NoleDigest Roundtable: UM vs. FSU

The (3-1) Florida State Seminoles play the (2-2) Miami Hurricanes on ABC at 3:30 on Saturday. This is one of the biggest rivalry games in college football. NoleDigest discusses numerous topics relating to the game such as the X-factor in the game, what FSU must do to win, & how big is this game, and much, much more.

How big is this Miami game to Florida State?

Mack-This game is historically one of the most recognized games throughout college football. Usually this game has many future NFL players going against each other. As far as this season goes this game is pretty big for both teams. For the Seminoles they have a chance to win a statement game. This game is also an ACC battle. Florida State has a chance to be 4-1 and head to North Carolina State feeling really good from a confidence standpoint. This game is also big for recruiting. FSU has many players from South Florida but to beat the Canes' at home while wearing the Garnet and Gold is a wonderful thing.

Fish-The Miami vs Florida State game is always big. It would not matter if both teams were 0-4 heading into this game. When these two meet there is always bragging rites on the line. It also is big in recruiting where both teams are trying to reestablish themselves as elite programs. I really think it is important for FSU also because a win would give them a ton of confidence heading into the 2nd half of the season.

Nate-We talk about statement games. Wake was one, and FSU failed miserably. This is another one because both are traditional powers that have been down for a while. People have pegged Miami as the team that will come back sooner than FSU because of recruiting and coaching. The big-time success that FSU has had with recruiting is almost forgotten. FSU needs this game to show that Wake was a hiccup on the climb back to prominence, and it is payback for a game the Noles honestly shouldn't have lost last year.

Jason-Any Miami game is always huge for Florida State. That said, this one is not as big as it would be if both teams were in the top five, but it is still huge just in terms of the kind of momentum it could establish for the rest of the year. Last year's Miami loss was crippling to the psyche of the team and really took away any momentum the 'Noles had going into that game. This year, if FSU can leave Miami with a win, they're suddenly 4-1 and back on the map with a much more confident group of youngsters with their first real battle scars. If Ponder plays well, this game could also do wonders to establish his confidence and slow the game down for the rest of the year. In that sense, if FSU wins this game, their turnaround will probably be quicker than it would be otherwise simply due to confidence.

Richie-Needless to say, this game won't draw the national attention that it did from the late 80's up until just a couple of years ago. So as many already know, this game is not very big outside of the state of Florida. That being said, this game is still HUGE for both teams involved. Not only is this still a very heated rivalry, the loser of this game will likely play themselves out of the ACC title race. Both teams already have on conference loss and another one would make it extremely tough to win their respective division. The winner of this game will still have a shot to play a 13th game this season in Tampa and the bragging rights are a nice bonus.

What do you think FSU must do to win the game against Miami?

Mack-A couple key points to beating Miami. First, win the line of scrimmage. Every football team's goal is to win the line of scrimmage but it's easier said than done. Second, make UM one dimensional by stopping the run. Cooper is a very active back so stopping him will not be an easy task. FSU has to let Robert Marve or Jacory Harris beat them with their arm. Miami does not have a clear dominant wide receiver. Third, win the field position battle. Florida State's special teams can really be the difference in this game. Lastly, play loose and PLAY TO WIN THE GAME. Don't play cautious or scared. Go for the big plays that can give your team momentum.

Fish-Win the running game battle, dont turn the football over and win the field position. Turnovers basically gave Miami the game last year. If FSU does not turn the football over and they can run the football effectively it will give them a great shot at winning the game.

Nate-They must win in the trenches offensively. I feel that the overall skill that FSU has can match up well with Miami's defense. If the line can protect I feel that Ponder can find guys open with the intermediate stuff because I don't think that Miami has a lot of depth at the corner and safety spots. Also, Antone Smith must be able to establish some sort of running game. If the Canes don't respect the running game from the Seminoles they don't have much of a shot. Last year FSU was able to run all over Miami which opened up the passing game and allowed them to put up 29 points.

