Florida State Preview

Miami and Florida State. Enough said. This is college football at its finest. Both teams are going up against each other with top five rankings for the first time since 1992 when Miami was ranked number two and Florida State was number three. These teams have met every year since 1969 and Miami holds a 26-20 advantage all-time against Florida State.

#2 Miami Hurricanes (5-0) at #5 Florida State Seminoles (5-0)
Doak Cambpell Stadium – Tallahassee, Florida
October 11 – 12:00 PM Eastern on ABC

Last week Miami squeaked by West Virginia at the Orange Bowl with a 22-20 victory on a game-winning field goal by Jon Peattie with 11 seconds left. The good news for Miami was that they won; however many of the players were discouraged with the score.

Florida State enjoyed a bye week last week after defeating Duke 56-7. The Seminoles have had a close game this season as well defeating Georgia Tech 14-13 with a touchdown by P.K. Sam with under three minutes to go.

Last year was another epic Miami and Florida State game. The Seminoles were up 27-14 with nine minutes remaining in the game, but the Hurricanes scored two touchdowns in three minutes to take a one-point advantage. Florida State missed a 43-yard field goal as time expired. Ken Dorsey who had 362 yards passing led Miami. Florida State was led by Greg Jones who had 189 yards rushing.

Florida State - Notes and Quotes

Florida State knows Miami very well and they know what they are capable of. The Seminoles don't want this game to be close. Miami is 7-0 against Florida State in games decided by six points or less.

"Miami still has an outstanding front seven," said offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden. "I just don't see much drop off, but as we say all the time to line up and to play a two deep shell like they do and protect against the deep ball. Like last year when we've got a line like we had and have running backs like Greg Jones running strong like we did, even Nick Maddox being able to contribute at times, you have to feel like you can match up. That's what they're giving you and you have to be effective. If you're ineffective in that situation, you're in trouble. So that's what they were going to require us to do and that's what we had to get done. If we couldn't have gotten it done, we would have been in a heap of trouble."

Florida State has suffered a few injuries as of late and they know it is important to have everyone back for this game.

"We need them," said Bowden. "You can go back to last year's game where Greg Jones did have a big game but Nick Maddox, he had some key runs for us in that ballgame and that just sets the change of pace. The difference in Leon (Washington) and (Lorenzo) Booker than Nick is that they're faster. They're even better than Nick was so that's saying a lot and we're depending on some things. It is different when Greg bounces a run to the outside and when Leon or Lorenzo bounce a run to the outside. They get 0-60 a lot quicker than Greg. Those two guys are more dangerous than any players on our entire offense. They're a different type of dangerous. They're the kind of guys that you don't have to work hard to get them the ball as far as having to throw it way down field. You know with Craphonso, it's just run and we'll throw you the ball and you catch it. Lorenzo you know you get them the ball out in the flat and they have the ability to make guys miss. That's much more dangerous to me plus the match-ups. You know you have to keep linebackers in there on him. I'm anxious to see what their plan is for those guys. Having them back is going to mean a lot to us. I know that."

Florida State enjoyed a bye week last week and took the extra time to prepare for Miami. Some coaches and players enjoy the bye week while others would rather just keep playing.

"That's always a possibility, something like that happening, said defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews." "I think what concerns us more than anything is that we will not have played a ballgame since last Saturday. You go a week, almost two weeks really, where you don't get to tackle. We have got to service folks who have been banged up this year. We've been trying to get well. Two starters didn't play last week against Duke. We're trying to let them get well. One of them has got back to practicing a little bit. The thing that you're concerned most about is that your fundamentals don't erode. It's hard to maintain a good level, to have fundamentals if you're not getting a chance to practice them during the week. We've gone two weeks now. That concerns you plus you didn't line up and actually play against a team in a game-like situation. Probably doesn't concern us as much as it would last year or the year before, because most of our starters are juniors or seniors. They should know a little bit better how to handle an off week. The thing we try to get them to do is go out there and improve everyday. Miami is not two weeks away, we have to prepare like we're getting ready to play in the next day. Trying to push them to continue to improvement, for the most part we've been able to see that happen."

