I invited Josh Mixon, who covers Florida State for the Daily Nole, to give some insight on today’s game. His thoughts:
Which lesser-known players from Florida State do you think will have the most success against Miami?
Receiver George Campbell averages over 20 yards per reception, and has quietly emerged as Blackman's secondary target to Auden Tate. Noonie Murray has not played like himself this season, so Campbell could see an increased role in the offense if Murray continues to struggle the way he has. Should Blackman actually have time to throw the ball, he'll likely look Campbell's way more than once.
Elsewhere, fellow receiver Keith Gavin leads the ACC in yards per kickoff return (32) and nearly took one back against Wake Forest.
What are your three keys to the game for the Seminoles?
Attack the middle of the field
One thing FSU has not done since Deondre Francois was sidelined is test the middle of the field when throwing the ball. Against Wake, Blackman relied far too much on short, outside throws and screens, which really eased the pressure on the Demon Deacon defense. Against a defense as stout as Miami’s, Blackman must utilize the middle of the field — short outside throws and screens won’t do the job this week.
Finish off drives
The Seminole offense was abhorrent against Wake, allowing 17 tackles for loss and continuously failing to move the ball when given a short field. Florida State has managed just three touchdowns in the red zone all season, and if the Noles fail to cash in on short fields against Miami, the Canes will run away with this one.
Put pressure on the quarterback
FSU did not manage a sack against N.C. State and forced just two against Wake Forest. Hurricanes’ quarterback Malik Rosier has looked good, but Saturday will be his first taste of a hostile environment, should the Seminole faithful show up. Rosier has yet to face a defense the same caliber as FSU’s, so pressuring the first-year starter into mistakes is a must.
I'm torn on this one. While the Seminoles have more than enough talent to win this game, they’ve yet to show up fully prepared since Week 1. If FSU plays like it did against Wake Forest, Miami will run away with this one by halftime, but if the Noles play to their full potential, they have a good chance to win. What worries me is the line play: Miami's defensive line is no joke, while FSU's offensive line has, to say the least, seen better times.
Josh also asked me some questions for today’s game. Here you go:
Joining The Daily Nole to preview this season’s edition of FSU-Miami is Susan Miller Degnan from the Miami Herald. Below, we discuss which players to look out for, preview how the Canes will attack the FSU offense, and offer some predictions for what should be an exciting contest.
Miami enters Saturday’s contest undefeated and road favorites. What were your expectations for the Hurricanes this season?
Degnan: I thought UM would win nine or 10 regular-season games, obviously not knowing that one game would be canceled. UM, the past few years, has lost at least one game it definitely should have won. Then I figured – and understandably – that the third-ranked Seminoles, previously led by one of the finest quarterbacks in the nation, would win again at home in this recently lopsided rivalry. I also assumed UM would have a dominant defense, though it lost two safeties and a cornerback to the NFL and would face some growing pains in the defensive backfield, which has happened. But I didn’t expect the offense, thanks mostly to new quarterback Malik Rosier, running back Mark Walton and the emergence of receiver Braxton Berrios, to be this dominating. Now I’m thinking if the Canes stay healthy, they should get to the ACC championship game.
FSU’s offense has been, for lack of a better term, poor in 2017. How will the Canes attack the Seminole offense?
Degnan: With a relentless front seven. The Hurricanes rank second in the nation in team tackles for loss, averaging nine a game. They rank 10th in sacks. They had six sacks and 11 tackles for loss last week at previously undefeated Duke. UM has multiple linemen it substitutes in and out to keep fresh and aggressive. Their linebackers, led last year by three true freshmen, are some of the best in the country. No doubt the D-line will be aggressive in trying to get through what appears to be a vulnerable FSU offensive line in an attempt to rattle freshman quarterback James Blackman.
Who are some lesser-known players that fans should watch out for on Saturday? Which players do you think will have the most success, whether it be on offense or defense?
Degnan: Offensively, if banged up Walton (second in the nation with 9.1 rushing yards per carry and fifth with 134.3 yards a game) can’t last the entire game, which would help FSU immeasurably, backup sophomore tailback Travis Homer is the guy who will spell him. Homer isn’t very large, but he’s strong and physical and runs well. He has 178 yards and three touchdowns and averages 8.1 yards a carry. Receiving wise, Mike Harley is a freshman who will only get better, but Ahmmon Richards is the All-American who broke Michael Irvin’s freshman school receiving record last season. Richards sat out most of fall camp and the first two games with a severe hamstring pull, but returned last week to catch three passes for 106 yards and a touchdown. Also keep your eyes on the senior Berrios, who is fast and smart and has great hands.
Which matchups do you like for UM’s defense against the Seminole offense, and vice versa? Which ones concern you?
Degnan: UM’s defensive line, with starting ends Joe Jackson and Chad Thomas and tackles R.J. McIntosh and Kendrick Norton, have an array of talented backups who rotate in to give the starters breathing room (Note: UM announced late in the week that talented reserve D-tackle Anthony Moten was “questionable’’ with a “lower extremity’’ injury.) Together they should get the better of FSU’s offensive line. For FSU, 6-5, 225-pound receiver Auden Tate already has 226 yards and three touchdowns and could give UM’s defensive backs plenty of trouble.
Finally, give us a prediction. Does Miami beat FSU for the first time in seven years, or do the Seminoles finally even the series?
Degnan: That winning touchdown pass against Wake Forest had to give Blackman tons of confidence going into the big rivalry game this week, and there’s no place like home, but I still think the Canes break that streak and get the win after seven consecutive losses.