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Florida State football opponent preview: Miami

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10/24 Update

Miami went into Blacksburg & absolutely blitzed Virginia Tech, 30-6, moving to 5-3 overall, & 2-2 in the ACC. The Canes led 24-0 at halftime & were never really threatened.

The story of the night was Duke Johnson. When you play Miami, you know as a defense the one thing you have to do is make someone other than Duke Johnson beat you. Well...VT totally failed on Thursday night. The junior RB from Miami, FL, had 286 total yards on 31 touches (9.23 yds/touch), including a career-high 249 yards rushing. He also had 2 TD's. Unfortunately, for the Canes, they continued to pound Johnson late in the game, & he left the game late in the 4th quarter w/ an undisclosed injury. Fortunately, for The U, it didn't seem to be too serious. Apparently, Frank Beamer was impressed w/ Duke Johnson:

Brad Kaaya didn't have a good night statistically: 7-16 passing for 92 yards (5.8 yds/pass), & 1 TD, but he didn't make any major mistakes. Stacy Coley continues to be a disappointment in the passing game, as he only had 1 catch for 13 yards. He now has 12 receptions for 72 yards...ON THE SEASON! Weird.

Defensively, the Hurricanes held the Hokies to 262 total yards on 59 plays (4.44 yds/play) & forced 3 turnovers. VT only mustered 36 yards in the 1st half, including a staggering -13 yards rushing. Congrats to that Miami D, but I still have no idea how Virginia Tech beat Ohio Columbus! What a terrible loss for the Buckeyes. The committee better punish them, if someone in the B1G can't.

SBN's Bill C. has an article this morning on why Miami might be better than you think.

Up Next: Miami (FL) hosts UNC next Saturday (11/1).

10/23 Update

Huge game in the ACC Coastal tonight, as the Canes are in Blacksburg to take on VT at 8 pm. Who does everyone want to win? The biggest thing, obviously, is: #KeepGolden.

How about some fun numbers from one of ESPN's good ones, David Hale:

I'm sure that number is vs. all Miami's opponents, but it's an impressive stat, nonetheless. It's not as if Duke Johnson needs any more help!

Bud asked David for the #'s vs. power-5 teams:

The youngster has a nice supporting cast, but he's done nicer than I thought he would as a true freshman.

10/20 Update

SB Nation's Miami (FL) site, State Of The U, is still fairly optimistic about winning the ACC Coastal. Their conference schedule certainly gets easier in the 2nd half (w/ the obvious exception of FSU), & they own a head-to-head win over Duke, but they still need help. They certainly can't afford a defeat Thursday night at Virginia Tech.

10/13 Update

Miami hosted Cincinnati & jumped out to a 24-10 halftime lead. They stretched the lead to 41-13 & cruised to a 55-34 win at home (in front of 44,000 strong---yeah, right!) over the Bearcats.

Brad Kaaya continued to impress as a true freshman, completing 17-24 passes for 286 yards (11.9 yds/att), w/ 3 TD's, & 0 INT. His counterpart, Gunner Kiel was 31-57 for 355 yards (only 6.2 yds/att), w/ 3 TD's, & 3 INT's.

What can you say about Duke Johnson? He's a superstar in the backfield for the Canes. He ran for 162 yards & a TD on only 10 carries. I've questioned James Coley in the past for not using Johnson enough, but in a blowout, it's smart to give the man some rest. One-time FSU commit, Joseph Yearby was also impressive, w/ 113 yards on only 8 carries. Defensively, the Canes held the Bearcats to only 67 yards on 29 carries (2.3 yds/rush).

Philip Dorsett is the main deep threat for The U. He racked up 143 yards & 2 TD's on only 3 catches. On the season, he has 16 receptions for 550 yards (34.4/catch!) & 6 TD's. However, over 60% of those yards & TD's have come in 2 games: vs. Arkansas State & Cincinnati. Tight end, Clive Walford, is another guy to keep an eye on when the Hurricanes pass. The senior is having a nice season w/ 23 catches for 306 yards (13.3/catch), & 4 TD's. Stacy Coley was a highly-regarded recruit, & he had a nice freshman season, w almost 600 yards & 7 TD's. All this, makes you wonder if something's wrong w/ Coley in 2014. We're more than halfway through the season, and the talented WR only has 11 receptions for 59 yards & 0 TD's!

