Miami Hurricanes at Florida State Seminoles game preview

Tomorrow is yet another chapter in the storied rivalry between the Miami Hurricanes and the Florida St. Seminoles. Miami comes to town with a 5-4 record (3-3 in the ACC). The 'Noles sit at 6-3 (4-2 in the ACC). 

This year's rivalry has a bit of a different feel to it. Florida State and Miami have not clashed for too many recruits of late, as FSU dominated the trail for the 2010 and 2011 classes. 

Yet as always, there will be top kids visiting for this game. 

FSU comes into this matchup as a 9.5-point favorite over the Hurricanes. That's the largest line in this series since 2002, when the 'Canes were favored by 13.5 points.

The weather should be in the high 60s at kickoff and in the high 50s by the fourth quarter. Plan accordingly. 

Before we dive into this preview, let's make sure to say a big Thank You, veterans!

How did Miami get to 5-4?

These are my thoughts at the time these games were played. 

The Miami Hurricanes dropped their season opener to the Maryland Terrapins, 32-24. Miami showed some really good things, but also some bad things. With all their players, Miami can be a dangerous team. But the defense last night was very bad and the loss of the defensive linemen clearly showed. Unfortunately for the U, this is the last year for a long while that Miami has a chance to be very good, as they lose 21 seniors and likely 2-4 more early to the NFL. And the sanctions, etc.

Plays 60 63
Yards/Play 8.6 7.7
UM outgained VT by 12% per play
Field Position UM 24 VT 24

The Miami Hurricanes went to Virginia Tech and played their hearts out. And lost 38-35. Both teams lack defensive depth and as such, a key injury or two helpd the opposing offense run up a ton of yards on each other. It's really hard to say either team outplayed the other. You have to be impressed with Miami's run game, though some of the success undoubtedly came because VT's defensive line depth is nonexistent and VT has a 258 pound true frosh at nose guard who was routinely dominated. Miami did let tight end with an arm Logan Thomas to go 23-25 through the air, which is terrible defense. What can be changed with the defense? The DC says it is already as simple as can be. Golden says a lot of guys believe they are much better than they really are. The 7th floor says get used to Miami losing a lot of games. And some Cane fans are realizing what I put out almost a year ago: they have no depth and the recruiting isn't doing anything to fix it.

Plays 56 80
Yards/Play 5.6 5.4
UM outgained UNC by 4% per play
Field Position Own 34 Own 33


Miami got the ball first, had a solid gameplan, took what UNC was giving, UNC missed tackles and Miami scored. Jacory Harris made some nice throws. UNC fumbles the next kickoff, Miami scores on the next play. 14-0 Canes. A few scores are exchanged, UNC makes a terrible call to kick on 4th-2 from the Miami 2 (enormous tactical error showing a lack of recognition of point expectancy from resulting field position). 25 minutes into the game, Miami is up 27-3 and then the Canes shut it down. Jacory Harris had been lights out. He started getting more erratic. The playcalling had been great. That stopped. UNC had stopped the run all day and Miami decided to try and run out the second half. In the end, this was a very evenly-played game, but Miami definitely shut it down up 24 points. 

Jacory Harris is playing very well now, with no interceptions in 14 quarters. Still, I think FSU matches up quite well against the Canes. It'll be a good game in a month.

Score 7 24
Plays 60 44
Yards/Play 4.5 3.5
GT outgained UM by 28% per-play
Field Position Own 20 Own 42

This was the least-dominant 17-point win I have ever seen. This isn't homerism. I've told you before when a rival is impressive. But this wasn't one of those games.

Miami was outplayed by Georgia Tech, on a down-to-down basis (see chart at left), but special teams and turnovers absolutely killed Georgia Tech.

Miami's touchdown drives were both only 46 yards. That's right, Tech gave the Hurricanes tremendous field position via turnovers and special teams. Miami didn't have a single drive of over 50 yards. Miami had four drives start in Georgia Tech territory! What's more? Miami's other touchdown came when GT muffed a punt and then bumped it into the end zone. Miami's field position was, on average, 22 yards better per drive than Tech's. Over a 13-drive game, that is an enormous difference.

3.5 yards/play for Miami is absolutely horrid. Jacory Harris was 8-23 for 140 yards and an interception. There was a good wind on the field, however, which hurt. The run game was also pretty bad, averaging 3.3 yards/carry by running back. 

Credit Miami's defense, however, for playing tough. And Credit Al Golden for an excellent plan. Miami's defense has no quality depth, so Miami's offense took almost the entire play clock on each snap. The Canes' defense stayed fresh. 

Miami announced a crowd of 43,716, however that figure was again way, way high based on estimates of those who were there. That program is in serious trouble if this team cannot draw 40,000 for a ranked team, at home, with beautiful weather. Miami hosts Virginia this Thursday. Don't expect more than 35,000 in the stands. DO expect Miami to announce more than 40,000.

Score 28 21
Plays 63 60
Yards/Play 7.5 7.2
UVA outgained Miami by 4% per play
Field Position Own 18 Own 32


The Miami Hurricanes dropped a game to the Virginia Cavaliers. They really were not outplayed by much, if at all.

