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An interactive, graphic preview of FSU vs. Miami

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With a major x-factor lurking.

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Syracuse v Florida State Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

It’s that time of year again— when the leaves change color, but vitriol in the Florida State vs. Miami series remains as bitter as it’s ever been. I hate the old narrative of “setting the records aside,” but in this case, it rings rather true, since both of these teams are 4-4 anyway. So let’s delve a bit deeper, and see what the statistics betray about two historic programs renewing their age-old rivalry.

First, the big-picture numbers, courtesy of Bill Connelly and his SP+ rankings:

Overall: Miami 30th, FSU 47th

Offense: Miami 71st, FSU 46th

Defense: Miami 15th, FSU 62nd

Special teams: Miami 83rd, FSU 108th

But let’s begin our specifics with the Hurricanes’ offense vs. the Seminole defense.

This is not an impressive unit for the ’Canes. Redshirt-freshman QB Jarren Williams looks to be the guy, but he’s thrown one fewer pass than N’Kosi Perry this year. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it just betrays the reality that UM is still looking for someone to takeover from behind center. As if Seminole fans can’t relate to that.

The Hurricanes’ rushing success rate will challenge the ’Noles, as efficient, not explosive, ground attacks have hurt FSU throughout the season. This is how teams stay ahead of schedule, and keep the Seminole defense on the field. This is a definite issue for FSU, which enters this game with an opponents’ stuff rate of just 103rd, nationally, and a rush success rate of 89th. Florida State prospers when it gets off the field quickly on defense. When the opponents’ chains move, they tend to tighten around the Seminoles’ necks.

Miami can also hit on big plays, coming in with the nation’s 44th best explosiveness rate on offense. But this will be a real battle, as Florida State’s defense is 41st in preventing explosiveness. So call that a coin flip that could be decided by Seminole DBs not only being in position, but actually making plays on the ball as well— and maybe even intercepting a pass or two. Florida State’s five picks, so far, are far too few for the chances it’s had.

And while FSU has struggled with its foes’ passing efficiency, so has Miami with keeping defenders out of its backfield. The Hurricanes are 127th, out of 130, in havoc-rate allowed. Only three FBS teams — Akron, Old Dominion, and Syracuse — have allowed more sacks than the ’Canes. Those three teams have five wins, combined (with the Zips contributing zero and ODU just one).

So it should come as no surprise to anyone with a pulse and a television that big plays will likely play a big part in the latest iteration of this rivalry. I know: what a shock. And even if UM can wear down the Seminoles, that still doesn’t mean guaranteed points. Florida State’s red-zone defense has now improved to 13th in the country, while Miami’s offense is 72nd inside its opponents’ 20. And the Hurricanes have hit on just 7 of 14 field goals this season.

Let’s move on to when FSU has the ball.

While hints from practice may suggest the WildCam we saw work against Syracuse was not a mere aberration, we’ve still gotta work with the numbers we’re given— and those numbers show a stout ’Cane defense. Miami does not let its opponents just matriculate the ball down the field, and it certainly gets into its foes’ backfields. It’s 16th, nationally, in both sacks and tackles for loss. So perhaps that’s why FSU is entertaining the WildCam.

The Hurricanes have proven vulnerable on third down and, to a much lesser extent, explosive plays. But on the latter, the ’Canes still rank an impressive 30th. So nothing is new here for the ’Noles, who will have to hit big plays, although that’ll be a challenge. We questioned FSU’s ability to block this unit in the preseason, and that question remains.

Miami is as good as FSU in red-zone TD-allowed percentage, so — take a deep breath — this one really could come down to kicking, where Florida State (4-9) is even worse than the Hurricanes. Moreover — and it’s not sexy, but it matters — the Hurricanes have punted much better than the Seminoles.

The biggest questions here, at present, regard how often the ’Noles will go with the WildCam offense, and how Miami adapts thereto. Of course, only FSU knows how often Akers will be behind center, and since that could prove the deciding factor in this game, it seems to give the Seminoles an advantage.

Once again, a big thanks to Zane Murfitt of Cougs Center for his work on these figures.

If you’re looking into tickets for this one, check out this link.