Welcome back to rivalry week! The Miami Hurricanes face off against the rival Florida State Seminoles for the 2019 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 4-4 so far this season and coming off a hard-fought win at Pittsburgh. How are you feeling heading into the showdown against FSU on Saturday?
Cam Underwood: I feel okay, but not great. Miami has found a way to lose several games they shouldn’t have so far this year, so that potential is still there in my brain. BUT, things may have turned with last week’s players only team meeting, so it’s not all bad. And, both Miami and FSU bring their best performance to this game yearly, regardless of the records heading into this week, so that’s positive, too. And, we’ve beaten the Noles the last 2 years, and that always feels good.
Marshall Thomas: I’m feeling a lot better than I would be if Miami was 3-5, but that’s a given. The defense is really starting to hit its mark, I just hope the offense can help out a little bit.
Justin Dottavio: Not good. There’s no consistency in execution, the offense can’t put up points and I don’t trust the kicking game or run defense.
Gaby Urrutia: I feel good about the fact that this team is not going to go down without a fight. Yes, they’ve lost a few tight ones to teams they shouldn’t have. But if you look around the country, you see teams losing by more points in one game than Miami has lost by in four. I’m optimistic that the Canes will play a really tough game.
John Camera: I’m feeling like this might as well be the biggest game that Miami will play the rest of the way. While Miami isn’t technically out of the running for the Coastal title, it isn’t looking very good. Beating FSU would be a real fun and bright spot in an otherwise turbulent season.
John Michaels: Feeling better coming off a win, but still puzzled as to what’s going on with this team. They’ve shown the ability to beat decent teams in Virginia and Pitt, yet lost to Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and UNC who were all beatable. I wish Miami could find some consistency.
KappaCane: I’m ever the optimist, so I’m cautiously optimistic. In keeping with the theme this season, I think with us playing on the road as an underdog we will find a way to pull out the win. We’ve won the games we shouldn’t and lost the games we should win. I see this as Bizzaro world consistency.
Carl Bleich: Less than confident. Nothing Miami has done this season makes me confident in the Hurricanes’ ability to win on the road in the ACC. Willie Taggart needs this win to flip the script and help save his job and he had Florida State more than ready to come play at Hard Rock Stadium last season.
Dylan Goldman: I feel cautiously optimistic. I’m thrilled that Miami came away with a road win on Saturday in a game where they really didn’t play well, and the resolve they showed was impressive. However, that doesn’t absolve the Canes of the below average play they’ve shown most of the season. Between the inconsistency of the quarterback position and sometimes the overall defense, as well as the subpar offensive line, the Canes still have a lot of questions to answer. But entering a rivalry game coming off a win makes me feel much better than a loss.
Kevin Fielder: Obviously, the Hurricanes are coming off a win and have some momentum coming in but even their win wasn’t pretty. It needed another QB change, some luck and another strong defensive performance. As a result, I’m not feeling as hopeful as I should. The Hurricanes haven’t been great this year and need to be better to beat FSU.
Candis McLean: With both teams at 4-4, the confidence level for both fan bases is not at an all-time high. The inconsistencies on offense make it hard to gauge which Hurricanes squad we’ll get each week. But it’s FSU Hate Week so regardless of the question marks, the Canes better win!
Dylan Sherry: I’m worried, to be completely honest. Miami is developing a habit of scraping out wins when their season is on the line. If simply making a bowl game is their goal by the end of the year, this game is important, but it isn’t the only contest that can influence that -- unless we have a hangover in the following weeks from this game.
Drew Maglio: Miami at 4-4 has had the most unpredictable season I can recall. It seems Miami is doing the exact OPPOSITE from what I would predict. As an example, I thought Miami would beat VT and GT at home with ease, but could lose to UVA and Pitt. UNC figured to be a toss up, but CMU figured to be an easy win, which it was NOT! If anyone feels good about this Miami team, I want some of what they are drinking!
