FSU vs Miami: Preview and Prediction

Florida State ADVANTAGES Miami
fsu_seminoles_logo_detail FSU Run Game vs Miami Defense

The Florida State ground game has gotten back on track the last couple of games, partially due to the opponent, but also due to a more explosive Dalvin Cook combined with a consistent offensive line.  Landon Dickerson has supplanted Wilson Bell as the starter at RG and Brock Ruble has taken over the RT spot for an ineffective Rick Leonard.  Both of those moves, along with the return of Kareem Are from injury, have the ground game churning now.  The Noles are averaging 5.32 yards per carry on the ground and have the 15th best rushing offense per S&P+.

Miami is 9th in the nation giving up just 2.60 yards per carry.  However, they’ve faced Florida Atlantic, Florida A&M, Appalachian State, and a Georgia Tech team that hasn’t gotten their offense going. Even still, they rank a respectable 32nd in rush defense per S&P+.  That said, Miami is starting freshman linebackers due to injury and dismissal and they certainly could be taken advantage of.

I expect Dalvin Cook to have another big game against the Canes.  I think the Noles can take advantage of the Miami linebackers and control the ground game.

fsu_seminoles_logo_detail FSU Passing Game vs Miami Defense

Deondre Franois has had an overall nice start to his career with the Noles and has shown some real toughness standing in the pocket and delivering the ball.  He’s currently leading the the Noles to the 13th best pass offense according to S&P+, which is much kinder than the raw stats would indicate.  The Noles have leaned on the run pretty heavily the last three weeks and I expect that to be the same against Miami.

While Miami has some silly good raw stats against the pass this season (Top 10 in yards per game, yards per attempt, total yards), this is agasint three bad teams and a Georgia Tech team that doesn’t pass.  So I find it somewhat surprising that S&P+ has the Canes ranked as the 4th pass defense in the nation.

The Miami linebackers have an impact here as Ryan Izzo and the emergence of Mavin Saunders as a viable weapon will give them matchup problems.  Through in Dalvin Cook out of the backfield and I think this is an area that Jimbo Fisher can exploit.  That’s not to say that the Noles WRs won’t have success, but the tight ends and running backs attacking the linebackers is the key matchup.

 PUSH Miami Run Game vs FSU Defense

Miami is rushing for a guady 6.99 yards per play and average 232.50 yards per game.  Adjusted for opponent, though, Miami has the 40th ranked rushing attack in the nation.  They’ve spread the ball between Mark Walton and Joseph Yearby pretty equally and both have had success. The Cane’s attack is a much more pro style attack and Brad Kaaya isn’t really a threat in the ground game.

The Noles have the 65th rush defense per S&P+ and are giving up a 113th ranked 5.22 yards per carry.  They have gone against an excellent group of offenses to start the year and have especially struggled against zone read concepts.  Luckily for the Noles, they shouldn’t have to see much of that and should be able to key more on the backs. That’s certainly not to say that they’ll shut down the Miami rushing attack, but they should have more success.

Due mainly to the style of running, I actually kind of like this matchup for the Noles.  Not enough to give them the advantage, but I also am not sold on the Miami rushing offense.  I’m putting this down the middle as a push, but I’m cautiously optimistic for the Noles here.

Miami Pass Game vs FSU Defense

Another week, another opposing offense that features an excellent quarterback with future NFL aspirations.  Brad Kaaya has been what Miami fans were hoping for when he signed in 2014. He’s a prototypical pocket passer and has led Miami to the 10th ranked passing per S&P+. Freshman wideout Ahmmon Richards has been an explosive target and leads the team in receiving yards, but it’s Stacy Coley that is finally rounding into form to become the receiver he was hoped to be out of high school.  The biggest worry, though, might be the ability of Kaaya to get the ball to his tight ends who have combined for 16 catches for just under 300 yards this season.

The Noles have the 52nd pass defense per S&P+, but it seems so much worse.  Granted, as mentioned above they’ve played some excellent quarterbacks, but they will be this weekend, too. Miscommunication in the secondary, struggle to correctly align, and lack of much of a pass rush have all combined to allow opposing teams to have their way through the air.  Linebacker play has been especially questionable and against solid tight ends this could exasperated.

Quite simply, I don’t see the Noles being able to stop, or slow down, the Canes passing attack. Kaaya should push for 400 yards passing on Saturday night.  On Seminole Headlines, a Tuesday radio program hosted by Jeff Cameron of ESPN Radio Tallahassee, Corey Clark of the Tallahassee Democrat, and Ira Schoffel of Warchant, a listener asked the question, “Which is more likely, Kaaya throwing 5 interceptions or for 500 yards?” I’d take the 500 yards.

miami logo
Special Teams

A major issue for the Noles the last week as Ricky Aguayo missed three 1st quarter field goals, though admittedly one was blocked.  Logan Tyler has been strong on kickoffs and adequate punting. The Noles haven’t done much in the return game outside of Bobo Wilson’s punt return against an outmanned Charleston Southern team.  That said, he and Kermit Whitfield are candidates to break a long return in the kicking game.

Michale Badgley is only 2 of 4 on field goals this season, but he had a strong season in 2015 and has proven to be reliable.  Justin Vogel is a really good punter for the Canes.  Miami has the athletes to break one in the return game, but haven’t been special thus far.

Largely based on Aguayo’s performance last weekend, I’ll give the Canes a slight edge here.

38 Prediction

Copy and paste, a high scoring game because the Noles have a really good offense that can exploit some mismatches and get their points.  Jimbo Fisher has historically had some of his best games, playcalling wise, against the Canes and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it again.  That said, the Noles defense has been terrible this year and against another good offense I think they’re going to struggle.

There are intangibles in this matchup that are hard to predict.  The Canes and their fans smell blood in the water.  If they get up, gain confidence, and keep the crowd wild, then how do the Noles respond?  This is a defeated bunch in garnet and gold and there’s already been evidence of a lack of effort by a few. However, this is Miami and lot of these kids take a lot of pride in this game, particularly the kids from the Miami area like Dalvin Cook.  Does FSU dig deeper and play their most inspired and energetic game of the season up to this point?  So many questions that make this a truly fascinating game.

While the Noles will give up yards and points, they’ll score on the Canes defense, too. Unfortunately it won’t be enough and the streak against the Canes comes to end and Jimbo Fisher suffers his first loss against Miami as the head coach.


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