Not since winning six straight from 2000-04 has Miami won consecutive games against rival Florida State, but that’s what is at stake on Saturday at Hard Rock Stadium. The Hurricanes snapped a seven-game losing streak to FSU with a thrilling 24-20 victory last season at Doak Campbell Stadium, but haven’t defeated the Seminoles at home since 2004.
Since falling to LSU in the opener, Miami has rattled off four straight wins with the most recent being a 47-10 thumping of North Carolina, but that’s the only win it owns against Power 5 competition. For FSU, the first year of the Willie Taggart era has been difficult but things are looking up after consecutive wins over Northern Illinois and Louisville. The Seminoles rallied last week to beat the Cardinals 28-24 thanks to two interceptions and a 58-yard touchdown pass from Deondre Francois to Nyqwan Murray – all in the game’s final 1:56.
For the first time in a long time, the Hurricanes will be lofty favorites over their biggest rivals on Saturday. Miami hasn’t defeated FSU by more than one score since 2001. An upset for the Seminoles would be a huge moment early in the Taggart era.
Florida State at Miami
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 6 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Miami -13.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Quarterback play
Although staying upright has been a challenge in itself for the redshirt junior, Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois enters Saturday’s contest as the ACC’s leader in passing yardage and completions. Francois is coming off of a contest in which he was outstanding in the second half and finished with 294 passing yards and a career-high four touchdowns. Still, Francois has had difficulty fully grasping Taggart’s “Gulf Coast Offense,” especially when it comes to the zone reads. For the Seminoles to have any success offensively against Miami on Saturday, Francois will need to play at a very high level and probably take shots down the field. He finished with 234 yards passing and two touchdowns in his last matchup with the Hurricanes two years ago.
Miami fans have long been clamoring for redshirt freshman N’Kosi Perry to take the reins and recently, they’ve gotten their wish. Perry has great tools from his arm to his feet, but has yet to face a really good defense. The Seminoles didn’t play their best football a week ago defensively but Kyle Meyers and AJ Westbrook each have two interceptions on the season and FSU defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett will try to mix up the looks that the young signal-caller sees. Malik Rosier was kept mostly in check last season against Florida State but came up big when things mattered.
2. FSU offensive line vs. Miami defensive line
The offensive line for Florida State has been a miserable unit for the early parts of this season, but the group is making progress. Last week against Louisville, FSU didn’t allow a sack for the first time in nearly four years. The running game has still been non-existent, but the offense as a whole has scored 65 points over the last two weeks after managing just 10 points total in its first two games against FBS competition. With redshirt senior Derrick Kelly returning to practice, the Seminoles could be even healthier this week.
The bad news for FSU is that the Miami defensive line is absolutely ferocious. At defensive tackle, Gerald Willis already has 10.5 tackles for a loss to his name while the likes of Joe Jackson and Jonathan Garvin have also been monsters early on. At this point in the season, Miami has an FBS-leading 60 tackles for a loss, which is 12 more than second-place Nevada. The FSU offensive front will also be tasked with trying to get a hat on a talented corps of linebackers headlined by Shaquille Quarterman and Michael Pinckney. If the FSU offensive line can hold up against that group, it should have a chance but that is a tall task.
3. Miami skill players vs. FSU back seven
After a very good defensive start to the season, Florida State took a step back last week against Louisville as quarterback Jawon Pass threw for more than 300 yards and that number could have been much greater had it not been for a number of misfires downfield. Dontavious Jackson and DeCalon Brooks are progressing at the linebacker position, but FSU safeties struggled mightily last week. This week their task will be to try and contain a deep group of skill players for the Hurricanes. Junior cornerback Levonta Taylor has also failed to live up to his All-American hype.
Travis Homer has been the workhorse out of the backfield for the Hurricanes, but the versatility provided by Deejay Dallas could be a bigger threat to the FSU defense. In addition to those two names, Miami is loaded at wide receiver and that’s despite the fact that Ahmmon Richards has been nursing a knee injury and has just one catch this year. Jeff Thomas and Lawrence Cager have been the big-play threats for the receiving corps, but Mike Harley, Brevin Jordan and last year’s hero, Darrell Langham, have all been very reliable options.
On paper, Miami doesn’t seem to have too many weaknesses, but the competition since being handled by LSU has been quite suspect. The Seminoles on the other hand, seem to have too many issues to come to South Florida and leave with a victory. The play of Deondre Francois will be key and getting anything out of running back Cam Akers and the ground game would go a long way. FSU could also be helped out by winning the turnover battle and finding a way to connect on big plays. When all is said and done however, the Hurricanes are simply a more complete football team.