Jason-Big plays always win these games. Turnovers are of course one form of big play (often the biggest), but the team that makes more big plays over the course of the game will win. We simply can't expect to win this game if we don't have a few explosion type plays from the offense while also limiting turnovers. Likewise, if we can prevent explosion plays on defense and force a couple turnovers, we'll probably win the game. That said, there are certain things any team can do to help set the table for winning the big-play battle. FSU needs to:

1) Run the football well enough to stay out of poisonous down and distance scenarios. If FSU does this (and doesn't get called for tons of holding penalties), it opens up the entire playbook and takes the pressure off Ponder.
2) Limit Miami's yardage on first down; the front seven needs to maintain much better gap control than they showed against CU.
3) Avoid the stupid penalties from the last two weeks; the offense especially can't afford to squander good opportunities because a player loses control out there.
4) Score touchdowns when in the red zone. If there's one lesson FSU still hasn't seemed to master against Miami, it's that field goals don't win games. Touchdowns do. We need to capitalize when we have the opportunity and can't afford to settle for field goals.

Richie-Win the turnover battle! This game will most likely be lower scoring than last years game against Miami when UM won 37-29. If Florida State wins the turnover battle, they will likely win the field position battle as well. In what is expected to be a low scoring game, points could be a scarcity so the closer to the endzone, the better. The defense has had plenty of opportunities to create turnovers this season and it will be a must for them to capitalize on those chances Saturday.

What is the X-Factor in this game?

Mack-The X-factor is #7 Christian Ponder. Florida State needs their young QB to play smart, aggressive, and confident. Ponder does not need to win the game by himself or feel he needs to. He just needs to get the ball in his playmakers hands. If Ponder manages the game well, FSU will win this game. Period.

Fish-The X-Factor will be Ponder. If he can just manage the game and limit his mistakes FSU wins IMHO. If he plays like he did against Wake then Seminole fans will leave with the same empty feeling. Special teams will also be the X-Factor.

Nate-This plays into what builds off of the running game…quarterback play. Frankly this killed FSU last year against the Canes. FSU was up for the majority of the game last year but lost due to a melt down by Xavier Lee. Christian Ponder must show poise and control of the offense and must take what the defense gives him. With the scheme the Canes run there aren't going to be a lot of opportunities for the deep routes, so Ponder must be accurate and hit his guys in stride to let them create. He cannot turn the ball over.

Jason-I'm going to go out on a limb and say Marcus Sims. He gives FSU a bigger option in the backfield and his receiving skills out of the backfield when lined up as a fullback have the potential to make a big difference in this game, especially in the red zone. I'm not sure how much he will be used in his first game back, but the Seminoles have desperately missed having a bigger back in short yardage situations the last couple games, and that need might be magnified against a very big and very fast Hurricane defense. Other possible answers: D'Vontrey Richardson; Jamie Robinson; the health of Patrick Robinson, Tony Carter, and Toddrick Verdell; the numerous breakdowns in the FSU secondary the last couple games. This game has a lot of unknowns going in. Both teams will know a lot more about themselves afterwards.

Richie-Florida State's rushing offense vs. Miami's rushing defense. Miami's defense is giving up as average of only 65 rushing yards per game so far this season. Last Saturday, Antone Smith looked like the 5 star recruit Florida State signed back in 2005 and will need to him look close to that way again this week. I don't expect Smith to go for another 150 yard game, Jimbo will have to rely on him to take a lot of pressure off of Christian Ponder who has never started a game away from at an ACC stadium; let alone a road game against a rival. If Florida State can control the ground game and Smith gets close to 100 yards on about 20 carries, Florida State will be in position to win this weekend.

How much can the suspended players coming back and the players that came back last week impact this game?

Mack-Every one of those players can have an impact on this game. Marcus Sims gives you a big back to get short yardage. Caz Piurowski is a big body and target for FSU. The biggest impact will be felt in the middle of the defense-Paul Griffin. Griffin and Justin Mincey can have the biggest impact on this game. Dekoda Watson gives you an athletic freak at linebacker. And one of FSU's most talented players-Patrick Robinson at CB.