Although it was a fairly complete game for Al Golden's squad, 13 penalties for 155 yards makes you wonder about the discipline of this team.

Up Next: The Canes have a bye before traveling north to Blacksburg to take on VT in prime time on 10/23.

10/6 Update

Miami traveled to Atlanta to take on Georgia Tech in what was essentially a must-win game for the Canes to keep their ACC Coastal hopes alive. The U led 14-7 after the first quarter, then proceeded to get outscored 21-3 over the final 45 minutes, losing 28-17 & falling to 1-2 in ACC play.

The Hurricanes did a nice job offensively gaining 352 yards on 44 plays (8.0 yds/play). Brad Kaaya completed 16-25 for 245 yards (a very nice 9.8 yds/pass), but he only threw 1 TD w/ 2 INT's. Duke Johnson had 14 carries for 100 yards (7.1/rush) & a TD. He also had 3 receptions for 52 yards. Once again, you have to question James Coley's play-calling when Miami's best player had 152 total yards, but only got 17 touches. Georgia Tech was able to gain 371 yards on 72 plays (5.15 yds/play). The big thing to note here: GT ran 28 more plays than Miami & held the ball for 40:45, while the Canes only had it for 19:15! A big part of that is 3rd & 4th down conversions: Miami was only 2-6, while Georgia Tech went 11-16.

The biggest issue to me, however, is pointed out in Bill Connelly's Study Hall: Miami had 5 scoring opportunities (inside your opponent's 40), while GT only had 4. The Canes only averaged 3.4 points on those opportunities, while the Yellow Jackets averaged 7.0 (4 TD's!). Kaaya INT's killed The U. Both of them occurred in GT territory, & it led to the Yellow Jackets possessing a +10.3 TO Points Margin (also from Bill C's article).

Needless to say, people at State Of The U aren't overly optimistic, calling this a Watershed Moment for Al Golden. It basically says that Miami had better athletes than Georgia Tech (tough to debate that) & by the end of the year, Al Golden or Mark D'Onofrio (DC) will be canned.

Up Next: Miami hosts Cincinnati this weekend. The Canes are fortunate to face the Bearcats w/ QB, Gunner Kiel at less than 100%. The U is currently favored by 14.5 points.

9/29 Update

Miami got back above .500, exacting revenge against Duke for last year's humiliating loss. The Canes had much better balance on offense with 223 yards passing and 203 on the ground. Defensively, they bowed up on 3rd and 4th down, allowing the Blue Devils only 2 first downs in 19 tries!

Even though Brad Kaaya only completed 20 of 34 passes for 223 yards, Miami fans have to be pleased to see a 2/0 TD/INT ratio from the freshman, after throwing 2 INT's in his last game. Duke Johnson was a rock, once again for this offense, carrying the ball 25 times for 155 yards & a TD.

Up next: the Canes travel to Atlanta to face GT in a crucial ACC Coastal battle. I'm still rooting for a 4-4 tiebreaker among all 6 Coastal squads! #Chaos #goacc

9/22 Update

Miami traveled to Lincoln to take on Nebraska. The Canes scored a TD midway through the 2nd quarter to get within 24-21. The Huskers then went on a 17-3 run to put the game out of reach, before Miami scored a garbage-time TD to make it a respectable 41-31 final.

Statistically, it was a fairly close game, with Nebraska gaining 27 first downs to Miami's 24. The Huskers gained 456 yards, with 343 of those coming on the ground. Heisman candidate, Ameer Abdullah, carried 35 times for 229 yards & 2 TD's. The Canes gained 435 yards, with 359 of those coming  from the arm of Brad Kaaya, who threw 3 TD's, but was intercepted twice. Duke Johnson had 23 touches for 177 yards (7.7 yds/touch). It makes you wonder why James Coley didn't try and get his star RB more involved (you guys still mad Jimbo didn't open the bank to keep Coley in Tally?). Miami was -1 in the turnover game, w/ Nebraska returning the lone fumble for a TD. The Canes also had FIVE personal foul penalties in the 2nd half (undisciplined play, anyone? Wow.).

9/16 Update

So...this happened over the weekend:

Not surprisingly, Miami responded in a big way this morning:

As of now, Brad Kaaya remains the starter, but Miami fans got this encouraging news yesterday:

9/12 Update

The AP is reporting that DE Al-Quadin Muhammad will be suspended for the entire season.

