For the first time since 2004, Miami and Florida State will meet as top 10 teams on Saturday as each will head into the contest at Doak Campbell Stadium with a perfect 7-0 record. Florida State has won three straight in the series, but the Hurricanes are 4-2 in their last six trips to Tallahassee.
Miami enters the contest ranked seventh in the country. The Hurricanes have had to survive in each of the last two weeks, but have done so with last minute touchdowns to beat both North Carolina and Wake Forest. After going just 3-5 over the previous two seasons, Miami is 3-0 in games decided by six points or less this year.
Third-ranked Florida State is coming off of a dominating victory over N.C. State on Saturday. The Seminoles won 49-17 to avenge their only ACC loss from 2012, but the final score was actually closer than the game was. Florida State tied a school-record with 35 first quarter points and built a 42-0 lead at the half. In ACC games this season, Florida State is 5-0 and winning by an average margin of about 35 points-per-game.
In last season’s meeting at Sun Life Stadium, Florida State rallied from an early 10-0 hole to down Miami 33-20. E.J. Manuel passed for 229 yards in the victory as Florida State overcame 121 yards in penalties to win at Miami for a fourth straight time. Devonta Freeman scored a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns to put the Hurricanes away.
The good news for Miami is that the visiting team in 6-1 in the last seven games of this series. Miami fell 23-19 to the Seminoles two years ago in Tallahassee, but had won the previous two at Doak Campbell Stadium. Florida State has not beat the Hurricanes in four straight seasons since winning five in a row from 1995 to 1999. For the Seminoles to make it four straight over Miami, here are Saturday’s keys to Seminole success:
To have and to hold…the football
In a rivalry game like the one on Saturday, turnovers will play a major factor and that is why it will be critical for Florida State to take care of the football. The Seminoles have turned it over just five times all season with four coming on Jameis Winston interceptions and the other being a James Wilder Jr. fumble. With Florida State having a raucous home crowd and being a three-touchdown favorite, the Seminoles cannot allow Stephen Morris and the Miami offense a short field or the Hurricanes in general to gain early confidence by playing from ahead.
Duke it out!
The one playmaker that Miami has that could absolutely give the Florida State defense fits is sophomore running back Duke Johnson. Johnson has great versatility and ranks second in the ACC with 823 rushing yards. Johnson finished with just 27 yards on nine carries against the Seminoles a season ago, but look for Miami to make a more concerted effort to get Johnson the ball in space and on screens. To slow down Johnson, Florida State will need a strong night from its defensive front, but in the passing game, quicker linebackers like Telvin Smith and Terrance Smith will need to blanket the explosive sophomore.
Keep Jameis famous
Florida State freshman quarterback Jameis Winston is making a strong case to become the second freshman in as many years to take home the Heisman Trophy and he should have the opportunity to have a big night against the Miami secondary on Saturday. While the Hurricanes are 7-0, they have struggled mightily against the pass this season. Miami gave up better than 300 yards passing to Wake Forest’s Tanner Price last week after yielding 297 to North Carolina’s Bryn Renner the week before. Earlier in the season, the Miami defense allowed a career-high 291 yards passing to Florida’s Jeff Driskel. Winston will be by far the best quarterback that the Hurricanes have seen this season and Winston is surrounded by a number of weapons. Look for the touted freshman to look to get going early and get the supporting cast of wide receivers Rashad Greene, Kenny Shaw and Kelvin Benjamin all involved as well as tight end Nick O’Leary.