From 1987-2006 FSU and Miami ranked first and second in the nation for winning percentage. Over that 20 year span Florida State won 81.7 % of its games and Miami won 81.4%. Those are huge numbers and shows just how successful and dominating these two teams were. In the 15 national title games that have been played since 1993, either FSU or Miami has played in 8 of them. This year has been a far cry from those numbers, as the Seminoles come into the game 4-2 (1-2 in ACC play) and the Hurricanes come limping in at 4-3 (1-2). Both teams are looking for a win to get some momentum going into November.
FSU's last 3 games have been a Jekyll and Hyde experience for the Noles. Coming out of the Alabama game, the excitement was there and the anticipation of continued success was on the minds of the coaches, players and fans. After the N.C. State game, the Noles were feeling good ending the 2 year losing streak to the Wolfpack. Going into last Thursday's game at Wake Forest, redemption was the talk as the players wanted to redeem themselves after the 30-0 shellacking they took at home last year. After a dominating first half at Wake, it looked as though the trend of FSU's dominant defense and continually improving offense was still there. But, a second half implosion by the offense brought back all of those concerns that were felt after the Clemson game this year, and it has left some questions that need to be answered going into the rivalry game this weekend.
Miami, like FSU, made a ton of coaching changes this past off-season, highlighted by the hiring of longtime defensive coordinator Randy Shannon as head coach and former Georgia Tech offensive coordinator Patrick Nix as the same position he held for the Yellow Jackets. The impact of these two hires has yet been felt on the field, as this Hurricane teams has not resembled anything like the dominate teams of the early 2000's. The offense has been looking for a proven quarterback for 4 years, and the playmakers are not what Cane fans have become accustomed to. Defensively, injuries have ransacked the defensive line and linebackers, causing guys who'd normally not play to be forced into major playing time. As we saw this past weekend in their game against Georgia Tech, they had problems moving the ball through the air (their longest pass was 11 yards) and they had problems stopping a Tech offense that has not done much since their opening win over Notre Dame.
If the Noles are ever going to establish a running game, this may be the game where they can do it. While the Canes do come in 38th in the nation in rush defense, it cannot be stated what the injuries have done to the defensive tackle position. Left are two guys in Teraz McCray and Josh Holmes who are both less than 6 feet tall and less than 280 pounds. This unit got pushed around for the majority of the Tech game, and the Noles must me able to do the same in order to secure the win this weekend. Remaining a one dimensional team against an athletic team like Miami is not the way to go. Yes, the Canes have struggled in pass coverage, but its paramount the Noles establish something on the ground for this and the rest of the year.
Wake proved that when tired the Nole defense will give away plays in bunches. Guys like Graig Cooper and Javaris James are guys who can kill the Noles if the defense misses tackles or is out of position. With a lackluster passing game, Miami has shown that they rely heavily on the running game to generate offense. The fact that Kyle Wright has almost as many interceptions as touchdown passes is a concern for the Canes, and they must be able to pass against an FSU defense that comes in ranked 19th in rushing defense. Without a semblance of a passing attack, it could be a long night for the Miami faithful.
To say that year-in and year-out both FSU and Miami have been recruiting juggernauts may be understatements. The fact that since 1993 there's a combined 189 players drafted from these two programs shows that they know how to bring in talent and coach them up to be successes in the future. Since 2004, both of these teams have fought tooth and nail for not only some of the best prospects in the state, but also the nation. 2004 saw FSU get a grip on Dade County with guys like J.R. Bryant, Trevor Ford and Jacky Claude choosing the Noles over the canes. One of the most talked about announcements was made by former teammates Aaron Jones and Kenny Ingram. At the time the hat fake was a new thing, and many cheered when they chose the Noles over the Canes. For Miami, guys like Willie Williams, Lance Leggett and Lovon Ponder chose Miami over FSU. All three guys were players the Noles fought hard for.