State of the U expects Freshman Chad Thomas to get more playing time in AQM's absence.

9/10 Update

Miami evened their record at 1-1 after an easy 41-7 home victory over Florida A&M. The Hurricanes led 28-7 at half and cruised after the break. Miami averaged 6.6 yards/play, while they held FAMU to only 2.3 yards/play. The Canes actually lost the turnover battle 3-2, but it didn't end up hurting them.

State of The U gave team grades in The Good, The Bad, The Ugly:

9/2: Miami was stomped by Louisville on Labor Day, 31-13, gaining only 244 yards (4.4/play), and failing to crack 200 yards before garbage time. Miami's true freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya played like a guy who won the job because the starter tore his ACL, the backup failed yet another drug test, and the other guy transferred in after not being able to win the job at Kansas. Miami's receivers did him few favors in terms of making tough catches, running good routes, etc. But they continue to be really fast.

The offensive line was awful, and that is the biggest takeaway of the game. Miami fans expected it to be a strength, and a rebuilt Louisville defensive line brutalized Miami up front.

The defense, on the other hand, definitely looked improved, though it got gassed because the offense was 1 of 13 on third down. Louisville still moved the ball, but Miami was able to far reduce the big plays that it allowed in previous seasons.

Miami has upcoming home games against FAMU and Arkansas State, which are likely wins in front of awful crowds. Then games at Nebraska, v. Duke, at Georgia Tech, v. Cincinnati, at Virginia Tech and v. North Carolina. Miami seems likely to be 5-4 or 6-3 when FSU rolls in to town, so unless the Hurricanes pick it up significantly, FSU's game will not be in prime time.


Tomahawk Nation is setting up preview pages for each of Florida State's football opponents. This is the page for Miami. Florida State travels to Miami on November 15 for what amounts to a neutral-site game.

Yes, the game is still technically on the road. FSU still must get on the jet. It must still sleep in a hotel room and not have its customary home routine. But make no mistake, ever since Miami lost the Orange Bowl, it lost its home field advantage against Florida State. With the stadium up to more than an hour away from Coral Gables (at times, depending on traffic), fewer fans from Miami attend the games. The stadium is fodder for numerous shots every year of a supposedly elite program playing in front of awful crowds.

And when Florida State fans come to town, they buy up tons of tickets, making the stadium more like the 50-50 attendance split of Oklahoma-Texas, than of the old unfriendly atmosphere of Florida State at Miami in the Orange Bowl.

Since losing the Orange Bowl stadium, the results have been lopsided at Miami. The Seminoles are undefeated since 2004, winning by an average of more than two touchdowns. The last coach to win a home game against Florida State? Larry Coker.

Overall, FSU has won seven of nine against Miami, including four in a row. A win in Miami will produce an eight of ten result, something that has rarely happened in the series.

The fortunes have not changed much under Al Golden. Miami is just 13-11 overall in the ACC, and Golden has lost to Florida State all three times, by an average of more than two touchdowns.

Miami has also not won a bowl game against a major conference opponent since 2004.

This is a program with perhaps the richest history in the state (five rings), but it has not been nationally relevant for a decade now.

In recent years, it can even be argued that Miami has played no to win, but to avoid being blown out in front of the state's top recruits (to some success).

Will 2014 be different? It seems unlikely, but Miami does have fewer holes than in previous years. But, it's fair to question the depth of those holes.

Miami has one of the better receiving corps, offensive lines (I think, though they do lose a lot), running backs, and defensive backfields FSU will face. I think linebacker is OK, and perhaps underrated.

But Miami might be left hoping for average QB and defensive line play. And that's a problem for a team facing the squad with the best secondary in the country and perhaps the best offensive line in school history.

There's certainly the chance that FSU will face Miami twice this year and that they will finally break though and play for a conference title. But Quarterback and defensive line are two of the most important position groups on the field, and are Miami's biggest questions.

Here is Bill Connelly on Miami. This is just one of nine sections, and you really should click on over and read all of them.

The road will tell the tale: No matter how hard I try, no matter how much I balk at the names on the quarterbacks list, I just cannot be worried about the Miami offense. There's too much proven talent at the skill positions, and the line should still be solid, if not quite as good as last year. The offense will score.

