Florida State is an 11-point road underdog heading into Saturday night’s contest against in-state rival Miami, which be televised nationally at 7:30 p.m. on ABC. It will be FSU’s first road game of the season. The team will be without head coach Mike Norvell, who will remain behind in Tallahassee after testing positive for Covid-19 this past weekend.
Why winning against Miami is important
A win against the 12th-ranked Hurricanes (2-0, 1-0 ACC) would be a sign that the team is moving in the right direction. And that a program that has been labeled as “fragile” over the last several seasons can indeed overcome adversity (being without their head coach on the road as a decided underdog) and compete and win against some of the more talented and better teams in the ACC not named Clemson. And the road doesn’t get any easier moving forward. The Seminoles catch a break next week when they take on an FCS program in Jacksonville State at home but the competition level ramps right back up after that. FSU will face 7th-ranked Notre Dame on the road, 11th-ranked North Carolina at home, 24th-ranked Louisville on the road and then return home to take on 21st-ranked Pittsburgh in consecutive weeks. A victory on the road would give the team and the FSU fan base a lot of confidence heading into difficult middle part of the schedule and of course would be the first win of the season.
Keys to Victory
Run to Win
FSU needs to prove it can run the ball for several reasons. One, it will take some of the pressure off of James Blackman or whoever else might line up at quarterback. Against Georgia Tech, Blackman and backup quarterback Jordan Travis completed just 51 percent of their passes. Being able to run the ball successfully will open up the passing game and could help in providing big-play opportunities for FSU’s receiving corps. Success in the running game is demoralizing to an opposing defense and would prove to Miami that this isn’t the same team it faced last year. And based on the Miami defense’s early body of work there is reason to believe this is possible. The Hurricanes have given up 11 runs from scrimmage of over 10 yards, which ranks 36th out of 52 teams. Louisville totaled eight runs of more than 10 yards last week against Miami. Running the ball also takes time off the clock and limits the number of possessions for Miami and the best way to defend Hurricanes quarterback D’Eriq King is to keep him off the field.
Green Light Thomsen
Norvell had his hands in practice remotely as well as formulating a game plan. But once the game begins, Thomsen needs to be given full authority to coach as he chooses, adapt on the fly and potentially mix in a few wrinkles (perhaps a package with a quarterback like Jordan Travis, Tate Rodemaker or Chubba Purdy). There should be no concerns about the staff respecting Thomsen, who has head coaching experience, but he should also be given the chance to adjust in-game as well as roll the dice when needed.
Miami has made a living on long plays in its first two games. The Hurricanes had two scoring plays of 75 yards against Louisville and another scoring play of 47 yards. Make them prove they can sustain drives and run the ball. The Hurricanes ran for 160 yards against Louisville but 75 of those yards came on one play and they gained only 85 yards on their other 29 attempts. In fact, Miami only had one running back who averaged over 2.3 yards per carry against the Cards. FSU gave up 18 plays of 10 yards or more to Georgia Tech and the Hurricanes are averaging 16 plays over 10 yards per game. If the Seminoles can limit Miami to 11 plays or less (the top three defenses at the FBS level gave up just over nine plays per game in this category in 2019) they could find themselves with a chance to win the game in the fourth quarter.
Football Analyst Patrick Burnham: Miami 22, FSU 19
Football Analyst Mark Salva: Miami 23, FSU 13
Publisher Jerry Kutz: FSU 20, Miami 17 (overtime)
Editor Bob Ferrante: Miami 27, FSU 20