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Gameday blog: No. 23 FSU at No. 13 Miami

SUN LIFE STADIUM -- The 13th-ranked Canes are looking to win their second in a row against Florida State and earn their first win at home over the Seminoles since 2004. The game will be played in front of the first sellout crowd for a Canes game at Sun Life Stadium since UM moved over from the Orange Bowl in 2008. Kickoff is at 8 p.m. Watch it on ABC or listen to it on WQAM.com. Feel free to participate in our discussion below as you tune in.

REWIND: Since 2000, only one game between these in-state rivals was decided by more than 10 points (UM's 49-27 win Tallahassee in 2001). The last three games have been shootouts (UM won 38-34 last year, FSU won 41-39 in 2008 and UM won 37-29 in 2007). Saturday's game marks the first time both teams have been ranked in the series since 2006 when FSU won 13-10 in the season-opener at the Orange Bowl. FYI, the team that has scored first has won 22 of the past 25 meetings.

ABOUT FSU: Coming off a 7-6 record in Bobby Bowden's final season as coach, the Seminoles were picked in the preseason to win the Atlantic Division title. But after a 47-17 loss at No. 6 Oklahoma, a lot of folks dropped off the FSU bandwagon. The Seminoles, however, have responded by cruising to wins over BYU (34-10), Wake Forest (31-0) and Virginia (34-14). Under first-year coordinator and former Hurricanes assistant Mark Stoops, the defense has made drastic improvements from last season. FSU leads in the country in sacks with five per game and is second to UM in tackles for loss (9.40). They've gone from a man-to-man pressure to defense to a unit that plays a lot of zone. Offensively, ACC Preseason Player of the Year Christian Ponder and the pass offense hasn't made too many big plays. Only six passes have gone for 25 yards or more. Then again, FSU's potent running game hasn't required Ponder to do too much with his arm. The trio of Jermaine Thomas, Ty Jones and Chris Thompson has rushed for 853 yards (7.2 yards per carry) and nine touchdowns behind a veteran offensive line that gets 3-year starter and left tackle Andrew Datko back this week.

THINGS TO KEEP AN EYE ON FOR THE U...
> Quarterback Jacory Harris' health... Coaches -- and parents -- have tried to downplay the amount of pain Harris has been playing with since being driven into the ground and injuring his non-throwing shoulder at Pitt. But it is painfully obvious Harris is being a bit tentative with his delivery. Aside from his physical ailments, which I'm sure the Seminoles will target, Harris has made his share of mental mistakes the past several weeks. The Hurricanes could ill-afford to lose Harris or have him continue to turn the ball over. Since the Ohio State game, all four of Harris' interceptions have been thrown on the opponents' side of the 50. Miami can win Saturday -- even with Harris throwing picks -- if that remains the case.

> UM's right tackle spot... Freshman phenom Seantrel Henderson is expected to make his second consecutive start Saturday against FSU. Whether it's Henderson or redshirt freshman Jermaine Johnson blocking on the right side, the Seminoles figure to do most of their attacking from that side. Sophomore defensive end Brandon Jenkins leads FSU with 4.5 sacks. Senior Markus White (2 sacks) should also be a handful.

> How much work Graig Cooper and Storm Johnson get in the backfield... With speedy redshirt freshman Lamar Miller not expected to play this week with a right shoulder injury, Damien Berry and Mike James figure to get the bulk of the work. But Cooper, UM's leading rusher each of the last three seasons, and Johnson, a true freshman who has worked primarily on special teams, figure to get some work. FSU's run defense ranks fourth nationally. An unexpected lift from Cooper or Johnson could prove valuable in this game.

> UM's blocking on special teams... Greg Reid could turn into a huge headache on punt returns. But the real concern is how UM blocks during kicks and punts. Last week, Clemson blocked an extra point and came dangerously close to blocking two punts. Three weeks ago, Ohio State blocked a UM field goal. The Hurricanes made it a point to work heavily on special teams this week. Let's see if it pays off. FYI, special teams standout Corey Nelms is out for this game.

MY PICK: Any Hurricanes fan who believes UM should blow the Seminoles out because of what happened to them at Oklahoma needs a reality check. Sure, BYU is 1-4, Wake Forest is 2-3 and Virginia is 2-2. But FSU still handled all three of those teams with ease and is a much better football team than they were last season when they went 7-6. Bring up the history and the rivalry and you know the Seminoles will not only be jacked up for this one, but so will the Canes, who by the way rank 112th in penalties per game. I just don't see this game being lopsided like some UM fans believe. And I wouldn't be surprised if FSU won at all. But I think it's time for the home team to win in this series. The Hurricanes win with defense yet again. UM 23, FSU 19 

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Well. Shannon is gone. I wonder if Al is the Golden boy?

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