Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher is trying to remain undefeated against Miami. Al Golden is just looking for his first win against the Seminoles, a win that might help his cause for another year in Coral Gables.
Jared Shanker offers three reasons why favored No. 12 Florida State will win. Andrea Adelson counters with the three things underdog Miami needs to do to snap a five-game losing streak to a heated in-state rival Saturday (8 p.m. ET ABC).
Shanker with why Florida State will win:
1. The Seminoles will dominate situational football. The third-down issues that plagued the Seminoles last year have become a strength in 2015. They are 21st nationally in third-down defense, allowing opponents to convert only 28 percent of third-down attempts. Miami is 126th nationally in third-down offense, unable to convert on third downs on three-fourths of its attempts. Miami even struggles on third and short, converting only 29 percent of those situations. It’s almost as bad in the red zone for the Canes. They are 113th in red zone touchdown efficiency (46 percent) and 108th in goal-to-go touchdown efficiency (63).
2. Miami won’t have any points off turnovers. Florida State has not had an offensive turnover all season. There were obvious questions surrounding Everett Golson’s ball security when he arrived at FSU, but he’s yet to give the ball away. The lone turnover came on a muffed punt. Miami has scored 27 points off turnovers this season, which ranks 58th nationally. Considering Miami’s issues with sustaining drives, it will likely need to score easy points on a turnover or two.
3. Florida State understands how to finish. It’s been more than three years since the Seminoles lost a conference game now. They recently won 29 in a row. Many of those games were in doubt in the final minutes. While Florida State is inexperienced at a lot of positions, the team has been in a number of critical moments and finished with a win each time. Miami has struggled to do that going back the last two seasons. The Canes led Florida State with a little more than three minutes to go last season. This year, they blew a 23-point lead to Nebraska. Miami led Cincinnati, and in the fourth quarter they pulled to within four. They promptly allowed an 81-yard Cincinnati touchdown drive.
Andrea with what Miami needs to do for an upset:
1. Use Brad Kaaya. Back in the spring, Miami coaches felt confident about their chances going into the Florida State game for one big reason: they felt they had the edge at quarterback. If they still feel that way, then they need to show it. Kaaya has been steady if not spectacular this season. A closer look at the numbers shows he has gone from No. 1 in the ACC in pass efficiency to No. 8, not the type of drop off any coach wants to see in Year 2 as a starter. There are reasons, primary among them the loss of go-to receivers Phillip Dorsett and Clive Walford, along with injuries to Braxton Berrios and Stacy Coley. Third down remains a sore spot as well. Still, Miami coaches put the ball in Kaaya's hands to start the Florida State game a year ago and that proved to be the right decision. But as Miami built a big lead, its play calling turned conservative and the Canes were unable to keep their momentum. Despite all that, Kaaya had 316 yards and two touchdowns passing. Miami would be well served to make Kaaya the center of its game plan again with a nice dose of Joe Yearby to help its play-action game.
2. Create turnovers. Miami has been excellent in this category so far this year, leading the ACC in turnover margin at plus-9. The biggest reason has been its ability to force interceptions, ranking No. 2 in the ACC with eight. Rayshawn Jenkins and Artie Burns have three each, while Corn Elder has been terrific in pass coverage as well (tied for first in the ACC with seven passes defended). Everett Golson, meanwhile, has yet to throw a pick, and Florida State has given the ball away just once this season. Miami is the most opportunistic team the Seminoles have faced to date (Its four opponents have forced 14 turnovers combined), so the Canes need to use this to their advantage for any chance to win on the road.
3. Win on the defensive line. When was the last time anybody could say with confidence that Miami physically dominated a power-5 opponent on the line? The opportunity is there for the Canes to show how far the coaches say they have come against a shaky Florida State offensive line that has had problems all season. Getting push up front is going to be critical to not only slowing down whomever is playing running back, but also forcing Golson out of the pocket and into mistakes. Golson has been hit, sacked or under duress on 23.2 percent of his dropbacks, and he's been blitzed on 35.2 percent of his attempts. So this is something other teams have attempted to do as well. Miami needs to find a way to get to him.