Christian Ponder: 78-129(61%), 844 yards, 8/3
Jacory Harris: 68-119(57%), 895 yards, 10/8
Both QBs entered the season with high expectations, but have had their share of struggles thus far. Harris has thrown for more yards(in one less game), but also has a whopping eight interceptions. Harris was banged up in the Clemson game, but will be good to go on Saturday night. He has regressed in terms of his decision making and that is an area that FSU will need to take advantage of. Harris can be very accurate on the short to intermediate stuff, but will throw "it up for grabs" down the field. He does not have a strong arm.
Ponder started off the season on fire and that continued right through the first drive at OU. Since then he has been a little "off", but has improved each of the last three weeks. Like Harris, Ponder is very accurate on the shorter routes, but has struggled on the deep ball. Ponder uses his athleticism to pick up yards with his feet and he really hurt UM two years ago on the ground.
Pre-season we leaned to Ponder as the better QB and despite the struggles, he remains the top QB in this game. Ponder is much less likely to "lose" the game and the senior's ability to pick up key third downs with his feet is an asset that Miami does not have.
Jermaine Thomas: 49-308(6.3), 4 TD
Ty Jones: 36-283(7.9), 2 TD
Chris Thompson: 34-262(7.7), 3 TD
Damien Berry: 67-327(4.9), 1 TD
Lamar Miller: 29-157(5.4), 2 TD
Mike James: 15-77(5.1), 1 TD
FSU's numbers indicate that we are not running it enough at this point. All three back's have been very effective and Jones should be good to return this week after being nicked in the Wake Forest game. Jones is the best inside runner, while Thompson brings some game-breaking ability with his burst/speed. Thomas is a quality all around back.
Berry is Miami's horse and is a very hard runner who gets max yards on every carry. He seems to relish contact and does an excellent job bouncing off tacklers. Very tough. Miller is their speed, the track star can take it to the house any time he touches it. He is relatively inexperienced, but has flashed potential thus far. His biggest play was a kickoff return vs. OSU that went for a TD. James is very similar to Lonnie Pryor. He will line up at FB and is the third back. He has good size and speed while having a keen understanding of the offense.
Pre-season the edge(due to upside) would have went to Miami. Thus far that has not been the case, although the numbers are somewhat skewed due to FSU playing one more game. In the end, these units are similar and enter the game about even in terms of expected performance. Miami has a little more size, FSU a little more speed(although Miller is the fastest of the 6).
Bert Reed: 28-251(9.0), 1 TD
Taiwan Easterling: 15-245(16.3), 2 TD
Willie Haulstead: 14-235(16.8), 3 TD
Rodney Smith: 7-79(11.3)
Leonard Hankerson: 23-388(16.9), 6 TD
Laron Byrd: 12-118(9.8)
Travis Benjamin: 11-165(15), 1 TD
Aldarius Johnson: 6-77(12.8)
Hankerson has turned into a monster after spending countless hours with former NFL great and member of the "Mark's brothers" Mark Duper. The 6-3 wideout has excellent speed and the drops that plagued him earlier in his career seem to have stopped. Benjamin is a burner and he has killed FSU the past two years. He is very skinny, but in space he can't be caught. His interest in the game sometimes is sketchy, but that is not likely to be the case vs. FSU if history is any indicator. Byrd(6-4) and Johnson(6-2) bring more size and the true junior's have had their moments thus far. Johnson led the 'Canes as a frosh in catches, yards, and TDs, but has not been consistent since. Byrd is off to an average start to the season. Neither WR can run past anyone.
Reed's average per catch is low for a WR who relies on his speed. He has not gotten loose(at least where it was not called back), but has been consistent and is a reliable option. Is this the week that he breaks out? Easterling is "Mr. Reliable", he gets open and will catch everything that comes his way. He has better "shake" than Reed. Haulstead's emergence the past two weeks is the best sign for the offense. He provides the big target that has been lacking thus far. Smith has not stepped up yet.
The edge goes to Miami here because Hankerson is clearly the best WR on the field. Given Benjamin's propensity for the big game vs. FSU and we will have our work cut out for us to stop them. Neither team is getting much out of their TE's at this time. Reed is due for a big play.
FSU has survived without Andrew Datko the past few weeks, but we need the LT back on Saturday. He practiced yesterday and appears to be good to go. FSU entered the season with one of the best unit's in the country and for the most part they have performed that way. Rodney Hudson is a stud and perhaps the top linemen on the field.
Miami might have filled a gaping hole at RT with true frosh Seantreal Henderson. He had extended playing time last week and handled the uber-talented Dequan Bowers from Clemson. They are solid inside. Left Tackle Orlando Franklin has been inconsistent, there is opportunity in the pass rush against the former guard.
Neither unit should lose the game for their respective team, FSU might have a little more upside as long as Datko is close to 100%. Depth is a mild concern for both teams as there is noticeable dropoff with the second units.
Offensively it appears that the game will come down to the QB's. Harris has more "flair", but with that comes mistakes. In his defense, not all the pick's have been his fault, but he has not been penalized for all his mental mistakes either. It would make sense if each team tried to establish the run, but both offenses seem to put more emphasis on the pass which could lead to another track meet if the QB's are "on".
On that same note both offenses can pound the ball on the ground if need be. There is no edge here, it will boil down to making plays---both teams are capable, but which one will do it?