Duke Johnson

Early Analysis: Florida State vs. Miami

 

No. 7 Miami at No. 3 Florida State
Saturday, 8:00 PM, ABC
Line: Florida State -21

When the ACC expanded early in the 2000s, it was these kinds of games that the conference leadership had to be dreaming about. Two top ten teams from the state of Florida duking it out for conference and national supremacy.

It didn’t quite work out that way for a variety of reasons, but the time has finally arrived. This game could wind up being a preview of the ACC title game if both teams win out from here, and of course a possible berth in the BCS title game remains in the cards for the winner.

For Miami to win: Control field position. Right now, Florida State’s offense has been a bit of a buzzsaw. Miami has struggled of late with injuries on offense, and if they are going to stay in this game, it is imperative that they either score on offense or, at the very least, keep field position on their side. The Hurricanes need to rely as much as they can on their ground game and use field position to turn this into a slugfest.

For Florida State to win: Avoid a slow start. It has really only happened once this season against Boston College, and Florida State found themselves in a four quarter battle with a lesser opponent. If Miami is in the game in the fourth quarter, it could mean serious trouble for the Seminoles. If Florida State is going to win this game, they need to come out early and not even make it a contest. Apply the petal  to the metal, utilize the talents of their playmakers and force Miami to play from way behind.

Key Player, Miami: Duke Johnson running back. Duke is the engine that has kept the chains and the offense moving for the ‘Canes. Johnson, who has been dinged a couple of times this season with minor injuries, was instrumental in leading Miami to victory over Wake Forest last week, carrying the ball 30 times for 168 yards and two touchdowns. Johnson also can contribute in the kicking game, so he is a true versatile threat for a Miami offense with an injured and inconsistent quarterback in Stephen Morris.

Key Player, Florida State: Timmy Jernigan, defensive lineman. Yes, everyone knows how important and key Jameis Winston is. However, Jernigan and the rest of the defensive line are going to be the key to this game. Miami will want to lean on Duke Johnson to run the ball and it will be up to the front four to not only slow Johnson down, but also to get pressure on quarterback Stephen Morris and try and force him to make mistakes that the Seminoles can then capitalize on.

Key Stat: 101-56. That is the combined score of the last three games that these two squads have played. Florida State has won all three of those games.

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Early Analysis: Florida State vs. Miami

No. 14 Florida State at Miami
8:00 p.m. ABC
Line: Florida State -20

Rivals Miami and Florida State will pick up their series this weekend in Miami in what could be a potential ACC Championship Game preview. The Hurricanes sit on top of the ACC's Coastal Division at 3-1 in ACC play. Florida State enters sitting just behind Maryland but figures to still be the team to beat at this point. Florida State rebounded in a big way against Boston College last week after an upset at North Carolina State while Miami dropped their second straight game. The Hurricanes have scored 17 points in their last two games and are in some desperate need of new life on offense. Can they find something that works against a Florida State team that at times looks like a well-oiled machine?

For Miami to Win: Survive with a scaled back offense game plan. This will be so much easier said than done against Florida State but the Hurricanes have almost no choice this weekend if quarterback Stephen Morris is not ready to play. The Hurricanes have been prepping with Ryan Williams as the most likely starter this week but how much of the offense he is given remains unknown. If anything, Miami should take notes from what North Carolina State was able to do against the Seminoles, which rarely tried anything too out of the ordinary in the second half. The key will be to get physical with Florida State and make them keep their foot on the pedal. Miami also has to bring their A-game from the start, otherwise they may be doomed for a repeat performance of what occurred in Chicago against Notre Dame in a hurry.

For Florida State to Win: Keep Miami from getting their running game on track. With the Hurricanes lacking any sort of experience under center without Stephen Morris taking the field, supposing that is the case, the Hurricanes may have to rely on a running game that has struggled to do much damage this season. The Hurricanes rank just 88th in the nation in rushing offense and average 140.7 yards per game on the ground. This plays in to Florida State's advantage because the Seminoles rank fifth in the nation in rushing defense, allowing just 74.86 yards per game. Opponents have scored just three rushing touchdowns against Florida State all season. Despite some low rushing yardage totals, Miami has rushed for 12 touchdowns this season.

Key Player, Miami: With Miami's passing game a huge question mark for this game, look for senior running back Mike James to carry the load on offense. James has averaged 4.6 yards per carry this season while splitting some duties with freshman Duke Johnson. James led the team with 96 rushing yards on 22 carries last week and he scored three touchdowns a few weeks ago against Georgia Tech. If Miami is going to be somewhat vanilla on offense, James has to get going.

Key Player, Florida State: Florida State needs the EJ Manuel who played last week against Boston College, and not the Manuel who played the prior week against North Carolina State. Manuel has been good but not great in his only other game against the Hurricanes (last season), going 17-for-23 for 196 passing yards and one touchdown. The Seminoles tend to go well when their quarterback is on his game. Against a defense that gives up big points, this could be a huge game for Manuel.

Key Stat: Miami is currently allowing an average of 32.3 points per game. That puts The U on pace for their worst scoring defense in a season in school history, topping the 30.6 points per game allowed during the 1944 season, when Miami went 1-7-1. The highest scoring average allowed since then was 28.2 ppg in 1970 (3-8).

 

Kevin McGuire is the national college football writer for Examiner.com and host of the No 2-Minute Warning podcast. Follow him on TwitterGoogle+and Facebook.

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Kevin McGuire

About Kevin McGuire

Contributor to College Football Talk on NBCSports.com. Member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. College Football Hall of Fame voter. Also managing Bloguin's NittanyLionsDen.com and Macho-Row.com.

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