TALLAHASSEE -- It's time to preview tonight's game as Miami and Florida State hook up for the 54th time and third time on Labor Day since 2005.
REWIND: The Hurricanes lost last year’s game at Land Shark Stadium in the rain 41-39, but pulled out a 37-29 win at Doak Campbell Stadium in 2007... The last six games have been decided by a total of 24 points. If it’s another close game, the Canes will probably come out victorious. UM is 10-3 in games decided by four points or less. But FSU has won the last three games decided by four points or less.
> UM wins because… Jacory Harris, Mark Whipple and the offense have a huge day against Florida State’s inexperienced and undersized secondary. FSU defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews had a hard time containing UM’s offense in the second half of last year’s game – especially the speed on the edge with guys like Travis Benjamin. Andrews will try to disrupt Harris’ flow and slow UM’s running game with pressure from the right side (where new starters Harland Gunn, Matt Pipho will be making their debuts at guard and tackle). If Miami provides decent protection, the Canes should have no problem scoring points once again. This isn’t a very good FSU defense.
> FSU wins because… They have another big day running the football against Miami, keeping the Canes offense and Jacory Harris off the field. We all know the Seminoles strength is the experience and talent on its offensive line. Miami has to be ready for FSU’s zone blocking schemes and ready to shutdown speedy sophomore Jermaine Thomas. Poor tackling is what plagued UM in its losses last year. Florida State and quarterback Christian Ponder ran right through the Canes defense. It wasn’t just five, six-yard pickups. It was big chunks. FSU had 10 runs of 14 or more yards last year. If Miami slows the ‘Noles running game down, FSU might have serious trouble scoring. FSU’s receivers aren’t nearly as talented as they’ve been in the past. But if the Noles win, it’s because their offensive line dominates and they pressure Jacory Harris into mistakes.
> MY PICK: Miami 30, FSU 24. Labor Day matchups are supposed to be low scoring and boring between these teams. But this year, both teams are hurting defensively up front. Miami will be without Adewale Ojomo and Eric Moncur -- two of their best defensive ends -- and FSU is thin themselves on the defensive line. UM always seems to have the advantage in the kicking game and will again with Matt Bosher. FSU will counter with a freshman kicker in Dustin Hopkins and new punter in Shawn Powell. Look for field position -- as it always is -- to be huge.
> Offense: RB Javarris James. He’s been quiet all of camp and seriously focused on regaining the form he showed as a freshman. If he’s as healthy and as fast as his teammates have said he is, I expect for him to use this opener as a statement game. I’m calling for 19 carries, 101 yards and 2 TDs – and a few big runs on third down to help UM hold onto this game late.
> Defense: LB Colin McCarthy. The last time he was in Tallahassee he made a huge play – scooping up a fumble and returning it for a score to help Miami preserve the win. He might not make that decisive defensive play, but his return to the defense will help UM keep FSU under 130 yards rushing. He should lead the team in tackles.
> Special teams: RB Graig Cooper. He’ll get his touches on offense and have a decent day. But he’ll make a couple punt returns and kick returns that change field position drastically.