The Miami Hurricanes and Florida State Seminoles will collide this weekend in Tallahassee with much on the line. One of the greatest college football rivalries of the 1980's and 1990's, Miami owned the first half of the past decade, while Florida State has been the better program the last few seasons.
With both squads undefeated for the first time since 2003, this Sunshine State matchup is precisely what the ACC was aiming for when inviting UM to join the conference back in 2004. With the Hurricanes atop the Coastal and the Seminoles leading the Atlantic, Saturday's game could be a precursor to things to come, as both squads are on track for a rematch in the ACC Championship game on December 7.
Miami (7-0) recently earned a third-straight comeback win, having defeated Wake Forest, 24-21, this past weekend. Down 14-3 in the first quarter, the Hurricanes made some adjustments and took over late. Running back Duke Johnson carried the load and punched in two fourth-quarter touchdowns—including the game-winner with :53 remaining.
Florida State (7-0) is coming off a dominating performance of North Carolina State. The Seminoles led 35-0 after one quarter and cruised to a 49-17 victory one week after throttling then-No. 3 Clemson, 51-14 at Memorial Stadium.
Miami has its work cut out against Florida State. A recent pattern of slow starts and late comebacks was manageable against lesser ACC opponents but will make for a long night against the Seminoles. The Hurricanes also have to protect the football, as Miami had eight turnovers in a two-game span (Georgia Tech, North Carolina).
UM leads the all-time series 31-26 over FSU. The Seminoles have taken three straight, but the Hurricanes have won the last four meetings when both squads were ranked in the Top 10. Saturday's game looks to be another epic chapter in this storied rivalry.
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Place: Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, FL
Radio: WQAM 560 (Miami) - WBOB 1320 (Florida State)
Spread: Florida State -21.5 (Golden Nugget, Caesars, Mirage)
Traditionalists usually opt for "classic" rivalries—Alabama vs. Auburn, Michigan vs. Ohio State, or Texas vs. Oklahoma—but for folks who have witnessed Miami vs. Florida State in person know this series is as good as it gets.
Regarding those unfamiliar with the history between these Sunshine State foes, or for those who want a quick trip down memory lane, watch the video above.
The Hurricanes and Seminoles first teed it up back in 1951 and have played 57 times since. The rivalry went next-level in the mid-1980s, and many Instant Classic-type games ensued.
In 1987, Florida State jumped out to a 19-3 lead at home, but Miami stormed back, pulling out the 26-25 victory when a two-point conversion was batted down in the end zone. The Hurricanes went on to win the national championship, yet a year later, the Seminoles were the preseason No. 1. The 1988 season opener between Miami and Florida State was a blowout as the underdog Hurricanes rolled, 31-0.
Meetings in 1991, 1992 and 2000 all went Miami's way when kicks sailed "Wide Right"—a phrase synonymous with this rivalry. In 2002, the top-ranked Hurricanes overcame a 27-14 fourth quarter deficit and with a chance at an upset, the Seminoles' potential game-winning kick sailed "Wide Left."
Probation crippled Miami in the mid- to late-1990s, coinciding with Florida State going on a tear. The Seminoles beat the Hurricanes five straight and captured the 1999 national championship in the process.
Miami's return to the top came a year later, as the Hurricanes earned four straight BCS berths, won a national championship (2001) and defeated the Seminoles six times in a five-year span.
Since then, both Miami and Florida State took a step back, albeit for different reasons. The Seminoles transitioned out of the Bobby Bowden era and welcomed Jimbo Fisher, while the Hurricanes experienced a coaching carousel and issues with the NCAA.
Florida State is the favored bunch and are a few steps ahead of Miami on the road to recovery, but in this storied rivalry, the "better" team doesn't always prevail.
When it's go-time for the Hurricanes and Seminoles, throw out the rankings and predictions. Both squads will bring their best and anything can happen, as seen time and time again.
Start Fast and Build Momentum
Slow first halves against Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Wake Forest forced late rallies by Miami. Conversely, a quick start in an early season match-up against the Gators allowed the Hurricanes to dictate the course of the game and helped spring Miami to an upset.
