Miami has absolutely no shot at Florida State this weekend—or so the nation has been led to believe. The Seminoles are thought to be unstoppable, while the Hurricanes enter the showdown a 22-point underdog, painted as the "worst" No. 7 team in the history of college football.
Maybe ABC Sports will cancel the game and the network can run a "Movie of the Week" in its place.
All joking aside, what if Florida State really isn't as invincible as perceived? What if some answers to beating the Seminoles have already been unveiled this season, courtesy of a lesser opponent who started strong, but couldn't finish the job?
Boston College jumped out to a 17-3 lead when hosting Florida State in late September, but couldn't seal the deal, eventually falling 48-34. The Eagles performed well in certain areas but fell short in others, allowing a deeper Seminoles squad to do what better teams do—find a way to win.
The home team's overall plan was solid, even where execution lacked. Boston College went ahead early, ran the football effectively, gained momentum, controlled the clock, played physical football and fought until the final whistle.
Running back Andre Williams was a workhorse for the Eagles, carrying the ball 28 times and churning out 149 yards. Williams' efforts helped Boston College win the time of possession battle 33:16 to 26:44, while the ground attack opened things up for quarterback Chase Rettig, who threw for 197 yards and four touchdowns.
Boston College finished with 397 total yards, and it started with attacking Florida State immediately, setting the tone with a defensive stand and following up with an opening-possession touchdown.
The Eagles sacked Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston four times and forced the redshirt freshman into a mid-fourth quarter interception as he tried to build on a two-touchdown lead. Boston College—a 2-10 team last season—quickly unraveled when Rettig coughed up a red-zone pick, unable to capitalize on the turnover.
An underdog only has so many shots at dethroning a favorite. A quality team like Florida State is always one snap away from a back-breaking play, and against Boston College, the Sunshine State power delivered a handful of crushing blows on the road to victory.
Winston was lethal with the deep-ball and big-play ability, as he's been all season. Kelvin Benjamin had receptions of 24, 38 and 41 yards, while Rashad Greene hauled in a second quarter 56-yard touchdown.
Prior to halftime, Winston manufactured another clip for his Heisman reel, avoiding defenders and launching a 55-yard Hail Mary strike to Kenny Shaw. The score put the 'Noles up 24-17 at the half and woke Florida State from its early slumber.
Boston College lost the turnover battle 2-to-1 and was 3-of-14 on third down conversions, both of which proved detrimental in an upset bid that fell short by two touchdowns.
When looking at what Boston College did right, Miami can follow suit in some areas, while others could be a struggle based on recent history.
With a veteran offensive line and a solid running back duo, the Hurricanes boast an even stronger ground attack than the Eagles. Duke Johnson made himself a household name at Chestnut Hill in last year's season opener and has been on a tear ever since, while Dallas Crawford has since emerged as a legit threat, giving Miami a solid one-two punch.
Crawford's 137-yard, 33-carry performance in a comeback win at North Carolina was full of tough, head-lowering, barrel-over-defender type runs, which is the type of runner that makes a difference in hard-hitting rivalry games.
A double dose of Johnson and Crawford can help Miami extend drives, keep the clock moving and should eventually wear down Florida State's defense. Also, like Boston College, the Hurricanes boast an effective Rettig-like quarterback in Stephen Morris, who can throw the ball, move the chains and hit the deep pass.
An ankle injury hobbled Morris much of the season, but head coach Al Golden believes his quarterback is finally on the mend and ready to be turned loose.
With a healthier Morris and a bevy of talent at wide receiver, Florida State cannot completely sell out to stop the run. The Hurricanes will be able to pick their poison on offense, much like the Eagles, and move the football.
While Miami can match what Boston College did on the ground, inefficiency on third down was problematic against Florida's top-notch defense and could prove disastrous at Florida State.
The Hurricanes were 1-of-11 in that early September win over the twelfth-ranked Gators and lost the time of possession battle 38:20 to 21:40. Forced turnovers were the lone reason Miami hung on for the win.
Early momentum was also key against Florida. The Hurricanes believed from the get-go that the game was winnable due to the early lead and never lost that mental edge.
When toppling a giant, falling in a hole and coming from behind is never optimum. "The U" was able to avoid such fate against the perennial SEC power and needs to do it this week against the ACC's best.
Slow starts and late-game comebacks have been a part of all three conference games thus far for Miami. Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Wake Forest all took early leads, with fourth quarter rallies needed by the Hurricanes for survival. Should that be the case in Tallahassee, the road team will be in for a very long night.
Boston College's game plan with a dose of reckless abandon is the ultimate blueprint for a Miami upset.
Come Saturday night the Hurricanes must play with nothing to lose. Started from the bottom and now they're here—undefeated and taking on the Seminoles in prime time with the nation watching.
Based on the past half decade for this troubled Miami program, win or lose on the field this weekend, these Hurricanes "deserve victory."
Follow Chris Bello on Twitter @allCanesBlog
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