|FSU Run Game vs Miami Defense
This could vary wildly dependent on the availability and condition that Dalvin Cook is in. If Cook plays and is even close to 90%, than I think this is a clear advantage for the Noles. The FSU offensive line has done a good job in the run game this year and Cook is one of the top backs in the nation. Despite being a bit bigger and more talented lately in the middle, Miami hasn’t been all that stout against the run giving up 4.45 yards per carry and 149 yards per game. Those number are 86th and 58th respectively in the nation. From an advanced stat perspective, Miami is ranked 123rd in rush defense by S&P+ going up against the #1 ranked rushing offense. If Dalvin Cook is unable to play, I think this advantage is largely erased, although maybe not fully nullified.
|EVEN||FSU Passing Game vs Miami Defense
The FSU passing game has been unimpressive in some respects and downright awful at time. A combination of spotty pass blocking, poor play at quarterback, and bad routes and drops from the wide receiver have all combined at one time or another to frustrate fans and Coach Jimbo Fisher. The S&P+ ranking of 77 mirrors the average play thus far. That said, Everett Golson looked a bit more comfortable and the offensive line gave him lots more time against Wake Forest. The results weren’t immediately better, but it at least may bode well going forward. Miami’s defense has been better against the pass this year, but they still are only an average team coming in at 60 in the S&P+ defensive rankings. I don’t think either unit has a distinct advantage over the other.
|Miami Run Game vs FSU Defense
Miami is led on the ground by Joseph Yearby, an excellent young back out of the same high school as Dalvin Cook. Yearby is averaging 7.31 yards per carry and has three straight games over 110 yards. As a team, the Canes are 29th in the nation averaging 5.18 yards per carry and is ranked as the 44th best rushing attack in the nation by S&P+. Florida State has been good against the run this year, but so far all against offenses with running quarterbacks that utilize more of a zone read concept with the QB a threat to run at any time. This will be the first true pro-style offense they face and they’ll need to adjust accordingly. The Noles are allowing 3.80 yards per carry and rated as the 12th best rush defense in the nation by S&P+. The Noles will be without starting linebacker Terrance Smith and that could certainly impact the game. Yearly is a solid back and I think he’ll get his yards, but this is an overall edge for the Noles front seven against Miami’s offensive line and running game.
|Miami Pass Game vs FSU Defense
Without a doubt, Brad Kayaa will be the top QB that Florida State will have faced up to this point. Kayaa hasn’t taken the leap that Cane fans were hoping to see thus far, but he can stretch the field and has proven himself to be a good quarterback in this league. The Canes have the 66th ranked pass offense by S&P+ and lack a lot of big time playmakers on the outside. The FSU defense has been very good against the pass so far, though against lesser competition and poor quarterbacks. Even adjusted for opponent, the Noles have the 14th ranked pass defense by S&P+. They are giving up just 4.5 yards per attempt, ranked 4th in the nation and just 141 yards per game. I’m very interested to see the FSU pass rush, lauded during the offseason and camp as greatly improved. This will be the first opportunity to pin their ears back and really attack a quarterback that will look to pass first and isn’t a huge threat to run. I think this is the game where we see Josh Sweatt, who has impressed early on, really show what he can do off the edge. This is probably the best and most important matchup of the game, but the Noles talent in the secondary and ability off the edge will make the difference.
Both teams boast good kickers. Miami’s Michael Badgly leads the county with 12 made field goals on 15 attempts. That’s a nice performance, but Miami has attempted more field goals per game then anyone, an indication of an offense that isn’t getting the job done in the redzone. FSU’s Roberto Aguayo, by comparison, has only attempted 5 field goals all season. The Noles have an advantage in the return game with Jalen Ramsey and Kermit Whitfield leading the Noles to a 7th best 29.9 yard per return average, while Miami sits way down the list averaging just over 20 yards per return. Where Miami has a clear advantage, however, is at punter. If this game is a low scoring defensive struggle, that advantage could play huge dividends and is why I give the overall edge to the Canes.
While Florida State has been far from impressive this season and have some glaring issues, they’re still an overall better team than the Hurricanes. If Florida State was fully healthy, I wouldn’t have too much of a concern over this matchup. However, with big question marks at some key positions and the inconsistencies Noles fans have seen so far on offense, this game is tougher to gauge. Miami has proven the last few years under Al Golden that they’ll quit if you give them the opportunity. I think that’s a big factor this weekend. If FSU is able to feed of a frenzied crowd and get up a few scores early, then this could turn into a blow out. If Miami grabs an early lead or hangs in the game for a while, than this will come down to the fourth quarter. I think we’ll see this game remain close into the second half, but FSU will get the uncomfortable victory.