It’s that time of year again. The Seminoles and the Hurricanes face off in one of the most intense rivalries in college football. While this game might not have the pedigree that it did ten or so year ago, this game is definitely huge for fans and players alike. Once again, undefeated Florida State enters as the favorite after winning the last five matchups. The Seminoles have also not lost an ACC game since 2012. Meanwhile, Miami is still struggling to find their identity under Al Golden after falling to Cincinnati last week. Brad Kaaya is certainly a talented quarterback, but this Miami squad has yet to put it all together.
What to Watch For
- Dalvin Cook’s Status: Last week, Dalvin Cook injured his hamstring against Wake Forest. Jimbo Fisher has stated that Cook will be a game-time decision, meaning we won’t know if he’s playing until the game begins. If Cook is playing, he is by far the best player on Florida State’s offense. He is one of the best running backs in the country and has the incredible ability to take over a game on the ground. If he plays, Florida State has a huge advantage and won’t have to rely that much on third-string running back Jonathan Vickers for many carries. On the flip side, if Cook doesn’t play that means that Jonathan Vickers will be the primary back. Fisher has praised Vickers in practice, but Vickers has yet to see major snaps in real game action. If Cook isn’t playing, Miami will certainly take advantage of this by shutting down the run and forcing Everett Golson to pass.
- Receiver Rotation: Florida State boasts an incredible receiving depth in terms of pure talent, but many of those talented players have yet to see major playing time. Travis Rudolph, Bobo Wilson and Kermit Whitfield have seemed to separate themselves from the pack in terms of consistency and route running, but this might be a game where Jimbo Fisher decides to unleash some of his younger receivers, guys that Miami doesn’t have film on and doesn’t know how to prepare for. Watch for if they hit a deep shot to George Campbell with his speed or get Ja’Vonn Harrison in a favorable matchup with his physical ability. Tight end Mavin Saunders has yet to make an impact on the field, but his size is definitely a major mismatch in the red zone.
- Pressuring Brad Kaaya: Have to give credit where credit is due. The guys on the Nolecast brought up a very good point in the fact that Brad Kaaya will be the most immobile quarterback Florida State will likely face all year. That being said, Florida State can take this opportunity to “unleash” it’s pass rush in a way that they traditionally avoid. Jimbo Fisher has long preached about a disciplined pass rush, one where it contains the pocket but forces the quarterback to make throws that he might not be comfortable with. They try to contain mobile quarterbacks and not let them escape. With Brad Kaaya, you don’t have this threat of a run. In this game, they might just unleash the hounds and let them have at it. Florida State has a lot of young, talented players in this pass rush like Jacob Pugh or Josh Sweat who have a ton of pure athletic ability that they’ll be able to utilize in this game.
- The Play of the Linebackers: Florida State lost one of its best defenders last week in Terrance Smith, who is out for this game due to injury. That means redshirt sophomore Ro’Derrick Hoskins will once again be called upon to play a major role. Hoskins has actually contributed quite a bit this season, but won’t make up for the loss of Smith. Reggie Northrup has also struggled this season, which is expected of a guy coming off of a torn ACL last season. Linebacker has been the weakest position group on the defense, mainly due to their poor coverage skills and the lack of depth at the position as a whole. Miami will certainly make the exploitation of the linebackers their primary concern in this game, especially with cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and Marquez White having terrific years. Watch for if Miami utilities the short passing game over the middle or if they try to get talented sophomore running back Joe Yearby singled up in coverage on one of the linebackers to force a big play.
This game is one of the biggest on Florida State’s schedule and by far the biggest game on Miami’s. In recent years, the Hurricanes’ season has often fallen apart after the a loss to Florida State, but they seem to have accelerated that process already with a loss to Cincinnati last week. These two programs are miles apart. One one hand, Jimbo Fisher is rebuilding but this team always has national championship contentions. On the other hand, Miami players don’t even know if their coach will last until the next game. Florida State certainly looks like the better team on paper, but in rivalry games you often times have to throw you think you know out. These games can get crazy, hectic, and are certainly unpredictable.