Roundtable: FSU vs Miami

Florida State's season opening clash against Miami is just around the corner. NoleDigest previews the game in a roundtable were we address some of the topics going into the Labor Day game.

Florida State and Miami both have a lot riding on the line Monday night when they play on national television. Both programs are looking to climb back into the elite list of programs in the nation as both programs have been down the last few years. Heading into the game there are questions that need to be answered. Nate Greer, Richie Barnes, Steve Chase and Steve Poyner look at the topics and talk about what the Seminoles need to do Monday to win.

1) How much impact with the injuries have on both teams?

Nate Greer: For Florida State I would say the biggest loss in the preseason has been Justin Mincey. One of the biggest issues for FSU coming into the season was defensive line depth, and FSU lost a player many expected have a decent year. Kendrick Stewart has been banged up but he is expected to go. Budd Thacker is out most likely. The depth on the d-line is the biggest concern because you don't know what you're going to get from the younger guys. For me that almost evens up a big advantage FSU had against Miami's offensive line.

The biggest hit for Miami is the loss of their 2 defensive ends Ojomo and Moncour. The loss of those players means their young guys like Oilivier Vernon, Marcus Robinson and others are going to have to play. With Miami having to move Allen Bailey back out to end that takes away their inside depth. Miami needed to get pressure on Christian Ponder to have success. FSU ate up Miami's defensive line last year, and you have to wonder what we'll see this year.

Richie Barnes: Not too much of an impact as both teams are equally banged up. Most notably, both teams will be missing players on the defensive line which will open up the running game a little bit for each team. Florida State should benefit from this more so as they already have a strong running game and should be able to pound away at Miami with a stable of running backs including a heavy dose of Jermaine Thomas, Ty Jones, Chris Thompson and Lonnie Pryor.

Steve Chase: In my opinion the loss of Justin Mincey will be the hardest for us to overcome. We're thin enough on the interior and I felt like Justin had come a long way in his development and was ready to shine. On Miami's side, although it's not an injury (yet) the loss of the 2 back-up QB's could be disastrous for the ‘Canes if Harris misses any snaps at all.

Steve Poyner (Steve51): With the lack of depth that both teams have, it can play a major role. Any kind of injury during the game will be magnified because of that lack of depth. The injuries aren't that major as far as the best players or most important players are injured. Both Quarterbacks are fine, the Majority (and best) offensive linemen are healthy; the best at all the positions are healthy. You probably won't be able to tell the injuries are there at all until later on in the game. As the starters get tired and the 2nd stringers have to come in, that is where you will notice a big drop off because of the injuries. Other than that both teams will be fine. I think the depth will go in FSU's favor, not because our backups are necessarily better, but I think our starters will be a LOT more in shape and game fit then Miami's.

2) What about Miami makes this game tricky?

NG: I know the rivalry isn't what it was in the early part of the decade, but it is still FSU v. Miami and it still means a lot to both programs. Both are hyped up for this game and both are ready. As we saw the last time Miami was in Tallahassee in 2007 even if FSU is the better team they can often loose to Miami when they play mistake-filled football. I think the biggest thing is that FSU has had to do a lot of homework on the news coordinators for Miami. They will see some news things from the Canes this year.

RB: Trying to get ready for two new coordinators in their first ever game with a new team. It's hard to game plan against a team when you aren't exactly sure what they are going to do. Florida State can look back at the previous jobs done by the new Miami coaches, but since they have never worked under Shannon before, it's almost impossible to know what to expect.

SC: The big "unknowns" of Miami's new Offensive & Defensive coordinators. This is the first game of the year and our first look at new coordinators on both sides of the ball. Miami has continued to bring in talent & it's possible to throw us off balance.

SP: The fact that it is da U. That swagger is still there, although hidden most of the time. Any given day it can come out (and it tends to against FSU) and they can play well above their level. They also still have tons of players from Dade County. You never know what to expect from those players. A player that wasn't highly recruited from there can suddenly be a BIG stud. There will be a player or 2 in this game that step up from Miami that we don't expect to (Sean Spence last year) and make a major impact. On top of that…Simply it's a rivalry game. Anything can happen. We have a history of going flat and making mistakes against Miami (even Jimbo did last year, so the different coaching staff theory is thrown out the window). Also we don't have a clue as to what to expect from Miami's offense, so it will be hard to game plan for them and we will be adjusting and just playing football on the fly (which scares me with the defense we have).

