Week 12 ACC: Florida State at Miami

    Florida State (9-0) at Miami (6-3) Nov. 15, 8:00, ABC Here’s The Deal: You want to improve your optics and become nationally relevant again, Miami? Go out

    November 14, 2014

    Florida State (9-0) at Miami (6-3) Nov. 15, 8:00, ABC 

    Here’s The Deal: You want to improve your optics and become nationally relevant again, Miami? Go out and snap Florida State’s 25-game winning streak. 

    The ‘Canes and the ‘Noles always matter, because only a select few rivalries generate more juice and passion. Add in a red-hot Miami and an unbeaten Florida State, and the game goes from a regional event to one of the must-see games of November. For the Hurricanes, which have won three in a row by at least three touchdowns, this is a potential pivot point and the biggest game of the four-year Al Golden era. Deliver the upset here, and the program might escape for good its decade-long brush with mediocrity. 

    Nine up and nine down. Florida State is still pitching a perfect game in 2014, even if the team has been anything but perfect reaching this point. The Seminoles continue to get challenged by lesser opponents. And they continue to survive, one of just two Power Five programs that can make that claim. But after playing with fire on so many occasions this fall, is FSU about to get burned by one of its hated rivals? 

    Why Florida State Might Win: It’s going to take a special, 60-minute effort to knock off the Seminoles. Miami isn’t quite ready to be that team. 

    The ‘Noles keep finding a way, such as the Louisville game, because they have the better talent, and they’re well-versed in surviving close games. Plus, Florida State has the most clutch quarterback in the game, Jameis Winston, while the ‘Canes are using a rookie, Brad Kaaya. A rising star, but a rookie nonetheless. And while the Miami D has taken a quantum leap since the Sept. 20 loss to Nebraska, the Seminoles will be an entirely different challenge. Their line is among the most experienced in the country, their young playmakers are growing up quickly and WR Rashad Greene and TE Nick O’Leary are going to find the soft spots in the defense. 

    Why Miami Might Win: Florida State is teetering on the brink of its first loss. The Hurricanes are poised to shove it over the edge. 

    Miami has really begun to gel for Golden, getting balance on offense and solid play from the D. The Hurricanes’ speed and explosiveness at the skill position is exemplified in RB Duke Johnson, a gamebreaker who can alter the complexion of a game in four seconds flat. Johnson’s recent heroics have been no surprise. Mark D’Onofrio’s defense, though, has been a revelation. Miami is giving up just 3.3 yards per carry, and the secondary is No. 18 nationally in pass efficiency defense. In Florida State, the ‘Canes are facing a one-dimensional offense that’s getting very little from the running game. 

    Who To Watch Out For: Kaaya has been terrific, and he actually has a higher passer rating than Winston. He’s heady, with the work ethic to continuously evolve. However, the Florida State secondary will be the toughest test of the year. The ‘Noles are flush in next-level DBs, so rather than testing the perimeter, Kaaya would be wise to deploy sure-handed TE Clive Walford, who has six touchdown grabs. 

    Is Florida State DE Mario Edwards Jr. about to go on a salary run before leaving school early for the NFL Draft? Edwards, who’s been saddled with knee problems and a concussion this year, flashed his potential when healthy, tormenting UVa for nine tackles, four stops for loss and a sack. If he can get upfield on a line that still might be without starting OT Ereck Flowers, it’s going to force Johnson wide and allow the speedy Seminole linebackers and safeties the extra split-second needed to make the stop. 

    This is a showcase game for Miami LB Denzel Perryman, and he’ll make the most of it. No. 52 is the most intimidating individual in this game, roaming the field looking for someone to light up. He’s the primary reason Florida State will continue to sputter on the ground. Plus, Florida State remains banged up in the backfield, with Dalvin Cook and Mario Pender still trying to battle back from injuries.

    Who draws the assignment of covering Greene? The Seminole senior has a knack for coming up big in key moments, yet he still seems oddly underrated on a national level. Miami corners Artie Burns and Ladarius Gunter have been outstanding, but if they become fixated on Greene, up-and-coming Florida State receivers Travis Rudolph and Jesus Wilson are capable of hurting them down the seams. 

    What’s Going To Happen: Same old script. 

    Florida State will stumble, fall behind, raise the hopes of Ohio State, TCU and Baylor … and yet still find the right formula for a victory. Winston is on a different level than Kaaya at this stage of their careers, and it’s not as if Miami will even enjoy a huge home-field edge at Sun Life Stadium. The ‘Canes will win a few battles Saturday night, evidence that Golden has his program headed in the right direction. The ‘Noles, though, will win the war behind yet another strong second half from Winston. 

    Prediction: Florida State 34 … Miami 27 
    Line: Florida State -1.5 o/u: 61.5
    Must Watch Factor: 5: Foxcatcher – 1: The Comeback … 5 


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