Florida State returned nine starters on defense and they currently lead the nation in scoring defense averaging just 7.4 points per game.

"I think the biggest thing is that we've got experience and we've got proven players as starters," said Andrews. "What happened last spring was really a blessing in disguise. You've heard us say that we got a chance to allow second-teamers to learn how to play like first-teamers. A lot of times you put a young group in, they make mistakes and you have to pull them right out. We haven't been able to do a lot of that this year—haven't had to because they go out there and play at the level we need. Not a whole lot of difference between our first and second group to be truthful about it. I don't know that we have as many dominant players starting maybe as we've had in some years past, but certainly our depth factor is better."

Miami Hurricanes - Notes and Quotes

There is no need for motivation for this team after a lackluster performance last week against West Virginia. More importantly they know what is at stake this week against Florida State. Everyone on the team loves this match up. They love the competiveness, the bragging rights and the national notoriety that comes with the victor of this game. This week has been an intense week of practice and they hope to perform well on Saturday.

"I wish we could play a big game like Florida State every week," said head coach Larry Coker. "If we could keep the intensity that we have now. We really moved today and had guys flying around, having fun. Some of the injured guys are moving around a lot better than I thought."

The Hurricanes received bad news last week as they learned that their starting tailback, Frank Gore, is out for the season with a torn ACL. The running back position has had its fair share of injuries this season and Gore is the third running back that is out with an injury. FB Talib Humphrey and FB Jon Beason are the other two.

Senior Jason Geathers moves from wide receiver back to running back to help with the depth and will be used quite often. Geathers started the season opener in 2002 and gained 199 yards on the ground. Jarrett Payton will start in place of Gore, but Geathers and freshman Tyrone Moss will see time.

"I like the way our tailback situation is shaping up. Jason Geathers looks very good," said Coker. "Tyrone Moss and Jarrett Payton are really stepping it up."

Last year Florida State racked up 296 yards on the ground including 189 yards by Greg Jones. Chris Rix only attempted 20 passes compared to the 52 rushing attempts by Florida State.

"We could not stop the run so they didn't need to throw," said Coker. "I think that is the biggest thing. I expect them to be more balanced this year than we saw a year ago. They have been all year long. Their quarterback has been playing very well."

It is important for the Hurricanes to stop Greg Jones and the rushing attack.

"We just have to tackle, move our feet and put them on the ground," said defensive tackle Santonio Thomas."

The Miami receivers are young and will need to have great games in order for the Hurricanes to win. They will be facing a tough Florida State secondary.

"Their secondary is very aggressive and they get after you and use the ends very well," said wide receiver Sinorice Moss.

The Miami-Florida State rivalry is huge in the state of Florida. Many of the players know each other and played against each other in high school. However, the Hurricanes who did not grow up in Florida still understand the magnitude of this game despite being from other states.

"I always dreamed of playing in this game," said tight end Kevin Everett who is from Texas. "It's a real big part of this university's tradition."

What does it mean for a victory over Florida State?

"First, the winner wins the Florida Cup," said defensive end Alton Wright who also is from Texas. "Second, it means Miami would have bragging rights. Most of these guys played against each other and know each other. They want the bragging rights."

While Coker realizes the magnitude of this game, he does have things in perspective.

"One loss would be disappointing, but this early in the season I do not think it would mean the season is over," said Coker. "Both teams would be able to rebound and have a very good year. There is no doubt that they could end up in the National Championship game."

