Entering the in-state rivalry game on Saturday, Florida State is a 13.5-point underdog, but the ‘Noles haven’t lost to Miami by double-digits since 2001. They have also won nine of the last 12 in the series, including seven straight before losing last season.
This game at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida shouldn’t be any different. There are in-game matchups that may not benefit FSU, but they also have some that could keep them in this game and give them an opportunity to win at the end.
Maybe the largest obstacle they face against this Hurricane team is the defensive front because the Achilles’ heel of the Seminoles has been their ability to protect the quarterback. Miami’s strength is making tackles for loss, leading the country in that category. They are also tied for the 22nd-most sacks in the country.
Deondre Francois has been sacked the 20th-most times of all quarterbacks in the nation with 12, but he also is 14th in the country in passing yards with 1,377 yards through the air.
Miami (FL) Defensive Coordinator Manny Diaz calls an extremely aggressive defensive scheme. If the FSU offense can take advantage of that with well-timed screens and draws, this offense could put the Hurricanes defense on their heels.
This offense has had success when getting the ball into the hands of their playmakers, too. Nyqwan Murray has been vital in the past two wins with 11 catches for 199 yards and two touchdowns.
The piece that has not been as electric as the Seminoles originally hoped is quarterback Cam Akers. After a record-setting freshman season, he has not found much space during his sophomore campaign. Akers has picked up just 316 yards and one touchdown on 77 carries, with 85 of those yards coming on one carry in the season opener.
Without that one big run, he has only 231 yards on 76 carries, just 3.03 yards per carry. If they want to go into Miami and stand a chance of winning, they will need at least something resembling a rushing attack. If not, Francois will face a ruthless pass rush.
It helps that this Florida State team has a ruthless pass rush of their own and they are facing a young quarterback, who is only making his second career start.
Star defensive end Brian Burns is currently 12th in the country in sacks with five and leads the country in yards lost on sacks with 51 yards. As a team, they are tied for 22nd in the nation with 14 sacks.
But when it comes to these rivalry games, they might not make sense. Even when Florida State was competing and winning a national championship while Miami was struggling under Al Golden, these were still close, competitive games.
From 2010 through 2016, Miami only won nine games twice while the Seminoles won at least 10 games all but once (nine games in 2011). Florida State won each of the games between these teams during that stretch, but they were almost always within one score.
Last season when the Noles only won seven games and the Canes won 10 and played in a New Years Six Bowl, it came down to the last play for Miami to win.
Expectations for this season have fallen off after some early struggles, but an upset in a rivalry game can always spark a big run and more fan support for head coach Willie Taggart.