Welcome back to rivalry week! The Miami Hurricanes face off against the rival Florida State Seminoles for the 2020 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 2-0 (1-0 ACC) so far this season and coming off a statement win at Louisville. How are you feeling heading into the showdown against FSU on Saturday?
Cam Underwood: I feel very good and confident. Miami has the best 2 wins of any college team to this point of the season, and FSU is very much down. Still. My optimism for this week is boundless. I’m in a VERY good mental space.
Marshall Thomas: This may be the most confident I’ve ever felt heading into FSU week. I think Miami looked very good last week against Louisville, and I'm liking what I’ve been seeing.
Justin Dottavio: I feel great about it. Miami should roll FSU by 14+. If Lashlee’s O can put up 35 or more I can’t see FSU scoring more than 17 against Miami.
John Michaels: Very confident that Miami is the better team, and more importantly the temperment of the team is that they still need to play better. FSU is dealing with a lot, and Miami should take advantage with a very good offense.
Craig T. Smith: Much less guarded (Goldenized?) than I have in years. Finally, it feels like Miami has some players again that have that alpha dog mentality AND a coach in Lashlee with an innovative offense who is a step ahead of the opposition. Let’s also give kudos to Garin Justice and how well the offensive line has performed this year overall. Coming into this game, Miami has as clear an edge in talent and coaching than I can remember in a very long time.
Roman Marciante: More confident than an astrophysicist taking a sixth grade math test. FSU struggled offensively to the tune of 307 yards of total offense to a Georgia Tech team who the following week gave up 660 to UCF. I like how we match up.
Carl Bleich: I am confident that the Hurricanes have more talent than the Seminoles. I am also confident that Miami has a far superior quarterback in D’Eriq King. The only thing that makes me worry slightly is Manny Diaz’s issues last season when Miami was a heavy favorite. If Miami is focused and prepared, it will roll.
Candis McLean: I’m cautiously confident. I’m happy with the progression of the offense and its execution. I’m interested in how the players handle this early-season success. For the past few seasons, we’ve had talent. A lot of our issues where mental (players not buying in and team attitude). I’m ready to see if this team is built differently.
Jake Marcus: Very confident - the Seminoles are in absolute disarray and it just keeps getting worse. Miami’s trajectory, on the other hand, is heading in the other direction and the Canes are looking equipped to catch FSU on their heels.
John Reynolds: I am pretty confident. Miami appears to finally have an offense, and through two weeks D’Eriq King is everything we thought he would be. However, this rivalry game is always close, and in recent years, this kind of game (after a big win / before another big game) is the kind of game this program has really struggled with. This weekend will do a lot to show where this team can go this season.
QUESTION 2: Miami Q’B D’Eriq King is one of 6 FBS QB’s with 4 TDs and 0 INTs so far this season. He’s also well-known for his ability to run. What are you expecting from him on Saturday night?
Underwood: I’m expecting King to go out there and put on a show. Running. Passing. Escaping pressure. Just being the dynamic playmaker we know him to be, and that he’s proven himself to be over the course of many years. And, most importantly, I expect to see him be a leader and become the 4th different QB to lead Miami to a win over FSU in the last 4 years.
Thomas: The Seminoles have some good players on defense, but my confidence in D’Eriq King exceeds. I think because of the emotional aspect of a rivalry, he could struggle in the beginning, but I believe he’ll play great overall once again.
Dottavio: FSU has a good defense, but not great. Wilson and Samuel Jr. are NFL caliber players. Miami needs someone other than Harris and Jordan to step up. Knighton needs another big play, the WR’s need to stop dropping balls. King needs to be set up on a few more designed runs or pass-run options (swing-draw).
Smith: I think FSU will try to keep him in the pocket as much as they can, but keeping their eyes on 1 will cause 9, 6, 3, 8, 23, 85, 4, etc. to run right past them. Translation, King will run some (less than one might think), Miami will still grind with their three-headed monster, but King will hit some long balls and continue to prove he’s got an excellent arm.
Michaels: To take what FSU gives him. In two games there have been 2 different gameplans for the Canes. UAB game Miami space to run the ball and the Canes did just that, and vs Louisville the Canes went more wide open and threw much more. I expect another 300 plus yards of total offense against the Noles.
Marciante: In terms of rushing, King had 83 yards vs. UAB and 9 vs Louisville. I actually see that disparity as a positive. That means he can beat you in a multiplicative approach. I think King will be just fine and make the plays necessary to win the game. FSU has the daunting task of picking door number 1: His feet. Or door number 2: His arm.
Bleich: I think Florida State will take a similar approach to Louisville and try and keep King in the pocket and make him a passer. I would imagine the Seminoles have watched the UAB and Louisville tapes and feel that their defensive backs can stick with Miami’s wide receivers. I would imagine the Seminoles would use their defensive line to contain King and force him to throw the ball. I don’t think this is a bad thing for Miami at all as I believe King is more than a competent passer.
