Here are five things to watch for when Florida State and Miami renew acquaintances tonight at 8 PM.
1.) Can Stephen Morris exploit single coverage?
Miami can't win this football game if they can't run the ball. Florida State knows that and they are going to try to load the box on running downs and trust their corners and safeties to be able to handle their responsibilities in single coverage. Given that FSU sports the number one pass defense in the nation, that isn't bad logic either. If Miami has any shot at pulling the upset tonight Stephen Morris has to prove he can beat single coverage in order to loosen up the box. And he has to do it early.
2.) Can the Hurricanes' secondary hold up?
Florida State has the best trio of wide receivers that Miami will see all year, Nick O'Leary has turned into a consistent redzone threat and Jameis Winston is decisive and accurate. If Miami's secondary can't at least slow down the Seminole passing attack it could be a long day for the Canes. Depending on whether UM tries to blitz, their job could be even harder too. Either way, Miami has to keep Florida State from hitting on big plays and they cannot afford to miss tackles. FSU's offense can put up points in seconds, Miami can't let that happen. They need to force FSU to drive for them.
3.) Does Miami blitz Jameis?
“I think they’re really going to try to put pressure on Jameis. But you know -- you’ve seen him play -- he’s going to react to that," Kelvin Benjamin said on Tuesday.
Added Kenny Shaw: "You’re still going to see blitzes because you’ve got to test him -- he is a redshirt freshman and it’s still new to him -- but we just work it every week [in practice] is what teams don’t realize though, they can keep bringing it.”
So far this year Jameis Winston has had no compunctions about eviscerating secondaries when teams blitz him. He doesn't mind stepping into a throw and taking a hit and he consistently exploits single coverage. Not to mention his escapability. If Miami blitzes they better get there or Winston might have a field day.
4.) Who gets the big special teams play?
This series has seen more than its fair share of pivotal special teams plays. Whether it's big returns or missed kicks, it seems like there's at least one big play every year. Miami has the edge at punter, FSU has a slight edge at placekicker and both teams have returners that are capable of housing kickoffs or punts in the blink of an eye. A Florida State special teams miscue could be an equalizer that would help Miami pull out an upset tonight. A Miami special teams miscue could be fatal.
5.) Who loses their cool?
All week both teams have talked about how much they respect one another and how it's a brotherly game or a friendly rivalry -- stop. This is the first time in years that both teams have had something to play for when they met. The fans hate each other. There are players on FSU that have a chip on their shoulder over not getting recruited by "the U." Miami feels like they have something to prove and still have a bad taste in their mouths from losing to FSU the past few seasons. This game always gets heated and this year won't be any different.
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