3) What does FSU need to do on offense to win the game?

NG: Be consistent in the passing game. Last year Christian was spectacular running the ball. He was very inconsistent in the passing game, though. What FSU did a lot last year was use the screen game a lot to get their playmakers in space. This year with the strength of the team in the rushing game Ponder and the offense is going to have to make some plays downfield. I'm not saying that FSU needs to open up the passing game to win. I do think FSU needs to make plays to keep Miami honest. Also, they have to limit turnovers. That has traditionally killed FSU in this rivalry. Finally, they have to finish off drives with touchdowns, not field goals.

RB: Easier said than done but this is a must for FSU. They can control the clock and open the passing game for Christian Ponder by establishing an early rush attack.

SC: Ball control. Keep the D on the bench as much as possible and pound the ball. I think the running game is the difference in this ballgame.

SP: We need to control the clock. Plain and simple. Control the clock and don't turn the ball over. If we do we will win pretty easily. If our running game is on and we are controlling the clock we will keep our defense and its lack of depth and experience off the field. We need to serve Miami up a heavy dose of our Running backs. The less Ponder runs the better off we will be. I think the most important thing we need to do on offense to be able to run successfully is get a blocker on Spence. Last year when we got a man on him, we were getting tons of yards. When we didn't he was making the tackle for little yardage. The guy is their run defense. So get a hat on Spence and run the ball. Break Ponder into the season slowly.

4) Can FSU's defense step up against Whipple's new offense?

NG: Of course they can, but the biggest thing is will they? With a young unit like FSU I feel if they can come out and force some 3 and outs early the unit will stay confident and keep their enthusiasm. If Miami can come out, create some big plays and put points on the board, we'll see a defense that is going to struggle all night.

RB: Yes. It is difficult for a first year coordinator to put it all together in the first game, especially when it is a tough rivalry game. See the FSU-Clemson game of '06 when Jimbo Fisher coached his first game at FSU. It was a rough start and I expect much of the same for Miami this year.

SC: Miami runs a pro set and that will play right into Mickey's strength. I feel like we line up very well against Miami and if we get pressure on Harris it's over.

SP: I think we CAN. I don't know if we will. I think a MAJOR thing is going to be who gets the ball first. If we can get the ball first and set the tone with a touchdown, then we will be ok. I think our defense will be at its worst in the beginning of the game, especially on the first drive (regardless of who is playing). If we can settle down in the first quarter quickly then it could be a LONG game for Miami. However if we allow them to hang around and let their offense on the field too much it could get very interesting (like the last 2 years).

5) How do you see the game playing out?

NG: I will answer this more in the game breakdown this weekend.

RB: Florida State will come out strong and take an early lead. They have a lot of momentum heading into the game after a solid fall camp. There are still question marks on defense, but Miami's offense won't be able to fully take advantage of them. It will get close during the third quarter but FSU puts it away late in the game.

SC: I see Florida State controlling the clock & the line of scrimmage. I feel Miami struggles on Offense much like we did against Clemson opening night 2 years ago. It's too much to learn in the amount of time they've had with the new coaches. They'll play simplified versions of what these coaches will eventually bring.

SP: I see the game going like this. Through the first quarter it will be a close battle, perhaps with FSU going on top early. FSU will control the game for the most part. But like always Miami will have some big plays. I don't see Miami driving the ball down the field much after the first quarter (if then). But here and there they will get a big touchdown and keep themselves in the game. I can see FSU being ahead by two or 3 scores to start the fourth quarter. Although one is more likely. Miami will get a few big plays in the 4th quarter to make it close. But FSU will pull it out with superior conditioning.

6) Final Score?

NG: FSU 26 Miami 10

RB: FSU 27 Miami 17

SC: Seminoles 38 Hurricanes 20. I think we see at least 3 big play touchdowns and a grinding ground game.

SP: FSU 34 Miami 28

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