Closer Look

To help Florida State fans get pumped for the Seminoles' Oct. 11 showdown against the second-ranked Miami Hurricanes, TheTerritory will take a close look at the matchups. This first installment features FSU's offensive line against UM's defensive front. Both units are young, talented and athletic. "It's going to be a good battle. Overall, I think we've played pretty good this season, though we weren't happy about giving up sick sacks against Duke (Saturday)," split guard Matt Meinrod said.

When Matt Meinrod watches film of the Miami Hurricanes' defensive line, he immediately thinks of Florida State's front four.

"They are big, they are fast -- just like our guys," said Meinrod, the Seminoles' starting split guard. "Those guys are going to be a load up front. We are going to have our plate full."

Indeed. When second-ranked UM and fifth-ranked FSU tangle Oct. 11 at Doak Campbell Stadium at high noon, the most closely scrutinized matchup just might be the Seminoles' offensive line against the Hurricanes' defensive front.

Both units are young, talented and athletic.

"They have just as many good athletes as we do and luckily it's going to be at our field," Meinrod said.

"It's going to be a good battle. Overall, I think we've played pretty good this season, though we weren't happy about giving up six sacks against Duke (Saturday). We will make the corrections and get that straightened out. Our preparation (next two weeks) will be important."

The Hurricanes' defensive front -- just like FSU's offensive line -- posed a huge question mark at season's start. UM's two-deep depth chart features three juniors, two sophomores, two redshirt freshman and one freshman.

Heading into Thursday's home game against West Virginia, the unit has a combined 16 career starts.

Junior tackle Vince Wilfork is the Hurricanes' most dominating presence inside. He has four tackles for loss (17 yards) and is second on the team in sacks with three. Wilfork has 12 tackles overall, including eight solo stops.

Redshirt freshman defensive end Baraka Atkins is a first-year starter who has made a number of big plays. He leads the ‘Canes with four sacks, seven quarterback hurries and two forced fumbles. Atkins is tied for fifth on the team with 17 tackles, including seven solo.

While UM's line has been a concern, defensive coordinator Randy Shannon does not want to hear any excuses. Orien Harris, Javon Nanton and Thomas Carroll round out the unit's rotation. Six players from last year's line are currently in the NFL.

''Everybody says they are young, but when you are playing juniors, they should be ready to play,'' Shannon said at season‘s start.

"If a guy has been here three or four years, he should be bigger, stronger and faster.''

UM's defense, of course, has had success stopping big plays under coach Larry Coker.

During the Coker era (2001-03), a span of 29 games and 2,007 plays, the Hurricanes defense has only allowed 14 plays to go for 40 yards or more, less than one percent of the opponent's plays (0.698 percent). UM allowed five 40-plus yard plays in 2001, four in 2002 and has allowed five so far this season.

Nanton, a former walk-on track and field athlete who earned a football scholarship in the spring, is playing the left side behind Atkins. He is confident in his group

"Everybody is talking about our lack of size, but we are big and we are way faster than last year's guys," Nanton told the Miami Herald.

"Coach [Coker] is telling us this year is the fastest Hurricane team ever. He says that about us as a team, but I am sure that talk will be about the defensive ends.''

Florida has had the best success against UM this season, finishing with 397 total yards, 178 rushing.

FSU's offensive line, meanwhile, has been one of the team's most pleasant surprises. It went two consecutive games without allowing a sack before running into problems following substitutions against the blitzing Blue Devils.

"The offensive line has been one of the big surprises this year," FSU coach Bobby Bowden said.

"They have just done better than I thought they would do. We knew going into the season that our offensive line was a big question mark. Then, what happens on top of that? Most of your injuries occur on the offensive line. Robert Meeks couldn't play the other night (against Duke). (David) Castillo is playing on a very hobbled foot. I really think the offensive line's probably - that and catching the ball -- has been the most pleasant surprise about this football team."

UM FUN FACT

Miami has won a national-best 17 straight regular season games away from the Orange Bowl since defeating West Virginia in Morgantown, 47-10, on Sept. 23, 2000. The current 17-game road win streak is the longest at UM since the Hurricanes won 19 straight road contests from Sept. 15, 1984, to Sept. 17, 1988.


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