University of Miami

Hurricanes’ showdown vs. Florida State carries high stakes

UM freshman QB Brad Kaaya faces FSU for the first time Saturday night at Sun Life Stadium.
UM freshman QB Brad Kaaya faces FSU for the first time Saturday night at Sun Life Stadium. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

There’s a certain something circulating in the South Florida air this week among Hurricanes football fans that until recently had been all but missing.

Hope.

Add electricity to the noticeable, new aura and there could only be one reason that the often half-empty Sun Life Stadium would be close to a sellout.

Florida State.

The defending national champion Seminoles (9-0, 6-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) — winners of a nation-leading 25 consecutive games and ranked second by The Associated Press — meet the unranked Miami Hurricanes (6-3, 3-2) at 8 p.m. Saturday in a showdown that has the nation buzzing.

“It just gets your blood pumping and gives you goose bumps,” Miami center Shane McDermott said. “There’s nothing better than playing Florida State at night.”

Even Vegas thinks there might be something brewing in the latest installment of the series that began in 1951.

Last year, when the Hurricanes went to Tallahassee ranked seventh and riding a 7-0 record against the 7-0, third-ranked Seminoles, the point spread was 211/2 in favor of FSU.

The Seminoles won 41-14.

On Friday, the point spread had dropped as low as 2 before settling at 21/2.

Miami is 5-0 at Sun Life Stadium this season and 12-1 at home dating to Nov.17, 2012.

“The Hurricanes have looked like one of the best teams in the country over the last month, going 3-0 straight up and against the spread with an average margin of victory of 24 points,” wrote OddsShark.com, which provides NBC Sports, FOX Sports and SBNation.com with its numbers.

“The Seminoles are just 2-8 against the spread in their last 10 games, and sooner or later their luck will run out.”

The game is crucial for both teams, with FSU fighting to stay alive in the playoff race for another national championship, and UM trying to stay alive in the ACC’s Coastal Division race and earn its biggest victory since coach Al Golden arrived in 2011.

Among their offensive playmakers, the Hurricanes have running back Duke Johnson, who has 1,213 yards rushing and entering the week was fourth nationally in yards from scrimmage (1,486).

He leads the nation in yards per touch (8.3) for players with at least 150 carries.

They also have freshman Brad Kaaya, one of only 16 Football Bowl Subdivision quarterbacks to throw for more than 2,000 yards, 20 or more touchdowns and fewer than 10 interceptions — and the only true freshman to do it.

Miami also has a defense that has improved to 11th nationally and forced eight turnovers in the past three games.

“They’re fast,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said of UM’s defense. “When guys get in space, they’re able to run them down. Typical Miami team.”

And typical FSU team, with talent all over the place.

Despite Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston having thrown six interceptions in the past three games, he has brought his team back from first-half deficits against Louisville, Notre Dame, Clemson and North Carolina State.

Winston is seventh nationally in passing yards per game (317.5) and has a receiver in Rashad Greene who leads the ACC and ranks seventh nationally in receiving yards (989).

And if you’re a UM fan thinking “wide right” or wide anything, know that FSU kicker Roberto Aguayo is fourth nationally in field-goal percentage.

Aguayo has made 98.9 percent of his career kicks — all 135 extra points and 37 of 39 field goals.

More than anything, this is a fierce backyard brawl for schools that are nearly a 500-mile drive from each another, yet have dozens of players who are friends and competed with one another in high school.

According to FSU, between high schools in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, a combined 56 players were either teammates or rivals.

“Yeah, I totally get it,” Kaaya, from Los Angeles, said this week when interviewed on WQAM radio.

“It’s one of the jewels of football in Florida. You have guys on both teams who played high school football together and grew up together.

“You got [UM receiver] Phillip Dorsett and Rashad Greene — they both went to St. Thomas Aquinas. You got [running backs] Dalvin Cook [of FSU] and Joe Yearby — they both went to Central High School.

“So, I mean, it’s guys on both teams who practically are family. It’s the same way with the fan bases. You have houses divided because of this game.”

FSU receiver Jesus “Bobo” Wilson, a Miami Columbus High graduate, played in high school with UM safety Deon Bush and said it was “crazy’’ the way people were calling him looking for tickets.

“We only get four tickets,” Wilson told FSU.

“My mom, my little sister and my brother, they’re first. I’m hearing from a lot of people back home blowing up my phone.”

The last time UM defeated Florida State was in 2009 in Tallahassee.

The last time UM defeated the Seminoles at home was 2004, when the Hurricanes played in the Orange Bowl.

FSU has won seven of the past nine games against UM. Before that, the Canes won six in a row.

“It’s a big game; you can’t really sugarcoat it,” UM rush end Tyriq McCord said.

“But at the end of the day, it’s the game of football. I guarantee no matter who wins, we’re going to go out there and shake hands.”

Said Wilson: “It’s all love. But once we line up and compete, it ain’t no brotherhood. I can tell you that right now.”

Saturday: No. 2 FSU at Miami

Kickoff: 8:07 p.m.; Sun Life Stadium.

TV/radio: ABC; WQAM 560; WFTL 850; WSUA 1260 (Spanish); WVUM 90.5 FM.

Favorite: FSU by 2.

Records: Miami 6-3 (3-2 ACC); FSU 9-0 (6-0 ACC).

Series: Miami leads 31-27.

Miami injuries: Questionable — OL Ereck Flowers (knee); RB Gus Edwards (ankle); RB Joseph Yearby (hamstring). Out — OL Taylor Gadbois (knee); PK Matt Goudis (back); FB Ronald Regula (leg); OL Kc McDermott (leg); WR Rashawn Scott (shoulder); DB Rayshawn Jenkins (back);

FSU injuries: Out — DB Colin Blake (shoulder); DT Nile Lawrence-Stample (pectoral); LB Delvin Purifoy (leg).

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