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Three things to watch: Florida State

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The Canes go for their fifth victory in a row over Florida State on Saturday in Tallahassee

NCAA Football: Georgia Tech at Miami
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets linebacker Ayinde Eley (10) attempts to tackle Miami Hurricanes running back Jaylan Knighton (4) during the first half at Hard Rock Stadium on November 6. Miami defeated Georgia Tech 33-30.
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The rivalry is back.

The Miami Hurricanes will play their most hated rival Florida State on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee. The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN.

The Hurricanes (5-4, 3-2) have defeated the Seminoles (3-6, 2-4) in four consecutive attempts and Miami won the last installment of this rivalry game 52-10 in September 2020 at Hard Rock Stadium.

Keep reading for three things to watch during Saturday’s game.

Miami’s pass protection

If the last 14 quarters of ACC play are any indication, it’s pretty obvious what Miami has in freshman quarterback Tyler Van Dyke at this point. Van Dyke has a rocket arm and has ignited the Hurricane offense and taken it to new heights after Miami lost starting quarterback D’Eriq King for the season because of a shoulder injury.

But one consistent factor for Miami in its last four games has been better offensive line protection of Van Dyke and him being able to be comfortable in the pocket. Florida State’s defensive line has the personnel to test that on Saturday.

You can make a strong argument that the Seminoles have the best defensive line in the ACC this season. Led by Georgia transfer Jermaine Johnson II, the Seminoles have 25 sacks in nine games this season, good enough to be No.26 overall in FBS in team sacks. Johnson himself has 7.5 sacks and 54 tackles to lead the unit.

Florida State’s lackluster linebacker unit and secondary will not present much of an issue for Miami compared to more skilled defenses seen in weeks past like North Carolina State and Pittsburgh. But the Seminoles’ defensive line is talented and Miami’s offensive line must rise to the occasion and give Van Dyke time to lead Miami’s explosive passing attack.

Keeping Jordan Travis in check

Everything seems to point to Jordan Travis starting at quarterback this week for Florida State after he missed last week’s loss to North Carolina State because of the flu.

Travis is far from a prototypical quarterback but gives Florida State a unique offensive attack with his speed and agility running the ball.

To be frank, Florida State does not have enough talent at the offensive line or wide receiver positions to run a typical “drop back and pass” offense in 2021. This is why the Seminoles offense has looked so terrible with former UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton under center this season.

Travis brings a different dynamic to Florida State’s offense because of his legs. Opposing defenses must respect the quarterback run when Travis has the ball in his hands and that creates opportunities for Seminole running backs Jashaun Corbin and Treshaun Ward to get loose in space.

The Hurricanes were outstanding defending dual threat quarterback Jeff Sims (11 carries, -8 yards) last week but struggled to defend running backs Jahmyr Gibbs and Jordan Mason (17 carries, 143 yards combined). While the offensive schemes are far from the same, the personnel that Florida State and Georgia Tech have at the quarterback and running back positions is at least comparable.

In a perfect world, Miami forces Travis to become a passer as much as possible on Saturday. Travis has a below average arm and Florida State struggles in obvious passing situations.

The Hurricanes must not allow Florida State to get explosive running plays and must tackle soundly when Travis breaks the pocket and runs.

Go win with a more talented roster

Miami has a significantly more talented roster than Florida State in 2021.

If we’re looking at a position-by-position comparison of every unit on both teams, Florida State has the advantage at defensive line and maybe linebacker. That’s it. Miami has more talent at every other position than the Seminoles.

Looking at the schedule the Hurricanes have played thus far in 2021, where would the Seminoles rank talent-wise on it?

In my opinion, it is much more reasonable to rank Florida State down at the bottom with Georgia Tech and Appalachian State than near the middle with North Carolina State and Pittsburgh. You can make a strong argument that the Seminoles have a less talented roster than every Miami opponent this season outside of Central Connecticut State.

What does that mean? That means there’s no excuses in Tallahassee on Saturday.

If Miami has better players, it needs to go up there and perform as such. We need the Hurricanes’ issues with tackling and fumbling to be a thing of the past.

Miami should be expecting Florida State to pull out all the stops on Saturday — trick plays, fake punts or kicks, and just doing everything it possibly can to avoid losing its chance at bowl eligibility.

This reminds me a little bit of the 2019 Miami/FSU game. The Hurricanes are coming in disappointed with their early season struggles and Florida State really only has one great option on offense (In 2019 it was Cam Akers, in 2021, it’s Travis). Miami dominated that game 27-10 thanks to 300+ passing yards from Jarren Williams and four sacks from Greg Rousseau.

I’m hopeful for a similar-type result on Saturday. Avoiding silly turnovers, tackling consistently, and containing Florida State’s rushing attack should facilitate Miami’s fifth straight victory over the Seminoles.