If games were decided in the first half, Miami and Florida State would've proved the critics wrong, looking like an even match-up two quarters in.
After sixty decisive minutes, the Seminoles showed the Hurricanes remain a few steps behind the three touchdown favorite. The home team rolled to a convincing 41-14 victory in Tallahassee on Saturday night, solidifying the fact that that the gap in this Sunshine State rivalry was as big as predicted—for now.
Miami brought the fight early, going toe-to-toe with Florida State, trading touchdowns and tying things up after one. Stephen Morris got it done through the air, while Duke Johnson carried the load on the ground and for two quarters, it was truly anybody's game.
The Hurricanes' defense picked off Jameis Winston twice in the first half and after Morris connected with Allen Hurns for their second touchdown of the night, Miami trailed 21-14 going into the intermission.
From there it was all Florida State—as expected.
The Seminoles relished the big-stage opportunity, while the Hurricanes proved that Al Golden's rebuilding project still has some catching-up to do.
Florida State, defending ACC champs, owned the second half and ultimately took over. Offensively, the Seminoles totaled 165 yards with two touchdowns in the third quarter, while the Hurricanes unraveled on consecutive game-defining possessions.
Miami, fresh off three nail-biting comebacks, proved it belonged, but still has a ways to go in its quest to recapturing past glory.
In a ten-minute span in the third, Miami lost 13 yards on a third down sack and Morris tossed a first down pick on the ensuing possession. Just like that, the Hurricanes were in a 35-14 hole with one quarter to play.
Miami entered a three-touchdown underdog and while the final score proved the critics right, the Hurricanes still roll into November playing better than expected.
Sitting at 7-1 with four games remaining, the Hurricanes control their fate in the ACC Coastal. Virginia Tech—Miami's biggest divisional threat at the outset—dropped two straight conference showdowns, falling to Duke and Boston College back-to-back weeks.
With the Hurricanes 3-1 in conference and the Hokies unraveling at 3-2, "The U" remains on track for an ACC Championship game berth in December, barring Miami continues to play with the same effort it brought to Tallahassee for tonight's prime time match-up.
Florida State, 8-0 overall and 6-0 in conference, sits in the thick of the national championship race. Wake Forest, Syracuse, Idaho and Florida loom, while Miami takes on Duke, Virginia and Pittsburgh, after next week's showdown with Virginia Tech.
For Miami, as big as Saturday's match-up with Florida State appeared, Virginia Tech remains the key to the Hurricanes' season. A win over the Hokies puts Miami 4-1 in conference and on a clear-cut path to Charlotte, which was the Hurricanes' ultimate goal, after self-imposing a post-season ban and sitting out last year's ACC Championship game.
While the Seminoles took care of business in Tallahassee, the Hurricanes did enough to show that a rematch on neutral turf one month from now could have a different result and feel, barring Miami continues to improve as a cohesive unit.
A win at Florida State would've made a best-case early November scenario even better, but with one loss and four games remaining, Miami is perched right where it wants to be.
November served up a decisive Florida State victory. Come December, if Miami can match it's first half effort and learns how to put together sixty minutes of football, the ACC Championship game could be anyone's for the taking.