As FSU fans, we love every Saturday that we get to see our Noles play. BUT there are two Saturdays that mean just a little more, and this is one of them. We all woke up with extra energy and excitement this week, knowing what is coming to a sold-out Doak Campbell Stadium at 3:30 on Saturday.
Florida State vs Miami is one of the most intense and storied rivalries in all of college football. Many big moments and highlights in this game have been talked about for generations. You never know what can happen in a rivalry game, and the “on paper” stuff gets thrown out of the window to a degree. Outside of a few one-sided affairs in recent years, 13 of the last 20 meetings have been decided by one score of less.
The Noles will ride a two-game win streak into this Saturday’s contest. Last year, the Noles delivered the knockout blow less than 2 minutes into the game and continued to pour it on for 60 minutes in a glorious 45-3 beatdown of the Canes. In the last meeting in Doak, also a 3:30 game, FSU won the thrilling “4th and 14th” game, which ultimately led to Miami making a change at head coach.
I must admit this is a better Miami team than what FSU faced last season. However, they still have produced the typical results we expect from a program that has floundered for the past 2 decades. They started the season beating up on some bad competition, playing only one Power 5 team in the first four games. While their 48-33 win over Texas A&M looked good at-the-time, A&M is now sitting at 5-4. They have only beaten one team with a winning record and haven’t won a road game since 2021.
Once Miami finished their cupcakes and started playing conference opponents, they have a 2-3 record in their last 5 games (all ACC opponents), and both wins came at home in overtime.
Before we dive into the offense and defense, here are two factors I’ll be watching in this game that could have a big impact. First, Miami is 1-2 in road games this season, with their lone win coming against 3-6 Temple with 17k fans in attendance. That environment was nowhere near what they will be walking into on Saturday. Not only has Miami played poorly on the road, FSU has been good at home. Here’s a look at some numbers to show what I’m talking about.
FSU at HOME
Points per game (avg): 39.3
Points allowed per game (avg): 8.6
(adjusted for non-offensive points)
Miami on the ROAD
Points per game (avg): 18.5
Points allowed per game (avg): 30.5
The other factor I’ll be watching is the turnover battle. Florida State has seen an improvement in 2023 and is currently sitting at +7 in turnover margin. Miami on the other hand comes in at -4. This has a lot to do with the struggles of quarterback Tyler Van Dyke (aka Turnover Van Dyke), who has been responsible for 15 turnovers this season. If Miami turns the ball over to FSU 2 or 3 times in this game… things could go south fast for Miami, and FSU has one of the better pass defenses in the country.
On offense, the story has been what we just alluded to with the quarterback situation. The thing about Tyler Van Dyke is that he still has a good arm and was believed by many to be a future NFL draft pick a few years ago. When you look at his numbers against Texas A&M, 21/30 – 374 yards – 5 touchdowns, you see what he is capable of. He also threw for 391 yards and 4 touchdowns against UNC. However, he has been playing through injury this year and has not looked the same in the past few games.
In his last two games (UVA & NCST), TVD has thrown for 336 combined yards, 0 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions with 2 fumbles. Something has just been off over the past few weeks, and his performance has struggled.
When Miami faced Clemson, they gave the nod to freshman quarterback Emory Williams. He went 24/33 (72.7%) for 151 yards with 1 touchdown and 1 interception. Not a terrible game for a freshman against that Clemson defense, but it wasn’t exactly like Williams was tossing it all over the yard, either. In fact, 63.6% of his passes were under 10 yards, and almost 40% were behind the line of scrimmage.
With TVD’s recent struggles and possible health status, it’s very possible that we see either quarterback play vs FSU. Personally, I think TVD at least gets the start this week. He is by far their most experienced quarterback as they head into an environment that would be difficult for any freshman to navigate. It is similar to what we saw against Duke when they chose to go with the experienced starter who was limited by injury over a healthy but inexperienced backup.
Whoever plays quarterback will have the benefit of playing behind a solid offensive line. As much as I dislike giving Miami credit for anything, they did add some quality transfers up front. Because of that line, Miami quarterbacks haven’t had to deal with much pressure this season. TVD has only been pressured on 21.4% of his dropbacks. When Williams played against Clemson, the Tigers only managed to get pressure 15.2% of the time.
What I find interesting about those numbers is that teams don’t blitz Miami very often. Only two teams have blitzed on more than 30% of dropbacks against them. When you look at TVD’s numbers against the blitz and against pressure, the trend shows that the best way to defend him is to sit back in coverage and force him to make reads. Ten of his eleven interceptions have come out of a clean pocket.
Miami’s receiving core has three top guys you need to know about. Xavier Restrepo is their best weapon and leads the team in yards at 693, primarily from the slot position. Their two outside guys are Jacolby George, their number two in yardage and leads in touchdowns, and Colbie Young, a talented receiver with good size at 6-foot-5, 215 pounds. The rest of the group is rather pedestrian. I will say that while those three aren’t bad, despite what misinformed Miami fans tell you, they aren’t on the level of Keon Coleman or Johnny Wilson. The receiving core that the Noles faced in Orlando against LSU is a more talented group, especially when factoring in the struggles at quarterback.
Miami does have a stable of decent running backs, and they will try to run the ball a lot, something that Mario Cristobal-led teams are known for as a former offensive line coach. They have three backs with at least 50 carries that average over 5 yards per carry and a 4th that averages 4.9. Henry Parrish Jr., Donald Chaney Jr., and Mark Fletcher Jr. are the names to know here. Miami is also optimistic that Nebraska transfer Ajay Allen will be available this week after dealing with injury.