QUESTION 2: Miami has played 2 QBs, and each has had their positives and negatives this season. What are your feelings about the QB1 job now being fully open? How do you think this move will affect the offense this week and into the future? And who do you think starts on Saturday?
[editor’s note: Jarren Williams was named Miami’s starting QB for this week against FSU shortly before this piece was published. The responses, however, were submitted prior to this announcement.]
Underwood: Neither player has seized the position, so it should stay open. Both Jarren Williams and N’Kosi Perry had their chance to become THE GUY but failed to do so, for various reasons. The offense looks different with each QB in the game, because they do different things well. I think that will be the case moving forward as well, because they’re still different players with different strength sI said it immediately after last week’s game at Pitt that Jarren Williams is going to start this week at FSU and I stand by that prediction.
Thomas: I like N’Kosi Perry, but at the moment I believe Jarren Williams is the right guy to be starting at quarterback. He looked very poised against Pitt in that game winning drive, and I just feel confident with #15 back there at QB.
Dottavio: Being completely open now shows how bad the situation really is. However, it’s also good to see the staff not being stubborn and deciding to re-evaluate rather than die on a choice made in August. Williams is going to start Saturday.
Urrutia: The way that the two have been inconsistent in their own ways has kind of created this openness. Jarren was really good until he wasn’t against VT. Perry was looking like he took the job away until his performance last Saturday. I don’t know how much it will affect the offense seeing as it was pretty stagnant with both apart from a few games. I believe Jarren Williams gets the nod Saturday.
Camera: I think the answer is clear, it needs to be Jarren Williams. Williams is more consistent and displays far more accuracy and touch than N’Kosi Perry. Perry can use his feet a little better and has the bigger arm but from game to game, or even play to play, you don’t know what you’re going to get with him.
Michaels: I absolutely hate the QB roulette! It destroyed 2018, and here we are repeating the same cycle this year. I get it, Jarren was brutal against VT, and maybe injured too, but now he should be reinserted after leading a comeback vs Pitt. I honestly wonder how bad is Tate Martell to not get a chance at this point to lead an offense that has been very stagnant.
Kappa: I HATE IT! How inept must you be as a coach to call a guy your starter, then bench him and insist he’s still YOUR guy, then continue to start the other guy, then pull the other guy for “a spark” and after he gives said spark (AND A WIN) now you’re saying it’s up for grabs? Did I tell you I HATE IT? With that said, I don’t think it makes much of a difference for the offense as the team just wants to make plays (to share on social media… JK…) I’m riding with Jarren starting AND finishing the game with some red meat “packages” to satisfy the Martell Cartel.
Bleich: Jarren Williams needs to be the guy on Saturday. I trust him more playing on the road than N’Kosi Perry. This sounds crazy, but I almost hope Miami approaches the quarterback situation on a week-by-week basis moving forward. It keeps both guys hungry and working and keeps the opponent guessing.
Goldman: Look, there has been mixed answers on this position all year. We’ve had a thousand different things on the status of Jarren Williams. For the most part, I’ve felt like he’s the true answer at quarterback this year, and we will have to see if the coaching staff believes that as well. For Saturday, assuming he’s healthy, I think Williams gets the start. N’kosi Perry did decent for the most part in relief, but he didn’t really give Miami a chance to win last Saturday, and that was with a relatively clean pocket. Williams moved the ball better on the game-winning touchdown drive then Perry did all day, and I’d lean towards Williams to start on Saturday.
Fielder: I don’t like constant QB changes, I never have. I believe Enos and the offensive coaching staff needs to figure out who the QB is for the rest of the season and stick with him. The constant change affects not only the QB (whoever that should be) but also affects the offensive line and skill players as their timing with a certain QB changes weekly. From Saturday on, I think Jarren Williams should be the starter.
McLean: The carousel at QB is nothing new to Miami over the last few seasons. I don’t think the turnstile at the position will affect the offense since the players are is used to it. I would love to have “the guy” but with the offense as stale as it has been, whoever can execute the plays should start. My best guess is they’ll stick with Jarren after his 4th quarter heroics.
