We're getting ready for Florida State and Miami to kick things off and as usual, I have three things to watch for in tonight's matchup. As I've said all week, this is a matchup that is as much about Florida State playing their own game, as it is about playing Miami.
The Seminoles have been a much different team on the road in 2012. At home, they're 5-0 averaging 55 points per game. On the road they're 1-1, averaging 23 per contest and as of yet, agaisnt USF and NC State, they have not looked like the same football team as they are at home.
That needs to end today or else an opportunistic Hurricanes team may just pull off the upset.
Here are three things to watch for...
What is Florida State's energy level out the gates?
Count on Miami to show up for this one ready to go. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the Canes even come out a little over-amped. But Florida State cannot let the Canes outdo them in regards to intensity. If Miami gains confidence, if they start fast and can reel off a few good possessions, that could be trouble. Florida State will need to play all 60 minutes, but the first ten may be the most crucial. If Florida State can come early and a get a jump on the 'Canes, they may be able to put this one away in the first half. But if they come out flat and let Miami get the jump, who knows what could happen...
Florida State Cannot Let Up...
The Seminoles should have learned their lessons in the NC State game, that you have to play 60 minutes and can never let up. But that will be especially important today. This Hurricanes team doesn't quit like the Miami teams of old. Yes, the Hurricanes were taken to the woodshed by Kansas State and Notre Dame, but Al Golden's Canes didn't quit. They're definitely not going to quit tonight either. Remember last year? Florida State seemed to have the game in hand in the fourth quarter and a late flurry of action by the 'Canes almost made it a game at the end. Miami will bring that same fight to the game tonight, so the Seminoles need to be prepared to play all 60 minutes.
What Does Florida State's Offense Do Tonight?
The Florida State defense has not really been the culprit on the road, it's been their offense. Tonight, in a semi-hostile environment (lots of Seminoles here too), the offense will again be tested. At home, as I mentioned earler, the Noles have been as potent as any offense in the entire country. On the road, FSU could only muster 30 against a fairly weak USF team and then scored just 16, including no second-half points at NC State.
So how are they going to attack? This Miami defense is on pace to be the worst in school history, but that means very little considering the NC State secondary was still smoldering when the 'Noles got to town and they were ineffective throwing on the Wolfpack most of that night. I'd look for Jimbo Fisher to come out and try to establish control of the lines first. The down-the-field shots will be there for Florida State, but if they can come out and pound the ball early and force Miami to move more men into the box, EJ Manuel should be able to finally have the kind of big game on the road fans have been waiting for.
I'll be back all night with updates on the blog and you can follow me on twitter too...Follow @PatrikNohe_MH