Despite being 4-2, FSU is 1-2 in conference play, and sits behind both Clemson and Wake Forest, who gave the Nole's their two losses this season.
FSU enters Saturday with the 93rd ranked offense in the country and the 102nd rated rushing attack. They're 87th in scoring, at 22 points a game, but 55th in passing. The Noles average 234 yards a game through the air in 2007.
The Noles appear to have finally settled on quarterback Xavier Lee to lead the offense. The 6'4, 220 pound former 5 star recruit was finally handed the reigns to the offense three weeks ago against top 25 Alabama. The result? Lee tossed for 224 yards with 2 touchdowns and 1 interception while leading his team to a 24-14 victory.
Since taking over the offense, Lee has racked up 764 yards through the air, with 5 touchdowns and 3 picks. A threat to run, Lee's chipped in with 114 yards on the ground and 2 scores. With a cannon for an arm and the ability to tuck it run, Lee presents the defense with the challenge of defending a true dual threat quarter back.
Another former blue chip recruit will roam the backfield with Lee on Saturday. Antone Smith, who will forever be famous with Cane's fans for his signing day situation, is currently the team's leading rusher with 320 yards and 3 touchdowns.
At 5'9, 190 pounds, Smith is an deceptively powerful back with excellent speed and acceleration. While his stats might not indicate his talents, his lack of production can be attributed to a below average offensive line and his teams style of offense. Smith has yet to receive more than 20 carries in any game. One thing's for sure, though - the Miami run defense, which has been shaky lately, has to come to play against Smith. If the speedster even sees as much as a hint of daylight, it'll be time to strike up the FSU band.
On the outside is a deep, impressively talented group of wide receivers headlined by junior Greg Carr. At 6'6, 205 pounds, Carr is a nightmare for most cornerbacks. So it's no coincidence that he's leading the Nole's in both yards, 508, and touchdowns, 3, on the season.
Second on the team in yards 6'0, 190 pound sophomore Preston Parker. Parker, who was heavily recruited by Miami and once thought as a "Cane lock" in recruiting, shocked most fans when he announced that he was heading to Tally for the next 4 years. So far, the speedy Parker has done nothing to disappoint. Parker's play can be described as electric. He's hauled in 344 yards and 1 touchdown, in addition to being used on various reverses and screens to utilize his jaw-dropping speed.
Juniors De'Cody Fagg and Richard Goodman also see significant playing time on the outside for the Noles. Fagg, a 6'3 200 burner, has track type speed on the field. He's grabbed 19 passes for 238 yards and 2 scores this season. Goodman provides more of a solid possession receiver for the Noles. At 6'0, 190, he has decent size, but he runs crisp routes and rarely puts a ball on the ground. He's scored twcie this season, to go along with 111 yards as FSU's 4th wide receiver.
On the offensive line, Florida State went out and hired Rick Trickett from West Virginia in the hopes he could repair a poor unit. So far, the Noles have seen limited improvement up front.
Daren Rose and David Overmyer handle the tackle spots for the Noles. Rose, who goes 6'5, 284 after shedding some pounds in the offseason, is in his sophomore season for FSU after being heavily recruited by most programs. He moves very well for a guy his size and excels in pass protections. Overmyer, the senior, checks in at 6'5 271. Overmyer is not overly impressive, but he's experienced and can play multiple positions.
Seniors Jacky Claude and Shannon Boatman hold down the guard spots for the Noles offense. Claude, 6'4, 283, is most likely FSU's best lineman. He's been solid for them all year, and does well in both pass protection and run blocking. Boatman, who goes a beastly 6'7 320 pounds, is a former JUCO star that started all last season for the Noles. He has freakish strength, but has still struggled.
Mickey Andrews defense ranks in the top 25 of most categories, which is nothing new for the Nole's. FSU is 19th in rush defense, 24th in total defense, 15th in scoring and 31st in pass efficiency.
The defensive line is, in a word - explosive. The Nole's are amazingly strong and quick up front, disrupting runs and harassing opposing quarterbacks. The star of the unit is sophomore Everette Brown. 6'4, 255 pounds with a great first step and non-stop motor, Brown has reached the QB 5 times this season, to go along with 19 tackles. Justin Mincey will get his first start Saturday at the other defensive end spot. Mincey is a 6'5, 275 pound sophomore, who, like Brown, is a terror off the edge. Both Brown and Mincey are quick ends that are relentless in pursuit of the ball carrier.
At defensive tackle, junior LeRoy Guion will fill in for Andre Fluellen. The 6'4 295 pound junior has 20 tackles this season, and is big and athletic enough to clog the middle for the Noles defense. Next to him is sophomore Kendrick Stewart, who, like everyone else on the Seminole's defense, is an athletic freak. Some hard core recruitnick's might recall Stewart's back flip after a sack in the annual CaliFlorida bowl during his senior year of high school. Stewart is 6'2, 270 pounds but moves with great fluidity and athleticism. He is very explosive and has a great motor.
Roaming behind the line is easily the nastiest and most talented unit of the defense. Junior Geno Hayes and Derek Nicholson team up to terrorize opposing offenses. The duo has a combined 88 tackles, 44 each, and 3.5 sacks. Both are extremely fast and get the football in a hurry, but Nicholson is the bigger of the two, at 6'2 230 pounds. Running with them is sophomore Dekoda Watson. Watson, 6'2, 225, is a big time hitter that loves to come up and mix it up in the running game. The trio is an explosive, hard hitting group that flies to the football in a hurry, and arrives with bad intentions.
Myron Rolle leads the secondary. Rolle, only a sophomore, is already living up to his 5 star rankings. He's great in coverage, and is big enough to come up and support the run when the Nole's look to load the box. At 6'2, 215, he's a versatile athlete that's recorded 33 tackles this season. Senior Roger Williams stalks the secondary with Rolle at the other safety spot. Williams has 34 stops this season. He's 6'0, 200 pounds, and is very good in the running game, but sometimes shaky against the pass.
Juniors Tony Carter and Michael Ray Garvin will line up at corner for the Noles. Both are extremely small - 5'9 170 for Carter, 5'8 183 for Garvin - but make up for it with great closing speed and awareness. Carter has picked off 2 passes this year, and Garvin 1. While they're small, both are very tough players and do not shy away from contact. Garvin has 28 tackles, and Carter 26. On nickel packages, FSU will run out Patrick Robinson. The 5'11, 184 pound Miami native has 2 picks this season despite seeing limited snaps. He's a great cover man that can lock down most receivers.
On Saturday, Florida State and Miami will be battling in Doak Campbell Stadium without much on the line. Each team ranks near the bottom of their division, and for the first time in a while both are unranked. However, with each roster loaded with kids that played together in high school, pride and bragging rights will still be on the line. If Miami expects to win, their secondary must step up. Florida State has an arsenal of weapons on the outside, and appears to have finally found a quarterback capable of getting them the football. For the first time in a long time, this match-up will come down to whether or not Miami's defense can get it done.