Florida State put up 35 points in the first quarter against North Carolina State last week. Two weeks ago it built an early 17-0 lead on the road that Clemson couldn't rebound from.
Miami must come out firing on all cylinders, letting Florida State know it will be a sixty-minute game. To date, the Seminoles haven't truly been tested. The Tigers and Death Valley appeared to be a challenge, but Clemson unraveled quickly and Florida State rolled.
If the Hurricanes can punch the Seminoles in the mouth early, that will negate all the big talk and hype coming into the game.
Players Need to Reach Potential, Not Underachieve
Miami's defense overachieved, forcing six turnovers in the win against Florida. The more plays the UM made on that side of the ball, the more infectious success became for the team as a whole. The Hurricanes believed they could beat the Gators, led from the first score and never looked back. That aggressive attitude and mindset are necessary for Miami to have a shot at topping Florida State.
Offensively, star players have to live up to the hype. The interceptions that plagued Stephen Morris have to stop—as does bad decision making, errant back foot throws and not taking what the defense is giving him.
The veteran offensive line needs to win the battle in the trenches, receivers need to haul in anything thrown their way and running backs need to protect the football. This is not the type of game where points can be left on the field. The Canes need to come away with a score every time an opportunity presents itself.
Run the Ball, Protect the Ball, Dictate the Pace
No. 9 Florida State's near-upset of No. 1 Miami in 2002 was the result of the Seminoles running the ball hard and often, totaling 289 yards on 52 attempts. Greg Jones carried 31 times for 189 yards and Florida State won the time of possession battle, 34:02 to 25:58.
The game plan almost worked to perfection as the Seminoles led 27-14 entering the fourth quarter. The Hurricanes needed a late two-touchdown rally and missed Florida State field goal to escape, 28-27.
Miami has to run the ball well with Duke Johnson and Dallas Crawford if the Hurricanes are going to emerge victorious. Move the chains, run with passion, protect the football and dictate the game's pace. Miami must win the field position battle while limiting the amount of touches the Florida State offense is allotted.
Keep Doing What Works
Florida State has been one of the more consistent teams in the nation this season, especially on offense. Whether it's Pitt (41-13), Nevada (62-7), Maryland (63-0) or third-ranked Clemson (51-14), the Seminoles are putting up points, shutting down the opposition and dominating everyone.
The early knock on this Florida State team was that they hadn't played anybody. Two weeks ago, that notion was dispelled when the Seminoles put up 565 yards on the Tigers in Death Valley. Jameis Winston lit up Clemson's defense for 444 passing yards, while Florida State's defense forced four turnovers.
Still, it will be a challenge for Florida State to keep up that pace week after week. Miami will bring its best game and fight back, but until someone can stop the Seminoles, or at least hang, the blueprint remains in place.
Pressure Morris, Force Turnovers
Rattling Stephen Morris is the key to disrupting Miami's offense. North Carolina forced four interceptions and countless bad decisions by pressuring the senior quarterback all game. When under duress, Morris has thrown off his back foot, forced passes and given up valuable field position with untimely turnovers.
Getting inside Morris' head early and disrupting his rhythm is the key to Florida State making Miami's offense one-dimensional. If Morris is off, the Noles can stack the box and focus on containing Duke Johnson and Dallas Crawford, which would be disastrous for the Canes' offense.
Ride "Famous Jameis" to Victory
Until a defense proves it can stop Winston, Florida State is wise to give the redshirt freshman the keys to just about everything. More than just a playmaker on offense, Winston's personality has rubbed off on his teammates, and he's become a full-fledged leader.
After Clemson turned the ball over on the game's first offensive play, Florida State ran twice with Devonta Freeman before letting Winston go deep. The result? A 22-yard touchdown to Kelvin Benjamin and a 7-0 lead two minutes into the game.
Winston's first career start at Pitt brought a 25-of-27 performance, 356 passing yards, four touchdowns through the air and one on the ground.
Miami has let less-talented quarterbacks have their way all season. Florida's Jeff Driskel passed for 291 yards, North Carolina's Bryn Renner put together a 297-yard performance weeks back and most recently, Tanner Price of Wake Forest threw for 302 yards against the Hurricanes.