McLean: True playmakers show up in big games. Last week, against the Louisville Cardinals, King did just that. I don’t think the spotlight is too big for him. Against FSU, King has enough weapons to do some real damage. I think he’ll have at least 3 TDs and over 60 yards rushing. FSU let Jeff Sims run wild.
Marcus: I expect more of the same from what we’ve seen in the first two weeks from King, but incorporation of more weapons in this offense. On paper, FSU features a tough secondary led by Asante Samuel Jr. and Hamsah Nasilrideen. To that end, the WR corps is off of a drops-laden week and needs to come back in a big way. And King has thus far favored Brevin Jordan. Between Mike Harley Jr., Dee Wiggins, and Mark Pope, I expect at least one or two of them to breakout as King works through his progressions as he avoids getting tricked by Samuel Jr. who already has 2 INTs and 2 PDs. If King can show trust in all offensive weapons, in spite of the frustrating plays last week, it will be a key for the offense to grow in a multi-faceted manner.
Reynolds: King and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee have done a great job of adapting to what the defense gives them. In week one against UAB it was the run game, in week two against Louisville it was the passing game. I expect King and Lashlee to open up the passing game even more, which could also create space for him to run, although Miami will have to limit the drops that hurt them last week.
QUESTION 3: Florida State is 0-1 after losing to Georgia Tech and a bye week. What are your early thoughts about the Noles?
Underwood: Whew. Buddy. We Miami fans have been calling the impending downfall of FSU for YEARS, and we were right. From roster construction, to not having generational players buoy an otherwise average roster, to repeated downgrades in coaching, we were right all along the way. And that’s bearing itself out to be true. There are major holes on the roster and in the FSU program overall, and it’s going to be a tough year(s) for them as they get back towards being a competitive team. Sure, they’ll come out early riding the emotion of this rivalry game, but that won’t be enough to sustain them for a full game.
Thomas: I think they definitely have some issues, and just like I said prior to the season starting, they’re going to struggle this year. Mike Norvell is in his first season, and I think he’ll go through a lot of the growing pains that Manny Diaz went through in 2019.
Dottavio: Good defense, bad offense. And without Norvell at the game the game-time decisions will be a mess. The FSU culture is terrible.
Smith: Plenty of talent on defense. Weak, WEAK offense. Mentally, where are the Noles at coming into this game, with the humiliating opening loss, players going to the portal, and their head coach staying home due to COVID-19? I’m not even sure they know.
Michaels: They are a rebuilding program. The talent is nowhere close to where it once was, and I’m not 100% sure kids are buying in to Mike Norvell in year one. Make no mistake this is the Seminoles Super Bowl so Miami better be ready to match their intensity.
Marciante: This is probably the weakest noles team I have ever seen in terms of frontline talent. They have a quarterback in James Blackman that the whole FSU fan base (maybe not his mama) has seen to turn on the young man. No one is scary on that team in terms of a name like Dalvin Cook/Jameis Winston even if they want to be cute and take the nickname of scary.
Bleich: Florida State is a train wreck currently. There aren’t many more reasonable ways that Mike Norvell’s first year could have gone worse. That doesn’t mean FSU can’t win Saturday night though. A win Saturday night can completely change everything for the Seminoles. They will be prepared coming off a bye week.
McLean: I think they’re very close to what we were in the past few years. A team with talent who can’t seem to put it together on the filed. Their struggles begin with the inconsistent play of their quarterback James Blackman. If that portion can’t improve for them, it’s going to be a long season.
Marcus: To put it lightly, things aren’t looking great in Tallahassee. They have individual pieces that look good but they are far from a cohesive unit. It’s gonna be a long season for them and this game will just be one of those stops.
Reynolds: I think Florida State still has a lot of talent on their roster, but things still have to come together for Mike Norvell and FSU. There are clear problems that will probably take time to fix. However, they’ll definitely come ready to play on Saturday night, and Miami will need to come prepared.
QUESTION 4: Florida State’s Head Coach tested positive for COVID-19 and won’t coach the team this week. What impact do you foresee that having on the game?
Underwood: I mean, missing your head coach can only be seen as a negative, in my opinion. It won’t be the reason they lose, but it will be a factor in FSU’s loss, for sure.
Thomas: To not have your head coach there, that’s going to put FSU at a huge disadvantage. I expect to see a lot of confusion on the sidelines, which is great for Miami.
Dottavio: Massive. Norvell has had a rocky start in Tally but he’s the head guy. He’s also really the play caller on offense. Dillingham does the game plan and suggests plays but Norvell is “the guy.”
Smith: Huge. How can it not be? Norvell can’t be there, and that’s no small thing after your team is seemingly rudderless coming in, with all of the distractions that have plagued this team in the past few weeks. I don’t know what the plans are for him to be available remotely, but it won’t be anywhere close to the same without him there. Another big advantage for Miami.
Michaels: A ton. Not only on gameday but in the preperations leading up to the game Mike Norvell cannot have contact with his team. This is a group that is coming off a rough 2019 and an even worse opener, so not having the HC on the sidelines will hurt.
