Miami and Florida State renew their bitter rivalry on Saturday night, as the Hurricanes head to Tallahassee looking to snap a five-game losing streak to the Seminoles. Every matchup between Florida State and Miami is critical for bragging rights and recruiting within the state of Florida, but the storylines extend beyond just the normal rivalry component.
The Hurricanes are 3-1 after a loss to Cincinnati last Thursday, and fifth-year coach Al Golden is squarely on the hot seat. Under Golden’s direction, Miami is 31-23 over five seasons, including a disappointing 6-7 record last season. The Hurricanes are still looking for their first appearance in the ACC Championship Game since joining the conference in 2004. Considering the level of talent within the program and a favorable division (Coastal), Miami should be able to win at a high level. Golden needs more than just six wins in 2015 to avoid the hot seat, but a victory over Florida State would help Miami build momentum for the second half of the season.
The vibe is significantly different in Tallahassee. Coach Jimbo Fisher has guided Florida State to three consecutive ACC titles, a national championship in 2013 and recorded at least 12 victories every year from 2002-14. While Miami is a program dealing with uncertainty, the Seminoles are set for a run at the ACC title once again in 2015. And who knows, with a young roster, Florida State could be among the nation’s best teams next season.
Miami leads the all-time series with Florida State at 31-28. Additionally, the Hurricanes own a 14-9 edge in games played in Tallahassee. However, the recent trend in this series clearly favors the Seminoles. Florida State has won eight out of the last 10 games, including last season’s 30-26 thriller in Sun Life Stadium.
Miami at Florida State
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 10 at 8 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ABC
Spread: Florida State -9
Three Things to Watch
1. Florida State Running Back Dalvin Cook
With new quarterback Everett Golson still finding his footing in Fisher’s offense, the Seminoles are building their offense around running back Dalvin Cook. The sophomore has 570 rushing yards and six scores on 66 attempts this season, including 266 yards against USF. However, Cook’s status for Saturday’s game is uncertain after a hamstring injury suffered against Wake Forest. In a positive development for the Seminoles’ ground game, the sophomore was back at practice on Wednesday and Thursday. However, Fisher has yet to officially declare the sophomore ready to go for Saturday night’s game. Cook’s health is critical for Florida State, as the sophomore is a big-play threat (8.6 ypc) and backup Mario Pender is out due to a collapsed lung. If Cook is unable to go, the Seminoles will turn to Johnathan Vickers and Jacques Patrick at running back. Regardless of whether Cook is at full strength or Vickers and Patrick handle the bulk of the carries, Florida State should be able to move the ball on the ground against Miami. The Hurricanes rank No. 10 in the ACC in rush defense, giving up 4.5 yards per carry and 149 yards per game. Those numbers are even more concerning for Miami when you consider the opponents so far – Bethune-Cookman, FAU, Nebraska and Cincinnati – aren’t as talented as Florida State’s rushing attack.
Related: ACC Predictions for Week 6
2. Miami Quarterback Brad Kaaya Against Florida State’s Secondary
Everett Golson has been solid for Florida State so far, but the edge at quarterback in this game goes to Miami. Sophomore Brad Kaaya was sharp as a true freshman last season and is only getting better in 2015. Kaaya has completed 86 of 140 passes for 1,094 yards and five touchdowns in four games. However, Florida State’s defense is the best this Miami team has played so far in 2015. In last year’s matchup, Kaaya threw for 316 yards and two touchdowns but only completed 47.1 percent of his passes. Will Kaaya have a similar performance on Saturday night? The Seminoles boast one of the nation’s top cornerbacks in the nation in Jalen Ramsey and have surrendered just one passing play of 30 yards or more this season. Can Kaaya find ways to generate big plays against Florida State’s defense? While the Seminoles have only eight sacks through four contests, this defensive line will be the best Miami has played so far. Kaaya isn’t particularly mobile, so it’s critical for the offensive line to protect their sophomore signal-caller and allow opportunities for this offense to attack downfield.
Last year’s matchup was decided by just four points and another close one is expected on Saturday night. And with any close game, turnovers could play a huge role in the outcome. Miami is plus-nine in turnover margin through four games, while Florida State is plus-six. These two teams have combined for just three lost turnovers this season. Can the Seminoles get another mistake-free game from quarterback Everett Golson? Or can the Hurricanes’ defense – which has struggled this season – force Golson into a couple of mistakes?
This is stating the obvious, but the stakes are high for both teams on Saturday night. Florida State needs a win to keep pace with Clemson in the Atlantic Division and continue its dominance over the Hurricanes. For Miami, it’s all about snapping a five-game losing streak to the Seminoles. Additionally, a win over Florida State would help Golden move off the hot seat. And as usual when these two teams play, there are huge opportunities to score points on the recruiting trail. After losing to Cincinnati last week, what type of performance will the Hurricanes deliver? Is this team on the verge of another collapse? Or is Golden capable of rallying this team and scoring a huge victory in this rivalry? The guess here is Florida State continues its recent dominance in this series. While Kaaya is the best quarterback in this game, the Seminoles are better on defense and should have Cook available at running back. Kaaya keeps the Hurricanes in this game, but Florida State’s offensive line and ground attack does just enough to earn win No. 6 in a row over Miami.