The difference in this one was basically Miami's two missed field goals. Miami's offense is very good. That's a good offensive line, they have the best back in the conference and arguably the best receiver in the conference. And Jacory Harris is a different player. 

But Miami's defense, well, ...

7.5 yards/play allowed at home to Virginia? Seriously, Canes? Miami has been the second-worst defense in ACC play. 

The story with Miami continues to be ignored by the media, but this is the best Miami is going to look for a long time. Miami's best players will be leaving via graduation and early entry to the draft. Miami announced 40,403 fans, and there were no more than 33,000, if that.

This week, the Canes face Duke and are offering a package of 4 tickets, $40 stadium bucks, and parking for $13 dollars. Yes, the school is basically paying you to attend the game. 

Virginia's run game looked very good, but this is not the first team to gash Miami, so let's wait and see how they look against one of the best defenses in the country in three weeks. Post-game wrap.

Duke Miami
Score 14 42
Plays 47 56
Yards/Play 5.79 7.96
Miami outgained Duke by 38% per play
Field Position Own 20 Own 36

Miami plays really, really slowly. Each team had only 8 non-garbage possessions. I think they do this to protect a defense that has very little depth. 

Miami basically made Duke look like Duke. Jacory Harris played much better than he did against Georgia Tech or Virginia. Dare I say that he is a good quarterback?! I might say just that. This is a very good offense that scored touchdowns on its first five drives. 

The defense, however, is still not much. Duke had drives of 82, 74 and 68 yards before garbage time. 

Miami offense v. Florida State defense

Miami Offense
WR 8 Tommy Streeter (6-5, 217, Jr.)
1 Allen Hurns (6-3, 190, So.)
2 LaRon Byrd (6-4, 222, Sr.)
79 Malcolm Bunche (6-7, 325, R-Fr.)
LG 66 HARLAND GUNN (6-2, 317, SR.)
61 Joel Figueroa (6-6, 317, Gr.)
C 63 TYLER HORN (6-4, 305, SR.)
62 Shane McDermott (6-4, 295, R-Fr.)
RG 65 Brandon Linder (6-6, 310, So.)
75 Jared Wheeler (6-5, 315, So.)
RT 77 Seantrel Henderson (6-8, 345, So.)
or 70 Jon Feliciano (6-5, 320, R-Fr.)
TE 49 Dyron Dye (6-5, 275, R-So.)
46 Clive Walford (6-4, 245, R-Fr.)
9 Chase Ford (6-6, 260, Sr.)
FB 33 Maurice Hagens (5-11, 240, Sr.)
43 John Calhoun (6-3, 245, Jr.)
QB 12 JACORY HARRIS (6-4, 200, SR.)
17 Stephen Morris (6-2, 210, So.)
HB 6 Lamar Miller (5-11, 215, So.)
5 Mike James (5-11, 222, Jr.)
or 23 Eduardo Clements (5-9, 195, So.)
WR 3 TRAVIS BENJAMIN (5-10, 171, SR.)
85 Phillip Dorsett (5-9, 178, Fr.)

Let's go ahead and get this out of the way: this is a very, very good Miami offense. You might not know it because the 'Canes defense routinely puts the offense in unfavorable field position, and because Miami plays an incredibly slow pace to protect the defense. But on a per-possession basis, you won't find more than a handful better. 

So get excited! A tremendous offense v. a tremendous defense!

The popular story in the media is the resurgence of Jacory Harris. But the real story, at least to me, is the running game.

This is a very good offensive line. Randy Shannon didn't do much right, but he did let OL coach Jeff Stoutland recruit (now at Alabama). This group has stayed remarkably healthy, and has really grown together. This is a very mature group. And they are better run blockers than pass protectors. Brandon Jenkins will have quite the task on his hands in trying to stop the run against powerful tackle Brandon Washington. 

And it's not just a good offensive line keying this attack. No, Miami also has arguably the best back in the ACC since C.J. Spiller in Lamar Miller. Miller is already at 1,000+ yards on the season. He's always been extremely fast, but has bulked up to a very impressive 215 pounds. 

Most of Miami's run game is gap exchange (man blocking, not zone). FSU has seen plenty of this and should be ready. 

Miami hits just as many explosive plays from its run game as it does its passing game. False steps by FSU's linebackers or poor angles from a certain maligned safety could be disastrous for FSU. The 'Noles need to make sure to "live another play."

But that's not to say the passing game isn't also good. It is. Very good. In fact, it is even better than the run game. This, however, is probably because teams are keying on the run quite a bit (justifiably so). 

Jacory Harris is playing much better, and he has two excellent receivers to which he delivers the ball in Streeter and Benjamin. Streeter has really come on this year. He's a go-get-it deep ball guy without a ton of open field moves. An excellent leaper, Miami will look to get him singled up on Greg Reid. Benjamin is super fast, but small, and is a terror in the open field. Luckily, FSU has Xavier Rhodes, Greg Reid and Mike Harris (uh, three really good corners).

