This weekend, Florida State and Miami will clash in a battle of hated rivals. Perhaps the most brutal rivalry in college football, this duel between collegiate titans has seen some memorable moments and has been one the best matchups ever since the two schools kicked off all the way back in 1951.
But ask Florida State fans today and some will say, “What rivalry?”
Ever since Jimbo Fisher became head coach of Florida State in 2010, the Seminoles have not lost to the Hurricanes. Fisher is 6-0 against the ‘Canes during his tenure as head coach and the Seminoles are looking to extend that streak further when they travel south to face the Hurricanes this weekend.
Story lines are aplenty in this game.
Florida State faces a Mark Richt-led Miami team for the first time. Brad Kaaya gets his last shot to defeat the Seminoles in (presumably) his final year in college. Florida State enters as underdogs for the first time in forever. This is all while Hurricane Matthew, the actual weather phenomena, is bearing down on the eastern seaboard.
But perhaps the bigger storyline surrounding this game is the fact that Jimbo Fisher’s running backs have been able to run all over Miami during his undefeated streak against the ‘Canes.
Since 2010, Florida State running backs have accumulated 1,285 total rushing yards against Miami. Over six games, that’s an average of 214.16 rushing yards per game from the running back position. Oh, and they’ve also added 18 total touchdowns either on the ground or through the air.
To get a better understanding of Florida State’s dominance in the ground game, let’s take a look year by year.
Jimbo Fisher’s first game as head coach against Miami went probably better than expected. The #23 Florida State Seminoles walked away with a 45-17 win over #13 Miami, aided by historic efforts from running backs Chris Thompson and Jermaine Thomas. Thompson ran for 158 yards on 14 carries (11.3 average) while Thomas added 78 yards on 16 carries (4.9 average). Thompson’s 90-yard touchdown run late in the game was the longest play that Miami had allowed in the history of the program. Oh, and Lonnie Pryor added 45 yards on the ground as well.
The overall stat line between the three backs? 301 total yards and 3 total touchdowns.
To be fair, the 2011 game between Florida State and Miami featured very little offense and even fewer points. Florida State escaped with a 23-19 win in large part due to a punt return touchdown by Greg Reid. But the Seminoles got their first glimpse at the player that Devonta Freeman would soon become. The then-true freshman, starting in place of an injured Chris Thompson, ran for 76 yards on 16 carries (4.8 average) and caught three passes for 21 yards.
Florida State didn’t get off to a hot start in this game, committing 12 penalties and fumbling the football five times. However, a great game by the ground game eventually helped #14 Florida State pull away from Miami with a 33-20 victory. Chris Thompson ran for 47 yards on seven carries (6.7 average) and added two catches for 47 yards before exiting with a leg injury. Devonta Freeman ran for 70 yards on 10 carries (7.0 average) and two touchdowns and James Wilder Jr. ran for 49 yards on eight carries (6.1 average).
The overall stat line between the three backs? 227 total yards and three total touchdowns.
For a game that was billed to be the best FSU-Miami matchup in a century, it certainly did not look competitive. #3 Florida State ran all over #7 Miami en route to a 41-14 victory in front of the largest crowd in Doak Campbell Stadium history. Freshman phenom Jameis Winston was certainly the star of the night, but the running game played a huge role in their success.
Devonta Freeman ran for 78 yards on 23 carries (3.4 average) and added six catches for 98 yards as well, adding up to 176 total yards. James Wilder Jr. ran for 42 yards on nine carries (4.7 average) and newly-converted running back Karlos Williams totaled 46 yards on five carries.
The combines stat line between the three players? 264 total yards and five total touchdowns.
The Dalvin Cook era begins.
Despite having Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston at quarterback, Florida State struggled for much of this game. It wasn’t until true freshman Dalvin Cook took over that the #3 Seminoles grabbed a late lead for a 30-26 victory. Cook ran for 92 yards on seven carries (13.1 average) for two touchdowns and caught two passes for 18 yards. His breakout performance in this game would only serve as an appetizer for what he would dish out next year…
What Dalvin Cook did to Miami in 2015 should be illegal.
Cook ran for 222 yards on 22 carries (10.1 average) and added three receptions for 47 yards as #12 Florida State
Dalvin Cook’s Seminoles came away with a 29-24 victory over Miami. Oh, and Cook added three total touchdowns as well.
The sophomore running back was absolutely dominant in this game. Despite nursing an injured hamstring, Cook ran all over the Hurricanes. He actually had a long run that might have been another score had his hamstring not acted up, forcing Cook to pull up.
In short, Florida State running backs have dominated the Hurricanes ever since Jimbo Fisher took over as head coach and the Seminoles winning streak began. And there’s no reason to expect that the Seminoles should not find similar success against Miami this weekend.
Dalvin Cook started off slow to begin the season, but has turned on the jets the past couple of weeks. He is averaging 5.9 yards per carry so far this season (107-635-7). Behind him, 230-pound Jacques Patrick is finally running like the big back he was recruited to be. Patrick is actually averaging more yards per carry than Cook at a 6.5 average (39-253-3).
This matchup for Florida State is huge. The Seminoles sit at 3-2 and desperately need a win over rival Miami to give themselves some confidence before heading into the meat of conference play. But while the Seminoles enter as underdogs, the history of success at the running back position should give Florida State fans some confidence heading into this game.