For the second time in three weeks, all eyes will be on Florida State as the third-ranked Seminoles get set to host in-state rival and seventh-ranked Miami on Saturday night. For the first time since 1999, Florida State is a perfect 7-0 after pounding N.C. State 49-17 on Saturday in a game that the Seminoles led 42-0 at halftime.
With an identical 7-0 record, Miami is off to its best start since 2003. The Hurricanes have had to survive each of the last two weeks, but have done so with touchdowns in the final minute to beat both North Carolina and Wake Forest. Duke Johnson’s 1-yard touchdown run with 53 seconds left on Saturday lifted Miami past the Demon Deacons 24-21.
Miami has an explosive offense with senior quarterback Stephen Morris leading the charge. Morris has struggled of late and has battled through an ankle injury this season, but Morris has a pair of 300-yard games and is leading an offense that is averaging just shy of 40 points-per-game.
With Phillip Dorsett out of the lineup, Miami will rely heavily on sophomore running back Duke Johnson and senior wide receiver Allen Hurns to pick up the slack. Johnson has 823 yards rushing this season and six touchdowns while Hurns leads the Hurricanes with 506 receiving yards while averaging better than 18 yards-per-catch. Johnson’s backup, Dallas Crawford, leads the ACC with 10 total touchdowns scored.
Hurns and Johnson will look for big plays against a Florida State defense that is allowing just 13 points-per-game, the fourth fewest in the country. The Seminoles have forced seven total turnovers over the last two weeks. Senior safety Terrence Brooks has transformed into a real ball hawk for Florida State while linebacker Christian Jones has become Florida State’s best rusher since being moved to a part-time defensive end. Seniors in cornerback Lamarcus Joyner and linebacker Telvin Smith will also look to make things difficult for Morris and the Miami attack.
For Miami defensively, cornerback Tracy Howard and linebacker Denzel Perryman will need big days to slow down a Florida State offensive attack that ranks fourth in the country and is putting up nearly 53 points-per-game, which is third best in the nation. The unquestioned leader of the Florida State offense has without a doubt been freshman quarterback Jameis Winston.
Winston has thrown for better than 200 yards in the first half in each of Florida State’s five ACC games and has 23 touchdown passes this season and only four interceptions. Winston ranks second nationally in yards-per-attempt and passer rating and is tied for third with his 23 touchdown passes. While Winston is making a case to become the second freshman in as many years to win the Heisman Trophy, his supporting cast is one of the nation’s best as well.
Receivers Rashad Greene and Kenny Shaw are each on pace to finish with better than 1,000 yards receiving, something no Seminole has done since Anquan Boldin in 2002. Greene leads the ACC with eight touchdown receptions while junior tight end Nick O’Leary is tied for the NCAA lead among tight ends with six touchdown grabs. Running back Devonta Freeman ranks third in the ACC averaging better than 80 yards rushing per-game.
Florida State rallied from a 10-0 deficit last season to beat Miami 33-20 at Sun Life Stadium. The Seminoles have won three straight in the series including a 23-19 victory in 2011, Miami’s last trip to Doak Campbell Stadium. The Hurricanes’ last victory over Florida State did come in Tallahassee by a 38-34 score on Labor Day in 2009. Visiting teams have fared better in the series of late as the road team is 6-1 in the last seven match-ups.
While it seems unlikely, Florida State could clinch a spot in the ACC Championship with a victory on Saturday and a Clemson loss to Virginia. Saturday’s showdown with Miami will be the first with both teams ranked in the top 10 nationally since 2004, Miami’s first game as a member of the ACC. The Hurricanes and Seminoles will kick off after 8:00 P.M. eastern time on Saturday night and the game will be broadcasted nationally on ABC.