Sherry: I think it’s a pretty open-minded way of approaching the situation, I like it. It shows that the staff isn’t stubborn at all involving the starting position. I can appreciate that due to how different it is from Mark Richt’s point-of-view on who got to start. Hopefully, Diaz and company are willing to do this on and off the field in order to better the team.
Maglio: I believe that Miami has two QBs that are more than adequate. N’Kosi Perry is able to stretch the field with his arm strength and is able to extend plays with his quick feet and pocket awareness, but is inconsistent and inaccurate at times. Jarren Williams is exceptionally accurate and throws a very catchable ball, but struggles with pocket awareness, going through progressions quickly, and anticipating deep throws. That being said, Dan Enos’s slow developing and unimaginative 1999 offense does neither QB any favors, as it requires them to make perfect throws into tight windows, rather than getting the ball to receivers who are open in space. An up-tempo spread offense like Oklahoma makes life much easier on QBs, as it gets the ball out quickly with short, easy passes. Behind Miami’s putrid OL and in a poor scheme, I see the QB situation to continue as it has: with each QB alternating between shell-shock and frequent bumps and bruises.
QUESTION 3: Like Miami, Florida State enters this game at 4-4, and is coming off a win over Syracuse. How are you feeling about the Noles?
Underwood: I think the Noles, like the Canes, have some major, major issues, but have skirted by on having better talent than their opponent in a couple instances this year. That, and a bit of luck. But, in terms of this game, I always believe Miami and FSU will give each other the best they have. Players and coaches from both sides of this rivalry have said for YEARS they know this game matters more than others and they play it like it does. I don’t see any reason to expect anything different than that.
Thomas: I think FSU showed a lot against Syracuse this past weekend, and they obviously have a ton of talent on both sides of the ball. Like Miami, they’re up and down every week.
Dottavio: They aren’t great, either, but they seem to be trending upward. Leavitt is a great defensive mind, Briles is a good young offensive mind, Akers looks legit. They have the O-Line issues, too.
Urrutia: I think they’re playing some pretty good football. They have won four straight home games, so it seems they have figured it out a bit after blowing that lead to Boise. They have just as much talent as Miami at every position and Cam Akers is a problem. I don’t think their defense is anything to be worried about, but neither is this Hurricanes offense.
Camera: The Noles have looked just as bad as the Canes have, with pathetic performances against the likes of ULM and Boise State, the latter of which started a freshman QB in his first game. I think the two teams are similar in their up-and-down play this season.
Michaels: I don’t think about the Noles! Time to whoop that a$$.
Kappa: I think the Seminoles are going through similar challenges as Miami with their poor offensive line play, and they’re searching for an identity on defense. They are wildly successful one half at a time, but rarely twice in the same game.
Bleich: Florida State is a mirror image of Miami in many ways. Talented recruits that are underachieving in key positions that causes the team to fail in situations it really shouldn’t. I don’t think Willie Taggart knows who his best quarterback is and Florida State has underachieved defensively all season.
Goldman: The Noles, like the Canes, obviously aren’t as intimidating as in years past, but the Seminoles have actually played pretty well considering how they started the year. When they lost at home to Boise State and needed OT to beat Louisiana-Monroe, it looked like they were in for a long year. However, they’ve had nice ACC wins against teams like Louisville, and blowout wins over NC State and Syracuse. FSU has had a bit of a revolving door at quarterback, but running back Cam Akers (917 yards, 12 TDs) is enjoying a resurgent season. Overall, I think FSU is definitely beatable, but they look much more formidable then they did at the beginning of the season.
Fielder: If you asked me three weeks ago, I’d be having a different opinion on FSU. The FSU offense finally seems to be clicking (30 points in four of their last 6 games) and FSU almost beat a ranked Wake Forest team on the road. I’m worried about this team because you can never doubt an FSU team with momentum coming into a rivalry game at Doak Campbell.