Marciante: I don’t think that much. Simply because the name Adam Fuller, the defensive coordinator, will still be there. Rhett Lashlee is very familiar with Fuller and dropped 48 on him last year when SMU faced off against Memphis. Sure they lost in a tight shootout but I am not sold on their current DC.
Bleich: Speaking from a game day responsibilities perspective, I have absolutely no idea. However, from an overall leadership perspective, I think Norvell being missing is very detrimental to Florida State. I can’t imagine morale in Tallahassee right now is very high after the two seasons under Willie Taggart and the season-opening loss to Georgia Tech. Having Norvell on the sideline as a positive influence and a leader is key as Florida State tries to change its culture. Missing that on Saturday night could potentially be huge if things begin to go poorly for Florida State.
McLean: This is something that’s so hard to project. Of course, having the coach on the sideline is important. A coach is the leader of the team. However, there’s been so many stories coming out of Noles camp regarding Norvell that I don’t know how the players will react.
Marcus: It should have a negative impact. Despite the poor start, Norvell is trying to find some semblance of consistency and team chemistry. Losing that dynamic this early in the season will make it difficult to get back on track whether the Seminoles have a good or bad game.
Reynolds: I think it could have a significant impact on the team. Norvell hasn’t been able to attend practice in person and can’t contact the team after they leave the hotel on Saturday afternoon. One of the main roles of a head coach is to motivate at practice and ahead of the game and clean up things he sees at practice, and both jobs will be hard to do this week. In addition, Norvell calls the offensive plays and is the leader of the sideline.
QUESTION 5: With Miami the clear favorites entering this game, what would FSU have to do to realistically have a shot to win as the underdog?
Underwood: FSU would have to be a team other than who they are, honestly. But, if we’re looking at this game exclusively, they’ll need the Defensive Line to get pressure with 4 (no blitzes) consistently, they’ll need James Blackman to play the game of his life, they’ll need Tamorrion Terry to take over with his combination of length, speed, and skill, and they’ll need to be +3 (or more) in the turnover battle. I don’t see it happening, but that’s what it would take.
Thomas: First and foremost it’s pressuring D’Eriq King, he’s the one that keeps this Miami offense working. Then just executing, pulling out some trick plays, anything that’ll give them a chance.
Dottavio: FSU needs to pull out all the stops- onside kicks, fake punts, blocking punts and kicks, big returns. Trick plays. Be aggressive on defense, take risks.
Smith: FSU needs a Virginia-Tech-or-Georgia-Tech-in-2019 type of game flow. Slow start, self-inflicted wounds by Miami. King to get careless with the ball, or a total special teams gaffe. Muffed punt, etc.. Take a lead, set the tone, force Miami’s offense to play from behind. Miami coming in believing they’re invincible, WHICH HOPEFULLY WILL NOT BE THE CASE. If Manny Diaz has learned anything, it’s hopefully how to remind his players that they are not far removed from getting shut down by Louisiana Tech, Duke, and FIU. Miami can be very confident, but they have to back that up with Ed-Reed-vs-FSU-hair-on-fire-type of effort and play.
Michaels: Win the turnover battle by a large margin. Miami would have to be -3 or worse for FSU to have a chance. If Miami reads too many press clippings about “being back” and plays like an entitled bunch then FSU has a chance.
Bleich: I think Florida State would need to score 28 or more points on offense and have 10+ tackles for a loss on defense to have a chance at winning this game outright. For comparison sake, the last time Florida State did that against an FBS opponent was over a year ago when it topped Louisville 35-24 and finished with 11 tackles for a loss in September 2019. Florida State’s defense is good enough to hold Miami under 30 points with a good performance so 28 might be enough to win in this specific scenario. FSU had six tackles for a loss against Georgia Tech on September 5.
McLean: Florida State needs to have an outburst of scoring. We’ve scored at least 30 points in every game this year. As I previously said, it would all start with Blackman. Blackman will have to ball out, pure and simple. I’m talking Nick Foles outshining Tom Brady in the Super Bowl level of play. He put the ball in the air 43 times against Georgia Tech and looked horrible.
Marcus: You can never sell a rivalry game short, especially from the underdog’s perspective. FSU could bust out of the gates ready to prove the season debut was a fluke. And where better to prove that then on College Gameday against a team that you hate? So, I can see the intangible factors panning out for the Noles. From an actual gameplan perspective, if FSU’s front defensive line led by Marvin Wilson can put pressure on King and force errant passes that results in turnovers, then FSU could keep themselves in the game.
Reynolds: This rivalry is almost always close. A big thing that could undermine Miami in this game is coming out far too overconfident. This is something that has affected Hurricanes’ teams in games like this for the last several years. After a big win over Louisville, Miami needs to turn around and remain focused in preparation for this game, because FSU has had a bye week to come fully prepared for Miami. Another key to the game is the Seminoles’ front seven, who will test how improved the Hurricanes’ offensive line is and could really disrupt Miami’s offense.
That’s it for the first part of our FSU Roundtable. We’ll continue the discussion tomorrow.