As we've approached the college football season Florida State fans have been getting ready for the season opening game against rival Miami. Heading into this game many people in the media and around the country have targeted the Hurricanes as a team that'll make it back to the elite before schools like FSU do.
Simply put there is a lot riding on this game for both teams as they want to start off the season with a bang. For the Seminoles they want to take care of business at home and prove they are the team on the way back, and for Miami this is a must win as they have the hardest 4-game stretch to start the season than any team in the nation. Miami fans feel this is the easiest win of the 4 match-ups for the Canes.
NoleDigest looks at some of the key match-ups during Monday night's game, and we make a prediction on how the game is going to turn out.
When FSU has the ball:
Last year Florida State was able to dictate what it wanted to do on the offensive side of the ball. Christian Ponder had 144 yards rushing as FSU ran a version of the veer option that kept the Hurricane defense on their heals throughout the game. The passing attack was inconsistent as Ponder did have two costly turnovers last year.
Entering Monday's game FSU's offense is a year older all across the board and they are a better unit then what we saw on the field last year. An offensive line that was the nation's youngest last year is now one of its best. Maybe the biggest thing for FSU is that throughout camp we have heard how happy Coach Fisher has been by Ponder's progress in the offense and how he has really grown in terms of a passer.
Florida State boasts a lethal rushing attack and last year the Seminoles amassed over 300 yards on the ground last year. This game will feature Jermaine Thomas as FSU's primary runner. Last year Thomas had 2 carries for 51 yards against Miami, but former FSU back Antone Smith was the one who found the most success. As the team's strong point this year FSU must be able to control the clock on the ground and use the running game to open up the passing attack. Ty Jones, Lonnie Pryor and Chris Thompson are all going to see action, and word is the offensive line has been chomping at the bit as they've been preparing for this game.
What will dictate the Seminoles' success is Ponder opening up the passing game. Coach Fisher has been pleasantly surprised with his wide receiver corps this fall and he fully expects them to step up in this game. FSU found a lot of success creating mismatches in the screen game last year, but FSU has to get the ball downfield this year.
When you look at Miami's defense they are missing Adewale Ojomo and Eric Moncour, two defensive ends Miami expected to be major contributors. These two were Miami's most experienced ends and now Miami has to find where the pass rush is going to come from. With these two out Miami will be depending on Marcus Robinson, Allen Bailey, Steven Wesley and true freshman Olivier Vernon. Realistically expecting a big game from Vernon is a lot to ask. In the middle there is talent in Marcus Forston but what else is there behind him?
Miami MUST get pressure up front in order to have success Monday night. Sean Spence is a beast and he'll make plays, but FSU will key on him and keep a hat on him throughout. Miami will have Colin McCarthy back as well as Daryl Sharpton, but Sharpton got beat up last year. Looking at Miami's secondary they lost Vaughn Telemarque this weekend which leaved a huge hole at an already thin safety position for the Canes. Demarcus Van Dyke, Brandon Harris, Sam Shields and the other corners are going to have a long day if Miami can't get pressure up front. There is still speed on that side of the ball, but there is very little depth. In fact Miami is coming to FSU with just 3 healthy safeties. FSU ate up Miami's defense on the ground last year, and Miami will likely see that happen again if they don't find the balance.
When FSU is on defense:
What has a lot of Miami people excited heading into this game is the potential Miami has on offense. Jacory Harris is now the full time starter and long time running backs Graig Cooper and Jarvis James are back this year. The wide receiver corps is loaded with the likes of Aldarius Johnson, Leonard Hankerson, Travis Benjamin, Laron Byrd and a host of others.
The hiring of Mark Whipple has brought excitement to the program as Miami was stagnant and not effective on offense last year. While Miami has some talent on offense, their success against FSU is going to come down to the play of their offensive line.
Minus Jason Fox and Orlando Franklin there isn't a lineman in the starting group with much experience. Add to that the fact that the Hurricanes have little depth at this spot, Miami has to hope for the best here. If Matt Pipho, A.J. Trump and Harland Gunn can't contain the pass rush of FSU it doesn't matter the talent Miami has. Jacory and the offense will not get going.
Florida State will be missing Justin Mincey up front as well as Budd Thacker. Kendrick Stewart looks like he will go but he is playing hurt. For FSU they too must create up front as they're braking in 2 new starters in the secondary. With the lack of depth up the middle FSU will have to create their pressure off the edges. Markus White must have a big game. FSU just needs to be serviceable in the middle and contain the backs of Miami from killing them up the gut.
The strength of FSU's defense will be with their linebackers, and look for FSU to try to get them into position to create plays and get pressure on Harris. If the linebackers struggle Miami is going to find a lot of success in this game.
What we feel is going to happen:
NoleDigest sees a tight game early as both teams are under pressure to get the season started off on the right foot. Miami is the team everyone has pegged as the team on the way back, and that is something that has motivated an FSU team that had a lot of success with Miami last year.
We think the game is going to be close heading into the half as both teams will make some mistakes and will be on an emotional high. As the second half gets underway we feel that the continuation FSU has on offense will help them control the clock and put points on the board. Frankly, expecting Miami to come in and have a lot of success in Game 1 with two new coordinators is a lot to ask.
In the end FSU's strength on the offensive line will be able to push Miami around. Once that happens, it will be too much for Miami as FSU will eat up yards in chunks. The young Miami team won't be able to keep up, and FSU will end up with a comfortable win to start the season off with a bang.
FINAL SCORE: FSU 26 Miami 10
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