McLean: The Noles are a team with talent but lack continuity. Like the Canes, they’ve started several quarterbacks this year and haven’t found their identity.
Sherry: The ‘Noles are interesting. They look great for a quarter, then like an FCS team in the following one. They’re kind of like Miami in that sense. Unfortunately relatable. Also similar to Miami, they’ve had some disappointing losses, yet season-saving conference victories. It should be a good one.
Maglio: Unlike Miami, I think FSU is better than their record indicates. Since the OT win against ULM, FSU has improved immensely on defense with the presence of Jim Leavitt as an analyst. While FSU’s offense has struggled in the second half of games this season, it is clearly better than Miami’s. FSU has played a much tougher schedule to this point as Wake Forest is better than UNC, Syracuse better than GT, and Louisville improving every week. Playing at UVA is also a much taller task than playing them at home. FSU has the look of a 7-5 team, while Miami has looked up to this point, a 5-7 team.
QUESTION 4: After a 7 year losing streak, Miami has won the last 2 games against FSU. What will Miami need to do to beat their rivals again this year?
Underwood: Limit turnovers, put their offense in good situations by executing in early downs, put FSU’s offense in bad positions by executing, TACKLING BETTER, and playing this game like it matters. No early-game malaise. No “spot the other team 4 TDs before getting going”. Come out early and smack them in the mouth! As long as Miami starts on even or better footing through the first quarter, that should put the Canes in a good spot to make it 3 in a row.
Thomas: We all know it’s going to be a close game, so I think it comes down to who can make the least amount of mistakes. This rivalry always has a crazy play that makes or breaks the game, so if Miami can make that play, I see a Canes win.
Dottavio: Score more points than their opponent. JK. If Miami can produce a big play or two on offense, a turnover or two on defense, and kick the ball through the uprights- it’ll be a good day for the ‘Canes.
Urrutia: Cam Akers is their do it all guy and I believe containing him is the key to winning this game. Not only has he ran for nearly 1000 yards and 12 touchdowns, but he’s tied for third on the team with 21 receptions and tied for second in touchdown catches. On offense, it has to be establishing a running game. Like any team, Miami is so much better on offense when they get the ground game going.
Camera: Miami needs to play a mistake-free game. Both teams have played sloppy, undisciplined football all year long - in a game with this much underachieving talent, the team that makes the fewest mistakes will come away victorious.
Michaels: Miami will need to play defense like they did against Pitt and Virginia, which includes pressuring the QB, stopping Cam Akers and getting a few chains to show up. On offense take advantage of a pretty pedestrian FSU defense.
Kappa: Score more points then they give up. I don’t care if we win by 50 points or 1 point, just win, because it’s W on the stat sheet. Ugly wins trump beautiful losses for me.
Bleich: Miami has to avoid turning the ball over, control FSU’s running attack and specifically Cam Akers, and not make game-changing mistakes in the kicking game. Can that happen? I feel much better about the first two needs than the last one.
Goldman: Two important things for the Canes in my eyes are: get of to a fast start. Yes, we all loved the Canes 27-7 comeback against FSU last year, but we can’t count on that to be replicated, especially on the road. It’s crucial for whichever QB is starting to get in a rhythm, and to also silence the Doak Campbell crowd. Additionally winning the turnover margin is critical. UM won the turnover margin 3-1 last week, and that kept them in the game long enough to win. UM winning the turnover margin would go a long way to securing a victory.
Fielder: To win, Miami will need to win the turnover battle and allow few chunk plays. The defense have had their fair share of struggles in the past few weeks, allowing multiple chunk plays on the ground. The best cure to a struggling offense is to win the turnover battle, giving the offense better field position, and not allowing the chunk plays in critical situations.
McLean: *clears throat* Stop Cam Akers! Akers is the most talented player on that team. Stopping the run game and making FSU one dimensional will go a long way in deciding the game on Saturday afternoon.