The 'Canes stay in their 2 WR, 2 RB i-formation alignment, for the most part. The tight ends are not a great group, and Miami does not have a scary #3 receiver. 

And Miami plays slow. Reallllly, realllly slow. Why? To protect a suspect defense (We'll see next section). 

This is not a bad matchup for FSU's defense from a style standpoint, but it is tough. Look for FSU to deny the deep ball while stacking the box and playing a lot of soft cover-3 early. Then mix up the looks later.


-Hold Miami to less than 5.75 yards/play

-Force two turnovers

-Don't allow more than 5 explosive plays (runs of 15+, passes of 25+)

Miami defense v. Florida State offense

Miami Defense
DE 71 Anthony Chickillo (6-4, 255, Fr.)
48 Andrew Smith (6-3, 248, Sr.)
DT 97 Adewale Ojomo (6-4, 265, Jr.)
92 Jalen Grimble (6-2, 280, Fr.)
DT 98 Darius Smith (6-2, 335, Jr.)
54 MICANOR REGIS (6-3, 300, SR.)
DE 56 Marcus Robinson (6-1, 250, Sr.)
35 Olivier Vernon (6-4, 265, Jr.)
SLB 58 Jordan Futch (6-3, 235, Sr.)
94 Kelvin Cain (6-3, 230, So.)
MLB 59 Jimmy Gaines (6-3, 225, So.)
36 Gionni Paul (6-0, 230, Fr.)
WLB 31 SEAN SPENCE (6-0, 225, SR.)
52 Denzel Perryman (6-0, 221, Fr.)
CB 41 Mike Williams (6-1, 182, Gr.)
32 Lee Chambers (5-10, 185, Sr.)
FS 26 RAY-RAY ARMSTRONG (6-4, 215, Jr.)
29 JOJO NICOLAS (6-1, 195, SR.)
11 A.J. Highsmith (6-0, 195, Jr.)
CB 21 Brandon McGee (6-0, 185, Jr.)
20 Thomas Finnie (5-10, 180, So.)

Florida State's defense and Miami's offense is likely a draw. But the 'Noles offense should have the advantage over Miami's defense.

Miami runs a standard 4-3 defense and will show some 3-4 looks. As we covered yesterday, this has not been a very good defense to this point. 

What are the issues? 

Miami's defensive line is decent, but not special. They're missing Marcus Forston in the worst way. Now, DT Darius Smith has come on (listed at 335, probably 350). That's a tough matchup for true freshman center Austin Barron, one of the many replacements on FSU's offensive line.

Did you know: FSU has lost 3 offensive line starters since Spring, and 5 of its top 9? It's true.

Anyway, FSU will be paying special attention to Olivier Vernon, as Miami will line him up over 17-year old tackle Bobby Hart. On the plus side, Zebrie Sanders should be able to handle Anthony Chickillo. 

The linebacking corps is not without its issues either. Yes, Spence is still there and is still all-world. But Jordan Futch is out for this game, and Miami doesn't have a great replacement for him. 

Miami's run fits have not been good this year against teams utilizing the QB run threat. That has to keep defensive coordinator Mike D'Onofrio up at nights, as E.J. Manuel is a tremendous running QB.

Look for FSU to line up in spread sets and test Miami's ability to defend runs involving the quarterback (zone reads, options, maybe a little veer?) This is obviously a big game and Jimbo Fisher will not hesitate to run Manuel a lot. 

And don't think Miami's secondary is without its issues. Miami's corners aren't any good, particularly not when Miami just had to move its best corner back to safety because its safety made the bone-headed move to tweet about dinner with an agent-type (even if she is his girlfriend). 

I don't see Miami being able to man up with FSU's receivers. That means Manuel will see a lot of zone from Miami.

And with Manuel's running threat, that zone coverage should be pretty predictable. Miami won't be able to to sit in a two-high shell and defend Manuel's legs. 

FSU just needs to take what Miami gives. This seems simple, but Miami will definitely be giving things. If the 'Canes give the deep ball, FSU can and should take it. If they want to play two-high and cover the wideouts, the 'Noles should run. They try to take away the deep ball and the run? Flip the ball out to the playmakers and let them do their work.

If the 'Noles can get out to an early lead it would be tremendously helpful as it might make Miami abandon its ultra-slow pace. The 'Canes are not used to playing at a fast pace and abandoning the run. An early lead for FSU might make Miami do so. 

But it's also important not to press. FSU's offense is good enough to beat Miami if it simply 1) recognizes what Miami is doing on defense and 2) takes what Miami is giving. FSU needs to play under control. And while the temptation is there to play very fast and wear out a rather thin defense, the greater need is to correctly get into the right plays and checks pre-snap. 


-At least 6.25 yards/play

-No more than 1 turnover

Other notes

FSU should have the special teams advantage here. Miami obviously has dangerous returners, but FSU has the way better kicker and punter and better returners.


I'll go with 'Noles 31, Canes 23. 

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