If those three could pick apart Miami's defense, it's scary to think what Winston could do.
It's no secret that Miami's senior quarterback has been noticeably off the majority of the season. A quirky schedule to start, blowout wins resulting in backups getting playing time and a nagging ankle injury have all helped weave Morris' tale this season.
Bad decision-making and turnovers were also an issue against Georgia Tech and North Carolina. Opposing defensive coordinators seem to have found Morris' tell. Pressure up the middle forces ill-advised back-foot tosses toward primary receivers that Morris locks on to.
Morris doesn't necessarily have to win the game for the Hurricanes, but he has to manage the game properly and can't throw it away. Make smart decisions, protect the football, move the chains and when the deep ball is called, hit the receiver in stride to steal momentum.
Crawford put himself on the map with a stellar showing at North Carolina, taking over for the injured Duke Johnson. The sophomore back ran hard, with purpose and carried the Hurricanes to a comeback victory over the Tar Heels.
Johnson re-assumed his role against Wake Forest this past weekend and netted two fourth quarter touchdowns, including the game-winner. That said, in a match-up like this against Florida State, ball control is everything. As much as the Hurricanes will need some of Johnson's "lightning", it's Crawford's "thunder" that will count in short-yardage situation.
Crawford's spirit showed on Miami's game-winning drive at North Carolina. The sophomore lowered his head and barreled over defenders on a crucial third-and-short. Later in the drive, Crawford threw his entire body at the goal line and willed himself in for the final score.
That type of toughness needs to be on display if the Hurricanes are going to control the clock and upset the Seminoles on Saturday night.
When looking at the Miami defense, there have been a handful of playmakers this season. Tracy Howard, Rayshawn Jenkins and Antonio Crawford have created turnovers in the secondary. Tyriq McCord and Al-Quadin Muhammad have shone on third down, while go-to defensive linemen have all found different times to step up.
Still, when sizing up this Hurricanes defense, it all runs through the experienced Perryman. The big hit on Matt Jones in the Florida game created the first turnover, leading to a touchdown. A year ago at Boston College, it was a Perryman pick-six that put the Hurricanes back in the game.
Whether it's dropping back into coverage and looking to haul down a pass or stuffing running backs at the line of scrimmage, Perryman is a veteran and must find a way to lead this UM defense.
Not much more to say about Winston that hasn't already been said. The redshirt freshman is doing his best Johnny Manziel this season and has been on fire since the opener at Pitt. After a light schedule early, Clemson proved to be Winston's signature win, and there haven't proven to be any chinks in the armor to date.
Seven games, seven wins and 2,177 passing yards with a 23-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Winston has been sacked 12 times, which helps account for the low number of turnovers. The first-year quarterback is already thinking like a veteran, willing to take the loss than throw a pick.
If Miami doesn't come with a specifically designed game plan for Winston, this game could get out of hand.
Greene has become Winston's favorite target, hauling in 39 receptions for 690 yards with eight touchdowns on the season. The junior wide receiver had a 72-yard touchdown grab against Clemson and pulled down eight receptions per game on three separate occasions this season. Greene will be one of the better receivers the Miami secondary faces this season.
The junior defensive tackle has been terrorizing backfields all season and could give Stephen Morris fits on Saturday night. The Hurricanes boast a veteran offensive line, but the 300-pound Jernigan has a motor and will be coming hard on every play. A first-year full-time starter, Jernigan played in 26 career games entering this season, with 76 career tackles and 14 tackles for loss.
Al Golden had his Miami Hurricanes off-limits to the media last week, soon after the NCAA investigation ended. This week, the head coach is ready to talk about the upcoming showdown at Florida State, as reported by CaneInsider.com.
Regarding the Seminoles, Golden knows they're the biggest challenge the Hurricanes have faced to date:
It's a very complete team playing with a white-hot quarterback right now. The quarterback is playing exceptionally well right now. The receivers can beat you deep, can come back for the ball, have length. The running backs, a big-time tight end, an offensive line that is veteran. A who's who on defense. Their front seven, everyone (has) strength and size up front. Linebackers that are rangy. Defensive backs, a guy like (Lamarcus) Joyner that makes it run for them. It probably is the most complete team that we've seen.
