The FSU football team has the advantage of a relatively easy start to their season, opening with games at home against Texas State and USF before traveling to Boston College and Wake Forest. However, the down side to an easy start is that the tougher opponents are all later in the season. This is evidenced by the section of the Seminoles' schedule which begins on October 10th against Miami and sees Florida State play what are quite possibly their 4 toughest games of the regular season (Miami, Louisville, GT, and Clemson) in a 5-week stretch. Fans could learn a great deal about just how good this FSU team is in their annual showdown against in-state rivals, Miami. Here is a look at how FSU matches up with Miami in history, a look back at the most recent matchup, and what factors for the Hurricanes could influence the game one way or the other.
Florida State enters their match-up against UM winners of 5 straight over the 'Canes. Despite the recent success for the Seminoles, Miami still leads the all-time series 31-28. However, Jimbo Fisher has had Miami's number throughout his head coach tenure, holding a 5-0 record and having outscored UM 172-96 in those 5 wins.
Most recent match-up
Early in the 2014 matchup between FSU and UM, it seemed like the tides had turned. The Hurricanes jumped out to an early 16-0 lead behind the arm of then-freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya and running back Duke Johnson who led a potent attack that seemed impossible to stop, racking up 320 yards and a 23-10 lead by half time. But, as they did nearly every week last season, the 'Noles came charging back in the second half, outscoring the 'Canes 20-3 after half time on the way to a 30-26 win which was sealed by a Jalen Ramsey interception with 39 seconds left. With the win, FSU improved to 10-0.
Dalvin Cook did not get a massive amount of touches but he made the most of each one, gouging the Miami defense for 92 yards on only 7 carries (13.1 yards per carry, his career high). Jameis Winston struggled early and rebounded late, throwing for 304 yards with 1 touchdown and 1 interception. In the end, UM outgained FSU, both on the ground and through the air, held the ball for over ten minutes more than FSU, and converted on twice as many third downs as Florida State and still couldn't get the win at home over the Seminoles.
Miami Season Preview
Bill Connelly released his season preview for Miami today and although the whole thing is worth a read, here are a few important highlights.
Although lots of talent is gone on offense, there is plenty waiting in the wings
The biggest issue: a brand new supporting cast. Johnson's gone, meaning Miami's replacing both a 1,600-yard rusher and a solid No. 2 passing target. And while Kaaya found downfield passing success, most of it was due to Philip Dorsett and tight end Clive Walford, who combined for 1,547 receiving yards at 12.3 yards per target. They're both gone, too.
Since we're talking about Miami, it goes without saying that the new skill position guys are loaded with potential. Joseph Yearby was nearly as highly touted as Johnson out of high school, and while his explosiveness numbers couldn't match Johnson's, his efficiency numbers were dead even, and he didn't fumble. Between Yearby, the explosive Gus Edwards, and Mark Walton, the latest blue-chipper, Miami has talent. But Duke was Duke.
Dorsett will go down as the latest underrated Miami receiver, but it's hard not to like the backups. Herb Waters has been an explosive backup for a couple of years (which usually says good things about what happens when one takes on more targets), Yearby and Edwards were as impressive as Duke in limited receiving opportunities (14 targets, eight catches, 162 yards), Standish Dobard was as explosive as Walford (again, in limited opportunities), and incoming four-star Lawrence Cager has the length to contribute early, even if he could stand to eat more sandwiches.
And that says nothing of Mr. Potential, Stacy Coley. Coley was a breakout freshman, averaging 11.8 yards per target as a No. 3 behind Allen Hurns and Walford, and he was instantly one of the nation's most explosive return men. But he battled shoulder issues and one hell of a sophomore slump; after gaining 591 yards in 50 targets in 2013, he gained an almost impossibly low 184 yards in 43 in 2014. And his return averages regressed as well.
If new receivers coach Kevin Beard can connect with Coley and help him reestablish his 2013 trajectory, the receiving corps is fine. But the Canes are still going from proven production to ifs.
Defensive pressure must improve
Despite an active secondary, Miami ranked a mediocre 58th in Havoc Rate, defensing 62 passes (40th) but recording only 64 tackles for loss (97th). And most of the TFLs came from a linebacking corps that is facing turnover. The Canes do return Jermaine Grace, Raphael Kirby, and part-time DE Tyriq McCord (combined: 17.5 TFLs), but stalwart Denzel Perryman is gone, as is Thurston Armbrister, Miami's best blitzer.
If Kirby is ready to fill Perryman's shoes, then Miami's front seven could hold steady. But a few more plays up front wouldn't be a bad thing. Ufomba Kamalu is a fine playmaker at tackle, but Miami has to get more from its ends. The return of Al-Quadin Muhammad, a former star recruit who was suspended for the fall semester after a violent altercation with a former roommate, could help immensely, as could quick development of four-star freshmen like Demetrius Jackson and Scott Patchan.
The secondary could be good enough to thrive without more disruption up front, but if the front can make a few more plays, the back could turn this into a top-20 defense.
Despite the illustrious history that the Miami football program has, the Hurricanes have fallen on hard times recently. In the past 20 years, UM has only four 10-win seasons. Meanwhile, FSU has had four 10-win seasons in the last five years. Although this Miami team has the chance to improve on last year's 6-7 record despite losing star running back Duke Johnson, stellar receiving targets Philip Dorsett and Clive Walford, and multiple defensive players to the NFL, this does not seem like the year in which the 'Canes get back to 10 wins or get over the hump against FSU, especially considering the game will be at Doak Campbell Stadium. That being said, this will be the first of many tests for a talented but young Florida State team that has not lost to Miami in the Jimbo Fisher era.