Miami Hurricanes – Projected Starters

QB Brock Berlin Junior
TB Jarrett Payton Senior
FB Quadtrine Hill Sophomore
TE Kellen Winslow Junior
WR Kevin Beard Senior
WR Ryan Moore Freshman
LT Eric Winston Sophomore
LG Vernon Carey Senior
C Joel Rodriguez Junior
RG Chris Myers Junior
RT Carlos Joseph Senior

LE Baraka Atkins Freshman
LT Orien Harris Sophomore
RT Vince Wilfork Junior
RE Thomas Carroll Sophomore
WLB D.J. Williams Senior
MLB Jonathan Vilma Senior
SLB Darrell McClover Senior
CB Antrel Rolle Junior
CB Alfonso Marshall Senior
FS Sean Taylor Junior
SS Greg Threat Sophomore

Hurricane Injury Status

OG Joe McGrath (Leg) Probable
WR Devin Hester (Ankle) Probable
DE Baraka Atkins (Ankle) Probable
DE Alton Wright (Ankle) Probable
FS Maurice Sikes (Knee) Questionable
DE Bryan Pata (Ankle) Questionable
FB Talib Humphrey (Achilles) Out
FB Jon Beason (Shoulder) Out
TB Frank Gore (Knee) Out

Team Leaders

Miami

Passing – Brock Berlin (1236 yards 62% 6 TD 7 Int)
Rushing – Frank Gore (468 yards 5.3 avg 4 TD)
Receiving – Kellen Winslow (25 rec 242 yards 1 TD) Ryan Moore (19 rec 236 yards 2 TD)
Defense – Sean Taylor (35 tackles 4 Int) Jonathan Vilma (35 tackles) Vince Wilfork (4 sacks)
Kicking – Jon Peattie (10-11 FG 18-18 XP)

Florida State

Passing – Chris Rix (1288 yards 63% 8 TD 3 Int)
Rushing – Greg Jones (265 yards 5.0 avg 5 TD)
Receiving – Craphonso Thorpe (25 rec 421 yards 4 TD) P.K. Sam (21 rec 323 yards 2 TD)
Defense – B.J. Ward (28 tackles) Eric Moore (3.5 sacks) Pat Watkins (2 int)
Kicking – Xavier Beitia (5-7 FG 24-25 XP)

Notable Team Statistics

Florida State – 6th in Pass Efficiency Defense (87.21)
Miami – 63rd in Pass Efficiency Offense (126.33)

Florida State – 42nd in Punt Returns (10.37)
Miami – 1st in Punt Returns (18.46)

Two Key Match-ups To Watch

When Florida State has the ball…
WR Craphonso Thorpe vs. CB Antrel Rolle

Thorpe is the team's leading receiver in both yards and receptions. Three of his four touchdowns have been over 35 yards. Thorpe has breakaway speed and is a tall, thin receiver who has a knack for making big plays. Rolle is Miami's best cornerback and is very versatile. He has great footwork and speed. He is seldom out of position and the key for him will be whether or not to bump at the line or back off. Keeping Thorpe in front of him and not allowing a big play is Rolle's main responsibility.

When Miami has the ball…
TE Kellen Winslow vs. SLB Michael Boulware

Winslow had a huge game last week and a huge catch on fourth-down to help the Hurricanes pull out the victory. His 10 catches and 104 yards were both season highs. Winslow is a fiery competitor and his teammates on both sides of the ball fuel off his tenacity. For Miami to win, he has to make big plays and stay involved in the offense. It is also important for Winslow to make key blocks in the run game. Boulware will be the guy most responsible for containing Winslow. This is a type of game that can elevate Boulware's recognition. Most likely Winslow will not see the type of double-teams that he saw earlier in the year.

Keep Your Eye On

Florida State FS B.J.Ward – Ward blocked two field goals last game against Duke and has blocked six career kicks.

Miami SS Greg Threat – Threat will be starting for the injured Maurice Sikes and has yet to play this season.

Coach Larry Coker's Final Word

"Winning the Florida Cup is huge. We have won five championships, they (Florida State) have won two and Florida has won one. That's eight national titles in the last 20 years. So if you win the Florida Cup, you may be in the hunt for everything."

Player Quote of the Week

Middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma on if he is looking forward to going up against anyone in particular on Florida State,

"No, no one in particular. I don't like the whole team."

Christopher Stock is a Staff Columnist for CanesTime and can be contacted by emailing him at stock@grassy.com

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