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Miami stumbled to a 2-4 start before rallying the troops and turning the season around (a bit) with a trio of wins, including a pair over ranked teams. During the Canes’ run, QB Tyler Van Dyke has played better than any Miami QB in the last 10-15 years, and looks to be unlocking every bit of his potential on the field.
After those last 3 wins — over NC State, Pittsburgh, and Georgia Tech — Miami is in position to potentially make it to the ACC Championship as the Coastal Division champions. A major factor in that potential scenario, however, is Miami winning all their remaining games. They’re halfway to those 6 needed wins, but every week counts. So to continue to have a chance at the Coastal Division Championship, the Canes will need to beat the Noles on Saturday afternoon.
On the other sideline, the Noles have struggled to a 3-6 record on the year. Multiple injuries have impacted the FSU roster, and the defense has been quite porous, which is great for those of us who hate FSU, but not great for those who root for the Noles.
FSU started the season with a 3pt, overtime loss to Notre Dame. That game made it look like FSU might be a sight more competitive than they’ve been over the past few years.
Unfortunately for the Noles, that was a mirage.
FSU went on to lose their next games to Jacksonville State (the FCS team), Wake Forest, and Louisville before getting on the board with W’s against Syracuse, North Carolina (Mack Brown can NEVER beat FSU), and UMass. But, the losing came back to Tallahassee as Mike Norvell’s team dropped the last 2 to Clemson and NC State heading into this weekend’s rivalry game against the Canes.
When FSU is on Offense
This is a run-heavy offense, even from the spread, due mainly to the fact that QB Jordan Travis can’t throw the ball. Sure, he’s better than he’s been in the past in this regard, but better than horrible is simply bad. Travis is completing 62% of his passes with an 11/2 TD/INT ratio, but the peripheral stats leave lots to be desired. 7.73 yards/attempt and a paltry 116 yards per game average is quite bad.
Former UCF star QB McKenzie Milton is also on FSU’s roster, and his per game numbers are slightly better than Travis’s, but if you watched last week’s game against NC State, it was clear that Milton has major struggles as a passer as he works his way back from the catastrophic leg injury he sustained while at UCF. His 3/5 TD/INT ratio, however, is not great.
RBs Treyshaun Ward and Jashaun Corbin are the big play players on FSU’s offense. Both RBs have broken very long, explosive runs this year, and they’re the players whose skills FSU will lean on to take advantage of an intermittently go (or bad, depending on your view) Miami run defense.
Also of note: Travis is a MUCH better runner than Milton — especially after the latter’s injury. That dual-threat ability, the escapability to evade defenders and extend/make plays with his legs, will also be a key factor for FSU’s offense.
FSU’s offensive line continues to have struggles, as they have for multiple years. And there’s a list of pass catchers who have put stats on the sheet for FSU. But, none has more than 18 catches, or 251 yards, or 3 TDs, so there’s more of a “receiving by committee” feel than having a superstar (or even a marginally good player) at the top of the list with the rest of the cast playing supporting roles.
When FSU is on Defense
There are good players at every level of FSU’s defense, but the position groups at those levels as a whole are not really that great.
Up front, the conversation has to start with DE Jermaine Johnson II. The Georgia transfer is to my eye the best player on FSU’s roster by miles. His stat line so far this season bears that out to be true as well: 54 tackles, 10.5 TFL, 7.5 sacks, 7 hurries, 2 PBUs, 1 forced fumble, 1 recovered fumble (which he returned 6 yards for a TD). Johnson is the star of the team and the defense, and his play backs that up.
Joining Johnson in providing pressure up front is Keir Thomas. A Miami native (Miami Central alum), Thomas has chipped in with 9 TFLs and 4.5 sacks, so he’s capable of impacting games when teams focus more heavily on Johnson on the opposite side. This pair will be a challenge for Miami’s offensive line to control and contain, and their success, or failure, in doing so will be a major storyline in how the game is played.
Amari Gainer is the best LB on FSU’s roster, and a major physical presence at the 2nd level of the Noles’ defense. 50 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 1 sack, 2 hurries, 1 PBU, and 1 forced fumble is a solid stat line, even on a defense that’s been on the field as much as FSU’s has to this point of the season.
In the secondary, FSU has some names, but the performance has been lacking. Jarvis Brownlee and Jarrian Jones at corner will have their hands full with Charleston Rambo, Key’Shawn Smith, and Mike Harley for the Canes. Akeem Dent, Jammie Robinson, and Sydney Williams are other players at Safety and BUCK who are in the starting lineup for a Noles team that has given up north of 300 passing yards, twice on the year, and north of 250 yards 4 other times. When you consider the fact that Miami QB Tyler Van Dyke is averaging 380 yards a game over the last 3 games, and you see where Miami will look to take advantage of the FSU defense...if the line can hold Johnson, Thomas, and company at bay long enough to give Van Dyke the time needed to find his receivers.
These are teams going in opposite directions, but the gap between them is not as large as it was a year ago. This is going to be more of a classic Miami-FSU game where the rivalry boosts both teams, and makes the game more competitive than the stats coming into the day would lead you to believe it should be.
I think Miami’s passing game has too much explosion for FSU to contend with, and FSU’s lack of lethal passing game will ultimately be the Noles’s undoing. Miami will sell out to stop the run, do their best to eliminate the explosive runs that Ward and Corbin have had to this point to the year, and Travis will be unable to hit enough throws to keep the Noles in the game.
PREDICTION: Miami 34 Florida State 20