Plant The Spear is a weekly column previewing the upcoming match-up for the Florida State Seminoles. Opponent strengths and weaknesses are discussed, a plan of attack is formed, and an honest prediction by yours truly is given.
*Author’s Note* Regardless of my membership with the Seminole Boosters, or my being an FSU fan since I was 10 (I’m 31 now), or the fact that my wife is finishing her master’s degree from Florida State, this is still a No Homer Zone. Always has been, always will be. I’m a college football fan above all else, and you-the fans, deserve a voice of the people. With all that being said…..Go Noles!
Sure, it isn’t the same as it used to be. There isn’t a national championship on the line. What is on the line this time around is a little thing called pride, not to mention an entire year’s worth of bragging rights. While it isn’t the sexy match-up of yesteryear, it’s still Florida State against Miami. Noles versus Canes. Regardless of records, a rivalry is a rivalry and anything can happen – especially when these two teams get together.
The Seminoles are coming off a dismantling of Boston College (51-7) while the Hurricanes lost a close fight last week at home against North Carolina (18-14). There are 17 Seminoles on the current roster from the South Florida area, and this game still plays heavily in recruiting battles year in and year out.
Even if the Canes lose big on Saturday, Miami fans will still bark all day about their five national titles, the “wide lefts and rights,” being “Duh U” (is it “Da” or “Duh?” I guess it really doesn’t matter anymore) and all that barking is fine, it doesn’t concern me. My approach is more of the “that’s great, you won a long time ago, but where is your program headed right now?” argument, (even with my beloved Noles, the dynasty streak from 1987-2000 was amazing, but what’s more important to me is the current state and direction of the program) and I’d say that the Noles and Canes are headed in vastly different directions. A win for Miami on Saturday would soften the blows of possible impending NCAA sanctions that could cripple the program for years to come, and it would surely put a damper on Florida State’s quest for an ACC title this season.
Even with the slip-up against NC State a few weeks ago, I still feel that Jimbo Fisher has the Florida State program headed in the right direction. The Noles have won five out of the last seven in the series, including the previous three meetings in Miami. Since Fisher took the helm in Tallahassee, he is undefeated against the Hurricanes, winning in dominating fashion in 2010  and outlasting the Canes last year  at Doak Campbell Stadium.
Freshman running back Duke Johnson was a spark plug early in the year for the Hurricane offense, but has cooled of a bit since injuring his ankle against Notre Dame on October 6. He’s got a quick burst, great vision and blazing speed reminiscent of great Miami ball carriers from back in the day. It’s safe to say that without Johnson, the Canes don’t beat Boston College, or Georgia Tech. Johnson leads the team with 428 yards rushing, five touchdowns and an average of 5.8 yards per carry. He is complimented in the rotation by senior RB Mike James. James has amassed 402 yards rushing on 88 carries, scored four touchdowns and averages 4.6 yards per carry.
Never fear, Miami fan(s) I didn’t forget Miami QB Stephen Morris, who is questionable for Saturday’s game nursing an ankle sprain. Morris has been lights-out in the four Hurricane wins this season, and he is averaging 296.9 yards per game passing, good for third-best in the ACC. He has thrown for 1,991 yards, nine touchdowns and six interceptions through seven games this season. If he can go against the Noles, it may be limited to what his ankle will allow him to do. Miami has a big, athletic offensive line that could give Morris or backup Ryan Williams time to look down field to make a play. The Noles will be coming for whoever is back behind center, so the O-Line needs to hold up in order for the Hurricanes to have any chance this weekend.
Defense. The whole thing. Miami doesn’t have one. FSU ranks sixth in the nation in scoring, averaging 46 points-per-game. On the flip side, the Hurricanes are dead last in the ACC defensively, giving up 506 yards-per-game. So far this season, the Noles have eclipsed the 600-yard mark of total offense four times, and Saturday could very well be number five. The Hurricanes have been on the winning side of shoot-outs this season against Boston College (41-32), Georgia Tech (42-36) and NC State (44-37), but no thanks to their defense.
As we touched on (not in a Sandusky sort-of-way), Miami could also be starting backup QB Ryan William in Saturday’s showdown against the Noles. Williams, a transfer from Memphis, has seen limited action this season under center for the Canes. Banged up starting QB Stephen Morris may very well play, but how mobile he’ll be on a bum ankle has yet to be seen. Seminoles defensive beast sack-master Bjoern Werner will show no mercy, regardless.
As the old saying goes “anything can happen in a rivalry game.” Now I find that statement to be true most of the time, especially when it comes to Florida State and Miami, but this time around I just can’t see it. The Seminoles come in to Saturday’s game as 21-point favorites; the Canes limp in with a banged up quarterback in Stephen Morris and a two game losing skid. Jimbo Fisher knows how to get his Seminoles ready for rivalry games, as he is 2-0 against Miami and 2-0 against Florida since taking the head job in 2010. Even if Miami QB Stephen Morris was 100 percent for this game I’d still have the Noles winning big. FSU is out for blood after blowing their national title chances with a ridiculous loss to NC State a few weeks back, and there are still season goals on the table to be had. Beat Miami. Beat Florida. Win the ACC for the first time since 2005, and get back to a BCS bowl. That mission continues Saturday night at Sun Life/Joe Robbie/Pro Player/Landshark Stadium or whatever it’s called now, and the swarms of Garnet and Gold in the stands will nicely compliment the empty orange seats left by Hurricane “fans.” Jimbo keeps his foot on the gas and continues his streak of success over the bitter rivals from Coral Gables.
FSU 41 Miami 17
Coach Fisher talks Miami earlier this week:
[youtube_sc url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CwAN8W_DoSs” autohide=”1″]