The biggest shocker in FSU history in terms of recruiting may have happened in 2005 when stating tailback Antone Smith shocked the world choosing FSU over the prohibitive favorite Hurricanes. Rumors swirled at one time or another that playmakers Fred Rouse and Geno Hayes were Cane leans, but they both ended up Noles when decision time came. Callahan Bright and Kendrick Stewart were guys the Noles were able to beat the Canes for (in hindsight the time spent on Rouse and Bright may be considered a failure for the Noles). A guy who the Canes got that the Noles flat missed on is A.J. Trump. He was a kid who wanted to be a Nole, but FSU never showed the interest. Safeties Kenny Phillips and Randy Phillips were guys who gave half a look at the Noles, but both made the favored decision choosing Miami.
2006 is the year where the Noles were really able to out-recruit the Hurricanes. Miami kids like Patrick Robinson, Anthony Leon and Preston Parker are all guys Miami has historically built their success off of. But, the Noles worked hard and were able to get these guys in the program. Myron Rolle, Marcus Sims, Brandon Warren, Matt Hardrick, Damon McDaniel and Marcus Ball are all standout that FSU looks to use as building blocks for their future (minus the loss of Warren to transfer).
2007 was a dreadful season for both FSU and Miami, who both saw National Champions UF gather most of the in-state talent. Guys like Brandon Paul, Jatavious Jackson and Kendall Smith are players the Noles landed ahead of the Canes, while Demarcus Van Dyke spurred both UF and FSU for the Canes.
2008 is no different from the previous 4 years in terms of recruiting targets for these teams. Both FSU and Miami have done stellar jobs in the early part of the recruiting season, each coming in as top 10 classes at third time. Building on those great starts is what both of these teams are looking to do, and a win Saturday may begin to clear the air some.
Moses McCray, a Seminole commitment, announced this week that he is taking an official to Miami this year. A solid win for the Noles will continue to show McCray that in fact the early commitment to FSU was the correct decision for the Tampa star. Matt Patchan, another kid whop made some waves this week with an update, has said that LSU, Miami and UF are his top choices at this time. While some feel FSU is out, they are still in hot pursuit of Florida's top offensive lineman for the 2008 class. FSU must continue to win to keep Patchan within arms reach.
Early recruiting updates on T.J. Bryant, the all-everything 5-star stud from Tallahassee says that the hometown favorites FSU is on the outside looking in. USC, Miami and LSU are thought to be his top 3, with rumors that his mother is looking to possibly head back to Miami after Bryant graduates. For FSU, continued growth and success, combined with top-level defensive back play, may be something that catches the eye of the Bryant clan, and may show that FSU is not as bad a choice they think at this time.
Brandon Thompson is another kid located near Tallahassee that both are fighting over. A once thought Clemson heavy lean, he has opened his recruitment up as of late with both FSU and Miami in the thick of things for him. Can FSU continue to turn the heat up for Thompson and land a kid that is needed due to the Noles missing on tackles last year? 5 Miami area kids are apart of the battle between FSU and Miami: Mike Goodman, who at this time is rumored to be favoring Boston College, is a kid both teams are getting on at this time. Will FSU be able to snag a kid needed at a position of need; Andrew Datko was a sleeper prospect the Noles tried to get an early commitment from during the summer, and he almost did pull the trigger. He is a prospect, who has the Noles way out front, and a win may seal the deal for the St. Thomas Aquinas star; Tommy Streeter is a kid that some feel is a lock to go to Miami with the fact the majority of his team is already committed there. He has stated that he is open at this time, and FSU has been evaluating him for a possible scholarship offer; Corey Liuget is a star defensive end who is another player Miami has made a living off of. Some feel this is a kid that wants to get out of the Miami area, so a solid win for the Noles may play a factor; Travis Howard is a do-it-all defensive back who can play either corner or safety in college. While the Noles are not in heavy pursuit at this time, the coaches are keeping an eye on this kid at this time.
Simply put, this is a must win for both teams. Both are fighting to get back to where they feel they should be, and another loss before November can only set the losing team back. A 3rd ACC loss for either team seals their fate for early December bowls and may dampen the recruiting leverage gained with the early verbal commitments. For FSU they must establish a running game to keep the Miami defense honest. Miami must have a passing game because few teams have found success against FSU's stifling run defense. This game comes down to which offense can get it clicking. An early lead in the favor of the Noles or Canes may spell doom for the team trailing, as each have shown they cannot score points in bunches needed to comeback in games. Honestly speaking, this game is shaping up for a bounce back for the Noles, and continued growing questions on the direction of the Miami program.