When asked about bounce-back ability from last-minute wins:
I don't know. We are playing with poise. Guys are starting to enjoy the battle. We are getting leadership. Randy Johnson wanted the ball and the guys believe in Stephen, that he's going to win the game for them. We're getting leadership, have to continue to have poise and understand that there's going to be a surge in this game between the environment and how they want to attack you and we have to fight through it.
Golden discussing "working smart" and this week's preparations:
I believe in working smart, being efficient. You can stay till midnight if you want, you only have the kids for four hours, have to find a way to make it simple for them. We work efficient, use our time really well in terms of walkthrough, meetings, have wireless capabilities so if kids want to watch something they can watch it, we can send it to them. It's about everyone being on the same page. To say we get to Florida State week, let's stay till1 a.m., that's not the answer. And we had to do that too much a year ago, manufacture ways to win instead of let the kids go play and win. … there is a trust with this team.
Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher spoke with the media on Monday, via tomahawknation.com, and shared some thoughts about Miami, especially the Hurricanes' ground attack and how to slow it down:
You got to be physical. You got to be able to shed blockers and use your hands. They're a very good offensive line. Duke [Johnson] is a great runner and they're very multiple in how they do some things. A great stretch team, counter team, inside zones, they'll mix reverses in with their talented skill guys. They do a great job and we're going to have to be very physical. We're going to have to give different looks, different combinations so they don't know what we're trying to block all the time. They're a very experienced offensive line and very well coached group up front. It's going to be a hard one to handle. We're going to have to 'man up', there's is no doubt.
Being the 25-year anniversary of the infamous "Seminole Rap," as well as the supposed invincibility surrounding this year's Florida State squad, the 1988 showdown between the Hurricanes and Seminoles deserves mention.
Despite winning the 1987 national championship, Miami opened the following season ranked No. 6 while Florida State was the preseason No. 1. During the summer months, Florida State players took it upon themselves to write a rap and shoot a video:
"We are the Seminoles of Florida State, we know we're good some say we're great. Our goal is simple, best in the land. Rocking to the beat of the Marching Chiefs Band. On Saturday night we'll strut our stuff, to show the nation the Noles are tough. We work real hard get where we at, so we having fun doin' the Seminole rap."
The result was an absolutely disaster. Florida State rolled into the Orange Bowl for the season opener and went home humiliated, on the wrong end of a 31-0 beatdown.
This time around, it's No. 3 taking on No. 7 and a completely different set of circumstances, but the message remains the same—respect this rivalry as both sides will come to play.
Miami and Florida State always bring their best when playing each other.
Outsiders, columnists and bookies are calling for a blowout, but these players and coaches know better. These two teams have history and those involved know this game could be decided in the fourth quarter.
On paper, it's impossible to not pick Florida State. The Seminoles have been on a seven-game roll this season, demolishing everyone in their path.
As for Miami, it's been comeback finishes against ACC rivals, and survival mode in an upset of Florida. The Hurricanes have shown character and the record looks great, but the wins have been far from pretty.
Florida State took it to Miami pretty good, 45-17, in Randy Shannon's final year. Since then, Al Golden has done more with less, keeping the last two games competitive, despite the Seminoles having the deeper and better team.
In 2002 Miami was "better", but Florida State took the game to the wire. In 2000, the Seminoles were defending national champs, having owned the Canes for the latter part of the previous decade, but Miami rose up and dethroned the nation's top-ranked team.
This is truly a game where Miami could play its best and take care of business.
The Hurricanes often get knocked for playing down the to the level of competition. The flip side, "The U" also rises to the occasion in big time moments—especially when Florida State is lining up across the ball.
Florida State earns the nod, but a Miami upset certainly can't be ruled out. Not with Golden's, find-a-way, get-it-done, destiny's darling, Cardiac Canes.
Prediction: Florida State 34, Miami 24