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Thoughts before FSU

What's up Eye on The U crew? I'm up here in Tallahassee three hours-plus before kickoff. It's a beautiful day today. But it was pretty ugly and nasty all week in the state capitol. Lots of rain yesterday should make the field a little slick for today's game, which as usual, I'll be blogging live about and sharing my thoughts with you throughout the game in just a few hours.

Before that, though, I just wanted to share my keys to the game for the Canes. I spent some time breaking down the numbers and talking with our FSU beat writer Jeff Shain about the 'Noles yesterday at Ted Turner's restaurant Montana Grill up here in Tally. Shain likes the 'Noles 9-6 in the game. I predict a Canes' 17-16 victory.

But in order for the Canes to pull off what has become a rare road victory these are my five keys to the game.
- 1. Put pressure on Xavier Lee: FSU's receivers are going to be a tough assignment for the Canes' secondary. The 'Noles have been able to create lots of big plays in its passing game since Lee took over at quarterback -- averaging at least one pass that goes 50 yards or more since he took over. Lee creates that with his legs and by scrambling and by forcing defense to vacate their assignments. Miami needs its front four to take advantage of some switches on FSU's line this week due to injury and create the kind of pressure it did on Duke's Thaddeus Lewis three weeks ago. If Eric Moncur, Calais Campbell and Teraz McCray are busy "eating" (that's what Clint Hurtt calls getting to the quarterback) than Miami can force Lee, making his third start, into turnovers, which leads me to...
- 2. Create turnovers that lead to easy points: In Miami's wins this season, the Canes have forced 11 turnovers that have led to 41 points. In the three losses, UM has produced only three takeaways resulting in 17 points. Scoring has been hard to come by in this series over the years. Considering Miami is on the road, they'll need emotional lifts. Nothing delivers that more than an interception or fumble recovery.
- 3. Control the clock and the ground: There's no doubt UM's defense will carry the burden in this game. But UM's offense will have to do something too -- control the clock and move the chains. In FSU's two losses this season, the common factor was that their opponent controlled time of possession and ran the ball well. FSU's run defense is still one of the best in the country. But the 'Noles are a bit dinged up at defensive tackle, much like UM. The Canes' best weapon on offense is its backfield -- Shawnbrey McNeal, Javarris James and Graig Cooper. If those three can get rolling and help Miami move the football, the Canes will have a chance. But if the 'Noles, who held UM to 2 yards rushing last year, shut down the run game, Miami could get blown out in this one.
- 4. Have a great day on special teams: The Seminoles own the edge in all three major statistical categories -- net punting, punt returns and kickoff returns. They've also blocked two punts this year. Miami can't afford to continue to lose the special teams battle. Matt Bosher needs to punt like he does in practice.
- 5. Avoid dumb penalties: This game is going to be an emotional for both teams -- regardless of the current state of both and their records. Miami can't afford to give FSU a second chance with dumb penalties -- like late hits out of bounds or personal fouls. They've got to stay poised regardless of what the scoreboard says.

So, what do you think are the keys to the game? What's your prediction? How are the Canes going to pull this one out? Can they do it?