Slowing down the run game will be the biggest challenge for the FSU defense on Saturday. While we know they haven’t been great against the run, they have performed well against the traditional run game. TVD will scramble on occasion, but neither quarterback is considered anywhere near being a dual threat. Miami racked up on some of those weaker teams early in the season because when you look at the numbers, four of the six Power 5 teams they have faced held them under 4 yards per carry.
It doesn’t appear that FSU “needs” to get a lot of pressure to win this game. However, if they can generate pressure with their defensive line, and blitz just enough to rattle whoever is playing quarterback, it will certainly help them find success. As mentioned, Miami quarterbacks haven’t faced much pressure or had to play in a tough road environment. FSU could change all that on Saturday.
I feel good about the FSU defense holding Miami under 20 points, which feels like enough to win the game. They do have a good kicker, so it will be important not to give them a good field position, but I don’t think they will beat FSU with a bunch of field goals either.
Miami’s defense has been their strength this season. They are ranked in the middle to upper third in most defensive categories. They have a talented defensive line and a pair of good safeties. The biggest challenge FSU will face in this game is avoiding the pressure that Miami is good at creating. They have pressured opposing quarterbacks over 35% of dropbacks in 7 of 9 games and over 50% in 4.
A big part of how they generate that pressure is with a heavy dose of blitzing. Miami has blitzed opposing quarterbacks more than 50% of their dropbacks in 5 games this year. They are not scared to send pressure, but I noticed in the NC State film that if they didn’t get home, the deep shots start to open up. The NC State quarterback just didn’t throw the deep ball effectively in that game, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t there.
One situation to monitor in this game is the health of Miami’s starting corners. Daryl Porter Jr and Jaden Davis left the NC State game with injuries last week and did not return. While Davis is hopeful this week, Porter Jr sounds a little more doubtful or that he won’t be 100% at a minimum. Knowing that, and that Keon Coleman and Johnny Wilson are both expected to be available this week. That could create a mismatch that ends up being the difference in this game.
Miami does have a top 10 run defense, allowing just 89 yards per game on average. This could be a concern being that FSU hasn’t run the ball well at times this season. However, keeping in mind Miami’s strength of schedule, four teams they have played this season ranked 95th or lower in rushing offense, and they played one FCS team, too. Miami has played two top 50 rushing offenses this season in Georgia Tech and North Carolina.
While they held GT to 99 yards, which is half their season average, UNC rushed for 235 yards against the Miami defense, so it’s not impossible. We have seen Jordan use his legs more in the last two games, and that may be necessary again this week, not only to open up the run game but also to avoid the pressure.
If FSU has Keon and Johnny back, and they do a good job of keeping Jordan upright, I don’t see why they should get back to putting up 30+ points per game, which feels like enough to beat Miami. FSU will be the best scoring offense they have faced by a slim margin over UNC, and the Tar Heels put up 41 points in that game.
This game is always huge for both programs. The coaches know it. The players know it, and the fans feed off of it. Miami might be back… to playing in a bowl game, but that’s about it. This is their Super Bowl because they aren’t playing for anything significant, as usual. They would love nothing more than to upset FSU, and they have nothing to lose.
On the other hand, FSU always wants to win over their rivals, but they are playing for bigger things this year. What’s interesting in this game is that Miami is one of 4 teams that are “technically” more talented than FSU when you strictly focus on the Blue-Chip ratio. That obviously doesn’t mean anything because FSU has already beaten two of the four (LSU & Clemson).
It just reminds you that Miami has some pieces to work with, but in typical Miami fashion, they are great at doing less with more. FSU is still the better team and has a coaching edge, too. Mario Cristobal might be a good recruiter, but in-game management mistakes still follow him around and show up at times. See the GT game.
I expect Florida State to come out hyped up and ready to throw down in front of a rocking Doak Campbell Stadium. However, it will be important to keep emotions in check and treat this like business as usual. As long as they do that and allow Miami to continue to make mistakes, I like FSU at home in this one.
Here’s one last comparison to set the stage before we wrap this up with a score prediction.
FSU will be the second-best passing offense, third-best rushing offense, and the best-scoring offense Miami has faced this season. Keep in mind UNC put up 41 on them, too.
Miami will be the second-best passing offense, seventh-best rushing offense, and third-best scoring offense FSU has faced this season.
FSU will be the second-best pass defense, fourth-best rush defense, and second-best scoring defense Miami has faced. The number one scoring defense they faced was NC State last week, who held them to 6 points and 0 offensive touchdowns. NC State’s scoring defense is within a 1.3-point margin of FSU’s.
Miami will be the sixth-best passing defense, second-best rush defense, and sixth-best scoring defense FSU has faced. Miami’s scoring defense is within a two-tenths of a point margin of Pitt’s, and FSU put up 24 (could have easily been 31, but they knelt on the 2-yard line), and that was without Keon Coleman or Johnny Wilson.
What this tells us is that FSU will be one of the toughest challenges and in the toughest environments that Miami has had to deal with this season. Whereas FSU has been tested a little more and gets them at home. Also, remember the home vs road stats we mentioned earlier.
For all those reasons, I like the Noles to take down the Canes 34-13 and make it three in a row! (Michael has it at 35-20 Noles!)
Lastly, I will say that while I don’t see it being a 42-point blowout, I don’t see it being particularly closer, and the potential for things to come unraveled for Miami is there. NC State has a terrible offense, and couldn’t do much with the four turnovers that Miami gave them. If they start stacking up turnovers against this FSU team… it could be a really fun Saturday in Tallahassee! I can’t wait to be back in Doak for one of the best rivalry games in college football! Thanks for reading, and Go Noles!!
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