Sherry: The ‘Canes need to start fast. The ‘Noles have developed their own trend of starting fast, then letting teams back into the game, eventually losing to them. In order to avoid the forced-comeback for the ‘Canes, they need to be the ones who get a quick leg-up. Of course, the miraculous finish of 2018’s matchup was insane for ‘Cane fans, but a win is a win, of course. It would be encouraging to see the ‘Canes get up quick, and stay in control.
Maglio: In order to win for the third year in a row, Miami’s defense will have to keep Florida State’s offense in check. I can not forsee Miami winning a high-scoring affair with its anemic offense. Miami’s putrid special teams will have to be adequate and not lose the game by giving up a return TD, blocked punt, muffed punt, or missed PAT. In order to win, Miami will have to establish a respectable run game and score at least three touchdowns. It need not be said, but Miami cannot turn the ball over more than once if they are to win. I suspect Miami will need to bring out its turnover chain if they are to win as well.
QUESTION 5: Which team will be the first to employ a trick play? What kind of trickeration do you think they’ll go with?
Underwood: Florida State. They emptied the playbook against Miami last year in a desperate spot, and I think they’ll do the same thing this year. Miami has been pretty strightforward in their offense this year, with some explosive plays but no real “trick plays”. Which.....you know what......yeah I’m flipping my pick. Miami comes out with a trick play first. And it’ll be a throwback screen or double pass.
Thomas: Does the wildcat count as a trick play? If so I think Miami and DeeJay Dallas will be using a few tricks up their sleeve. Then again, FSU did run some sort of a trick play last week, so who knows.
Dottavio: FSU will try it early. That’s a Briles thing. Dan Enos’ best trick play is tricking himself into not running toss into the boundary or play-action on 2nd and 16.
Urrutia: I think Florida State gets tricky before Miami. Apart from a fake field goal against Florida I can’t remember much trickery from the Miami offense and with the state of the offensive line, I wouldn’t risk doing anything crazy that wounds up backfiring.
Camera: Definitely FSU. Dan Enos and Miami has shown very little imagination besides the occasional play with Deejay Dallas lining up in the wildcat. I think a flea flicker could be the perfect play to take advantage of the Hurricanes’ young secondary and get a huge chunk play to someone like Tamorrion Terry.
Michaels: FSU no doubt. Willie Taggart can’t help himself so look for a double pass at some point throughout the game.
Kappa: I think Slick Willie cracks out the trick play before Miami does. Miami wants to be conservative and control the time of possession, so I expect more traditional runs between the tackles out of them. I think Willie’s trickeration will be a sweep with a pass similar to what we’ve seen previously. Willie has shown us that he isn’t afraid to reuse ideas.
Bleich: Has Miami run a trick play this season? If so, I don’t recall it off the top of my head and I certainly don’t recall it working. Kendall Briles seems much more likely to go into his bag of tricks than Dan Enos does.
Goldman: FSU has already had running back Cam Akers throw four passes, so I’m going to lean FSU on this one. I think it’ll be some sort of reverse play. However, Canes OC Dan Enos hasn’t really done much trickeration this year, so he might just be saving something up for this rivalry game.
Fielder: I think Miami will pull out the first trick play with a DeeJay Dallas wildcat pass.
McLean: I think FSU will be the first team to pull out a trick play. They’re at home and I can really see this game starting off slowly. They’ll probably need a fake punt or something similar to get the crowd into it.
Sherry: I still Dan Enos pulling out some triple-reverse down in the goal line, so I guess that’s a ‘trick play.’ In terms of like a running back or wide receiver throwing, however, that sounds like something Florida State will do. They were an inch from getting one completed last year (if it was a legal pass), so I think they’ll be motivated to make it work this time around.
Maglio: Miami has shown a propensity to be beat by the trick play in recent years. I see Willie Taggart, desperate for a win, as willing to pull out all the stops in order to secure victory. If Florida State calls a double pass I will not be the least bit surprised.
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.