The annual rivalry contest between Florida State and Miami has lost some of its national luster in recent years, but for the schools, it is as meaningful as it has ever been. The Hurricanes will arrive in Tallahassee as a favorite this week after pulling out three close wins in a row, including two over ranked opponents. At 5-4, Miami has a winning record for the first time all season.
FSU got off to its worst start since 1974 but bounced back to win three straight games. Since then, however, the Seminoles have suffered tough losses to Clemson and NC State. FSU is 3-6 through nine games for the second year in a row and must win to keep its slim bowl hopes alive.
After losing seven straight, Miami has dominated the rivalry in recent years. The Hurricanes have won four straight over Florida State, which includes a 52-10 beatdown last season at Hard Rock Stadium. With a win, Miami would become bowl eligible for a 10th straight season.
Miami at Florida State
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 13 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Miami -2.5
When Miami Has the Ball
After a rough start to the season, Miami has found its footing offensively over the last four games, averaging 36 points per game. A big reason for the resurgence is a freshman who lines up behind center. Quarterback Tyler Van Dyke has breathed life into the offense. Van Dyke got off to a rough start but has averaged 380 passing yards per game during the Hurricanes' three-game winning streak and has thrown 10 touchdowns compared to just one interception. His big arm allows the Hurricanes to stretch the field vertically. Offensively, Miami ranks fifth in the ACC in both total and scoring offense.
With Cam'Ron Harris out for the season, Miami has relied on the versatile Jaylan Knighton to carry the load in the backfield. Knighton has nearly 500 rushing yards this season and seven total touchdowns. Charleston Rambo has emerged as one of the best receivers in the ACC in recent weeks. He leads Miami with 860 receiving yards and five touchdown catches. Rambo has hit the 100-yard mark in three straight games and finished with a career-high 210 yards in last week's 33-30 win over Georgia Tech. On third down, FSU must account for tight end Will Mallory.
SEC transfers are a big reason for Florida State's improvement on defense. Linemen Jermaine Johnson, Keir Thomas, and Fabien Lovett have all had solid seasons for FSU and are a big reason why the Seminoles have one of the better rushing defenses in the ACC. FSU is allowing just 3.9 yards per carry this season. Johnson has emerged as one of the conference's best pass rushers. The Georgia transfer ranks second in the ACC in sacks with 7.5 and third in tackles for a loss with 10.5.
Amari Gainer, Kalen DeLoach, and DJ Lundy lead an improved linebacker corps, but the weakness for FSU is in the secondary. The Seminoles have routinely allowed big plays this season, and with Van Dyke's big arm, that could be a problem. One bright spot from that unit has been another transfer in safety Jammie Robinson. Robinson leads the team with 64 total tackles, two interceptions, and two forced fumbles. Last season, Miami scored 52 points and put up 517 total yards against the Seminoles.
When Florida State Has the Ball
For Florida State to have a fighting chance on Saturday, it will likely need quarterback Jordan Travis to go. Travis missed last week's 28-14 loss to NC State with the flu but hopes to be back this week against Miami. When Travis starts this season, FSU is 3-2 as opposed to 0-4 when he doesn't. Travis has made tremendous strides as a passer, but still might be a bigger threat with his legs. Travis not only makes plays on the ground, but he opens things up for others as well in the zone-read game.
The Seminoles were stifled on the ground last week against NC State but still have a really nice tailback duo in Jashaun Corbin and Treshaun Ward. Those two have combined for 1,191 rushing yards this season and nine rushing touchdowns. Each average around seven yards per carry. FSU doesn't have a go-to guy at wide receiver, but Keyshawn Helton leads the team with 276 yards. He and Ontaria Wilson are capable of stretching the field, while Andrew Parchment and tight end Camren McDonald are the possession receivers. FSU's offensive line hasn't been a strength, but it is better than it showed last week against NC State.
Despite the recent winning streak, Miami has allowed at least 30 points in seven of its eight games against FBS competition this season. Nesta Jade Silvera is a load in the middle of a deep defensive line for Miami. Zach McCloud is the leading sack man for the Hurricanes, but Deandre Johnson, Jahfari Harvey, and Chantz Williams all have at least 2.5 sacks this season. In the secondary, Miami suffered a huge blow recently with the loss of safety Bubba Bolden.
Amari Carter, Tyrique Stevenson, and Te'Cory Couch are all very talented players in the secondary. Linebacker Waynmon Steed is the team's leading tackler. As a whole, the Hurricanes give up a lot of points, but are in the middle of the pack in terms of yards allowed. As Clemson and NC State did successfully in recent weeks, Miami will look to force the Seminoles to win the game through the air. If Travis is able to go, don't be surprised if the Hurricanes use a spy.
For Florida State to like its chances, Travis will have to play this week. The Seminoles should be able to find some offensive success, but the secondary will have a tough time slowing the passing attack for the Hurricanes. Van Dyke and Co. have been unstoppable in recent weeks, and giving up big pass plays has been a common theme for the FSU defense. Keeping up with Miami offensively will likely be a challenge on Saturday.
Prediction: Miami 37, Florida State 27
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— Written by Mike Ferguson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson.