The Seminoles rallied to beat Georgia Tech at home Sept. 13. The Hurricanes barely survived Thursday, blowing a fourth-quarter advantage and relying on a 23-yard field goal from freshman Jon Peattie to upend West Virginia in the Orange Bowl.
As UM coach Larry Coker said afterward, "We know we have a lot of work to do but we've got to keep on keeping on."
The countdown has started.
Second-ranked UM (5-0) and fifth-ranked FSU (5-0) renew their storied rivalry Oct. 11 in Doak Campbell Stadium. Kickoff is noon and, once gain, the showdown as national title implications.
While UM is expected to be without two critical starters --- featured tailback Frank Gore and starting strong safety Maurice Sikes each suffered knee injuries that could sideline them for a couple of games, if not the rest of the season -- the Hurricanes are more than capable.
One key matchup centers on the Hurricanes' offensive line against the Seminoles' defensive front. UM guards Vernon Carey (6-5, 330), who has started 17 career games, and Chris Myers (6-5, 287) are considered the cornerstones to a lineup that returned three starters from last season.
Junior center Joel Rodriquez also is an important piece to the puzzle as well. He's expecting a difficult game against an FSU front that has helped set the defensive tone for one of the nation's top units.
"It's going to be a backyard brawl as usual," Rodriquez told CanesTimes.com following the West Virginia game.
"People are saying the game will be bigger because we are both in the top five. For me and I think I can speak for most of the guys in the locker room, there is no bigger game that Florida State. The road to a National Championship runs through Florida. We have to win this game or else we will be watching the scoreboard all year long."
The Hurricanes' offensive line has played a major role in UM's success inside the red zone (opponents' 20-yard line) under quarterback Brock Berlin.
Heading into Thursday's game, UM was averaging 39.2 points per game. The ‘Canes also had produced points on 14-of-16 trips inside the opponent's 20-yard line. They scored 77 points in their 16 appearances in the red zone, with nine touchdowns and five field goals. UM failed to score inside the red zone once at Louisiana Tech and once at Boston College. UM had rushed for six touchdowns inside the red zone and passed for three more.
"Their line is on a different level," FSU defensive ends coach Jody Allen asid.
"We've played Colorado, and (Georgia) Tech played good. We played some good teams, but these guys are a different level. Their tackles are better anything we play. They move their feet, their big, their physical, their mean. They are so big they just engulf you. It will be a big test for us. We will be tested."