Florida State at Miami Preview & Prediction

Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Florida State looks to take home its third consecutive win over Miami and fourth in a row on the road in the series.


Time: 8 p.m. | TV: ABC | Line: Florida State -21.5


What They Did Last Week: Miami

Miami dropped a tough home tilt to North Carolina. Much like the rest of the year Miami struggled to stop the run. Unlike in past weeks Miami was quite strong against the pass holding Renner to 5.4 yards/pass and picking him off at the goal line. This game probably should not have been this close but a UNC red zone turnover combined with 140 yards worth of Tar Heel penalties (one on a Miami punt attempt) gave Miami chances. Credit the Canes for taking advantage of enough of those opportunities to keep this one close.

What They Did Last Week: Florida State

Florida State blasted Boston College because BC is bad and FSU has better players. It was a look ahead game for FSU following its first loss of the season so sloppy play could have been expected. The Noles took care of business at home and nothing more needs to be said.


Don't miss Bud's scouting report on Miami from Tuesday


v. Miami's Defense

Run the ball. Then run it again. Then run it some more. Run it inside. Run it outside. Run EJ Manuel. Miami's defense is awful. Need statistical proof? In Football Outsiders' rankings Miami checks in at 92 making it the worst BCS defense FSU has faced this year. Miami is giving up about 5.6 yards/rush against teams not named Georgia Tech and Bethune-Cookman (schools omitted because the triple option is not analogous to FSU's offense).

Al Golden has recognized Florida State's success in running the the ball outside and moved Miami's faster linebackers (Denzel Perryman and Eddie Johnson) outside for added speed. The Noles have not run very well inside this year but might be able to due to this switch. FSU should still be able to run outside well as Miami has not been able to stop the run anywhere.

Expect FSU to run the ball with all of its backs including E.J. Manuel. Miami fared well against Kansas State in bottling up Collin Klein and holding him to 3.3 yards/carry, but that might be misleading as he scored three touchdowns on the day. He also did this, so it's possible he was concussed or drunk.

Unfortunately for Miami they are not much better against the pass. Miami is giving up 8.9 yards/pass to teams not named Georgia Tech or Bethune-Cookman (again, triple option teams) but did shut down Bryn Renner pretty well. Before the UNC game Miami was giving up 10 yards/pass soooo....progress!

Miami has not shown a penchant to press receivers rather forcing teams to work their way down the field. While this is usually a good strategy it quickly backfires when teams do not tackle well and Miami does not. Expect Miami to try and blitz FSU in an attempt to force turnovers as they do not generate much of a pass rush without blitzing. FSU has struggled against well schemed blitz teams like North Carolina State but Miami is not on that level. The Canes do not blitz much but there's little chance they can stop FSU by playing their base defense so they will have to do something to switch things up.

The Noles cannot turn over the ball this week. While that is a given every week, it should be even more of a focus this week. Miami beat NC State and Boston College because they capitalized on nine turnovers in those two contests. Miami has done a very good job of forcing fumbles (14) and has recovered them at the average rate (50%). Again ball security is key this week.

FSU should come out of the gates fast and may run some no huddle. The Canes are not good and not deep so keeping them from substituting will wear them down early and open up more plays for FSU. Get out, get moving, get on the board.

Goals:

- more than 7.25 yards a play before garbage time
- No more than 1 turnover
- 70% or greater TDs in the red zone

v. Miami's Offense

Miami runs a pro-style offense out of multiple formations using motion to help quarterbacks understand what the defense is trying to accomplish. UM started off running a good bit of no huddle but as their defense gave up more and more yards they have dialed that back. Expect Miami to run at a snail's pace. The longer they hold the ball the more likely Miami will either win or keep the game close.

Miami's line has done a good job of keeping Stephen Morris upright (eight sacks by opponents) but that has not helped their passing game much. The problem is less Morris and more his receivers as they do not catch the football too well. Morris is only completing about 59% of his passes but has been victimized by drops.

FSU has been blitzing much more lately than it did last year and expect that trend to continue. If Morris plays (left ankle sprain during the UNC game but began practicing Tuesday) FSU will likely blitz to see how well he can move on that ankle. Morris could hurt the Noles as he has above average escapability in the pocket but backup Ryan Williams does not. If Williams does play Florida State will likely blitz early and often. Williams, a transfer from Memphis, is tall and accurate but immobile and does not possess a strong arm. Miami tends to throw more short passes which helps keep their QBs from taking too many hits. Tackling those passes will be key.

No matter what quarterback plays for Miami FSU needs to stop the run. Miami has been averaging 4.1 yards/carry this year but struggled against better run defenses like NC State (2.7) and Kansas State (1.4) (numbers deflated some by sacks v. Kansas State). Interestingly enough they did run well agaisnt Notre Dame (4.7) but that game got out of hand early forcing Miami to go to a pass heavy offense (35 passes/18 carries).

Miami has a stout line that runs both man and zone blocking and running backs Mike James and Duke Johnson have benefited much from this. James and Johnson have been splitting carries on the year but Johnson was injured against UNC and will not likely see as many carries as he other wise would.

Once again FSU will likely challenge its defensive backs to negate Miami's receiving core and let its front seven take care of the run. Teams have been much more successful in the run game against Florida State because FSU tends to stay in nickel even when the opposing offense has only two wide receivers and FSU is content forcing opponents to work their way down the field.

Goals:

- less than 4.75 yards a play before garbage time
- Force 2 turnovers
- 50% or less TDs in the red zome

Special Teams

Miami does not have anything outrageously special on special teams. FSU will kick the ball short on kickoffs and force Miami to work their way to the 25.

Miami kicker Jake Wieclaw has been a bit of a reverse Dustin Hopkins. Wieclaw started off connecting on his first seven kicks but has only make one of his last six. While he has had three cracks at kicks over 40 yards he has yet to hit one. In all fairness three of his last six kicks have been from over 40 yards. If Miami gets that close will they forego the attempt at a field goal and run another offensive play? It is certainly something they should consider.

While fans have been suspect of Dustin Hopkins he has had a very good year. True he missed two kicks against Clemson and one a week later against USF but he is 12-15 on the year with a long of 51. It does not get much better than that.

Prediction: FSU 41 - Miami 16

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