But as they say, defense travels. And considering most of Miami's bigger games are on the road in 2014 -- Louisville, Nebraska, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech -- the Hurricanes' fortunes in 2014 will probably be tied to defensive competence. There just wasn't enough of it in 2013. The line wasn't talented enough, and the secondary suffered a glitch for every good play. The front of the defense gets some new blood, and the back is far more experienced, but there's a very good chance that defense will hold the Hurricanes back again this fall. The question is how much.

To have a chance at the division title, Miami might need to only win one of the three conference road games listed above (Louisville, GT, VT). But to have a legitimate chance at their first 10-win season since 2003 (yep, 2003), the Hurricanes might need to win two. Is that actually a possibility? Can the defense improve that much? Probably not.

Expectations are a funny thing for Miami right now. A series of strong recruiting classes have offset the uncertainty of lengthy Nevin Shapiro investigation, and Al Golden will probably get less benefit-of-the-doubt moving forward. His offense will give him a chance against basically anybody not named Florida State, but unless he gets things figured out on defense, he's going to struggle to clear a rising bar.

Paul Myerberg, of USA Today, is less optimistic, I'd say. You really need to click on over and read the entire thing, especially because I excerpted more than I would ever normally do, but both intro and conclusion were too good to decide.

Miami's last piece of conference hardware came not just more than a decade ago - way back in 2003, to be precise - but in a different conference. It came in a conference that no longer exists, in fact: Miami shared the Big East crown with West Virginia, taking the title on the head-to-head tiebreaker to reach the Orange Bowl - the program's last postseason appearance of consequence, but let's stay on track.

That's the funny thing about Miami being picked to win the Coastal Division, ahead of Duke, last year's winner, and ahead of North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech: Miami has never won the Coastal Division.

Not once, and don't count that asterisk next to 2012, when Miami was one of the three teams - one of two not participating in the postseason - to tie for first atop the division. In total, the Hurricanes' ACC existence has included zero seasons with double-digit wins, one losing season, one bowl win and not even the faintest sniff of national contention.

Think of it this way: Duke has more 10-win seasons and Coastal Division titles than Miami as members of the ACC. The Blue Devils have one and one, respectively; the Hurricanes have zero and zero, respectively.

It's a decade-long trudge made more painful by a rival's resurgence: Florida State, though not hampered by NCAA sanctions and penalties, has charged back into familiar ground behind Jimbo Fisher and friends, claiming last year's national title and setting itself up for another run of unparalleled heights. Miami doesn't merely suffer in comparison; there is no comparison.

The worry is simple: Miami could have a blueprint for getting out of the wilderness - coaching, recruiting, player development - but there is an expiration date on this, as there is on most things. Eventually, Miami needs to follow the Seminoles' lead or embrace its newfound place in the national pecking order.


In a nutshell: It's not going to be easy, all preseason expectations aside. But these are unfair, to a degree: Miami isn't ready to claim the Coastal even if the division remains as undecided as any in the FBS, seeing that the Hurricanes are not just battling a few personnel woes but dealing with one of the rowdiest schedules in the ACC. This isn't a perfect situation; it may be a perfect storm, in fact, one that leads Miami not to first place in the Coastal but into a position behind the league's top group - Duke, Virginia Tech and North Carolina, in one order or another.

It's hard to ignore the schedule. There's Louisville on the road to kick things off. There's Nebraska on the road three weeks later, at which point the floodgates open: Nebraska is followed by Georgia Tech, Duke, Cincinnati, Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Florida State. That's as brutal a stretch as you'll find in and out of the ACC - and let's recall that Miami is set to start a redshirt freshman at quarterback. Is that a dream situation? Obviously not. It's also a situation where a year that starts slowly runs off the rails entirely in November. That probably won't happen, but it could.

I'm just not sold on this team. The offense should be fine if Johnson remains healthy, but starting Olsen or Heaps essentially negates a good part of Miami's strength at receiver. The offensive line is sturdy, the backfield and receiver corps good to great ... but the Hurricanes have one of the worst quarterback situations in the ACC. The defense has strong individual pieces but does not yet inspire confidence; it'll be on this defense to step forward, and it's too soon to project any major improvement until we see what each level brings to the table in September. The bottom line? I don't think Miami has what it takes to build upon last year's nine-win finish. This is a bowl team and a Coastal contender, due in large part to the division's unsettled nature, but Miami has issues to address.

Dream season: Miami loses to Florida State, as expected, and drops a tough one at Nebraska. But the Hurricanes break through the nine-win mark to capture the Coastal Division championship.