Originally scheduled for Sept. 16 but postponed due to Hurricane Irma, Miami and Florida State are gearing up for their annual instate showdown Saturday afternoon. The 12th-ranked Hurricanes head to Tallahassee fresh off a solid 31-6 road victory over Duke, while the Seminoles come off their first win of the season, 26-19 over Wake Forest, but still fell out of the USA Today Top 25 Coaches Poll.
One of college football’s fiercest rivalries, the Seminoles have earned bragging rights the last seven years under coach Jimbo Fisher, finding ways to pull out victories, with the last three decided by five points or less, including a 20-19 triumph a year ago thanks to a blocked extra point in the final minutes. “We all know that it’s a rivalry game,” said Miami coach Mark Richt, one of many players and coaches on both sidelines to have connections to the other team. “Rivalry games are important. They’re better rivalries when there’s some winning and losing on both sides, and that hasn’t happened lately.” The Hurricanes are hoping to change that this year and end their streak of futility, but while they are undefeated and creeping up the rankings thanks to a resurgent offense (41.3 points scored per game) and a stalwart defense (16.3 points allowed per game), Miami hasn’t really been tested thus far, beating just one Power 5 team (Duke). Florida State has faced a far more rigorous slate, but the team is struggling with freshman quarterback James Blackman at the helm after Deondre Francois went down in the opener, resulting in the team’s inability to put points on the board as they are averaging just 18 points per game, far less than the 35.1 they averaged a year ago.
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Miami -3
ABOUT MIAMI (3-0, 1-0 ACC): Quarterback Malik Rosier is getting better and more confident with each game, completing 65.6 percent of his passes with eight touchdowns and just two interceptions, but he and his receiving corps, led by Braxton Berrios and Ahmmon Richards, who made his debut last week, haven’t faced a secondary as talented as Florida State’s. The Hurricanes need a healthy Mark Walton (9.2 yards per carry), who has been hampered by an ankle injury the last two games, to keep the defense off balance but the Seminoles have been stingy against the run, especially up the middle. The Miami secondary has had its ups and downs but the unit will be greatly helped by a physical front seven that has 11 sacks and ranks second in the nation in tackles for loss (nine per game).
ABOUT FLORIDA STATE (1-2, 1-1): The Seminoles defense has been inconsistent but it has the ability to shut down Miami and may need to do so as the team can’t afford to get into a shootout with the Hurricanes. Blackman threw for just seven yards in the first half against Wake Forest and finished with just 121, although he did connect with Auden Tate for the big-play 40-yard game-winning touchdown. Blackman must hang tough against the Miami front seven and get the ball to his playmakers, but the offense could be in trouble if the blocking up front is as suspect as it was against the Demon Deacons, who amassed five sacks and 17 tackles for loss, numbers that play right into Miami’s strength.
1. A Florida State victory would mark the longest winning streak in the series (eight games) by either program, as well as tie the all-time series at 31-31.
2. The Hurricanes have won eight games in a row dating back to Nov. 5, 2016 and their average margin of victory during the winning streak is 21 points.
3. The Seminoles have scored just three touchdowns on their 12 trips inside the red zone.
PREDICTION: Miami 17, Florida State 16