB as well. AJ Westbrook returns for his senior year, and he’ll be looking to create a memory other than Ahmmon Richards DESTROYING him on this block last year.
Head on a swivel, kid.
CB Stanford Samuels III was a 5-star recruit. So was CB Levonta Taylor. So was CB Anthony Lytton. So was S Jaiden Woodbey. And that’s not even mentioning the 4-stars in the secondary who will see plenty of PT and/or start. Yeah, there’s plenty of talent in the FSU secondary, but they’ll need it to contend with Miami’s WRs and TEs.
There’s another Aguayo kicking for FSU too, just for clarity.
More important than the names I’ve listed, the plays I’ve shown, and the scheme I’ve discussed, is the fact that this is Miami-FSU. This game, rife with NFL talent and 2 of College Football’s legacy programs, is a showcase the likes of which is seldom seen.
These teams have players who have played with, and against, each other since the youngest optimist leagues. The fans are passionate on both sides, and family ties can be broken for a day based upon rooting allegiance. This game is HUGE.
Over recent years, players from both sides of this matchup have admitted to what we have seen for a long time: Miami and FSU play harder when they play each other. They care more, this game means more, especially for those players, on both teams, that are from Miami.
Short story long, Miami-FSU is a rite of passage for those who are fortunate enough to grace the field in this game. And the 2018 installment of this game should be premium television — or viewing for those of us who will be at HRS on October 6th.
I’ve written lots about Miami on this site (and will continue to do so) so that’s why I focused on the opponent for this game preview. With Miami having FINALLY gotten off the schnide against the Noles last year, they’ll look to keep that momentum going in the pursuit of a 2nd consecutive ACC Coastal Championship.
But, even without a Coastal Division Championship, a win against the hated Noles will be a great thing to see. By 1 point or a million, as long as Miami comes out on top, I’ll be good with it. Oh, and Miami is an early 5.5 point favorite in this game, so do with that what you will.
Saturday, October 6.
Hard Rock Stadium.