Fish-Its huge for FSU. FSU got a huge dose of energy last week. The guys that came back were fresh and every single one of them seemed to make an impact. Once the rust wears off Griffin and Sims could have a major impact in this game. I expect Griffin to have an edge against Xavier Shannon. That should allow FSU to control the middle of the line of scrimmage. FSU will also be deeper in their front seven heading into this game in a long time. This game is very draining physically and mentally so you better keep your guys fresh.

Jason-The impact of the players who came back last week will be huge again this week. Mincey is our best interior DL, and his penetration up front is critical to stopping an attack like Miami's. We are a completely different front seven when he is on the field. Watson is a freak of an athlete at linebacker and adds another excellent special teams player as well. Patrick Robinson is our best corner and should have gotten his first-game rust scraped off last week. Piurowski is critical to the running game and is a nice security blanket in the passing game. I already addressed Marcus Sims' possible contributions in the prior question.

Richie-They will have a big impact on the game. Paul Griffin will add depth to a defensive line that has been a pleasant surprise even before last week. Even though Patrick Robinson was injured on a kickoff return last week, I expect he will feel close t o100% once he walks onto the field in his home town of Miami. Dekoda Watson definitely brings the most to the table right now as far as the players who are now back as he had 10 tackles last week and was all over the field. Caz Piurowski gave the offense a boost a tight end last week and will play a big role this week again adding experience to the offensive line. The offense will also get some help in the backfield back this week when Marcus Sims is scheduled to return to the team. Overall, the depth gets a huge boost as well as talent and it will just add to the team that has fared pretty well without them so far.

What is your final prediction?

Mack-This week had me thinking about something that I never thought that I could do and that was pick against the Noles'. Florida State must play better offensively to win this game and the defense must continue to play fast and hard with no missed assignments. I think Florida State will show up and play a hard, physical game…….so I'm going with the Noles' 23-14.

Fish- In the end I am going against the Seminoles. I just dont feel confident enough in Christian Ponder to make enough plays to win the game. On the other side Marve has the confidence to pull these types of games out. I see a close game that goes down to the wire. Miami 17- FSU 13

Nate-I've gone back and forth on this for some time after the Wake game. I watched the Miami/UNC game last week to see what the Noles face. I saw a team that, while young, is dangerous. They are young enough to make the mistakes that cost them the game, and they also lack some of the talent to be the team some media types have said they are. I'm still not that confident in FSU's offense, and they will be playing the fastest defense they've seen yet. To be honest I can see a win or loss here for the Noles. I feel that Miami will struggle some to move the ball against FSU's defense as long as the Noles play disciplined ball. I say FSU wins 20-12.

Jason-Wow. This is a really tough one to call because I think both teams have so many question marks right now. Usually I'd go with the team with the better QB, but right now that's not so cut-and-dry (if pressed, I'd take Marve right now though). Going into the year I thought the 'Noles would win this one for sure, but UM's performance against UF has me doubting things much more. That said, I think the FSU offense will continue its improvement from last week to this one, and I think FSU's big play potential is better than that of Miami right now in part because of how well the Seminole defense has tackled so far this year and in part because Miami simply doesn't have playmakers at WR. So I'll take FSU in a very tight game that will probably give me ulcers, 24-20

Richie-I really don't see this being close to another high scoring game like last year when these two faced off. I think whoever makes the most of every scoring chance will come out on top and just squeak by. I really think this will be an ugly game with all of the youth on the field and the inexperience on both sides of the ball show. Florida State appears to be a little further ahead of Miami right now but this game is never an easy one. Christian Ponder will manage the game the way he needs to and should receive enough help from Antone Smith and the running game to stay in the game until the end. It sounds crazy but Florida State wins this one with special teams and afield goal. FSU 17 UM 16

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