CIS Roundtable: FSU Preview

CIS Roundtable: FSU Preview

Stefan Adams
As we get ready for the 64th edition of the long and storied rivalry that is Miami-FSU, we decided to bring back the Roundtable series to see what our writers are thinking heading into "The Big One". Let's dig into it.

Q1: Miami comes in at 4-4 this season and Manny Diaz's first year has been riddled with inconsistency. How are you feeling about the team in general heading into the showdown against FSU on Saturday?

Stefan Adams: It’s hard to know what to even expect week in and week out because Miami has been one of the most inconsistent teams in America. They have better QB play than last year, but the offense has been just as stagnant. The defense, while solid on the scoreboard the past few weeks, is showing much more holes than the 2018 version. Despite FSU being terrible as well, I’m not that confident, because if you can lose to Georgia Tech, you can lose to anybody, but I certainly think Miami is the better overall team. The question is if this coaching staff can get the most out of them.

Roman Marciante: Let down. No way around it. The second Manny Diaz took his Orange and Green Cadillac with the license plate that said “#TNM” and shifted its gears to "Rebuild"? I felt the collective fan base could employ the lemon law. Half the ACC coastal was in true rebuild mode and I thought this was a really winnable division this year. And if you ran diagnosis on the Caddy, the check engine light would point directly at the offense. Let's go right under the hood to see that vs. FBS opponents this year, Miami is currently 104th in the nation averaging 21.6 points a game. Last year with Mark Richt at the wheel? 24.8. This isn't the cutting-edge offense that Manny promised regardless of who the quarterback is.

Lance Roffers: Not great, Bob. I’m somewhat encouraged by the fact the offense seems to be including some of the wrinkles I’ve hoped for all year and the defense is getting back to creating havoc, but also discouraged at the lack of toughness displayed on both sides of the ball.

Matthew Suero: I will admit right now that I bought into the offseason hype. I got drunk on the kool-aid, so this 4-4 start has me very shook. Right now, I feel like this team has slipped back into the same issues that plagued them under previous regimes.

Q2: The Noles are in the midst of another subpar 4-4 season under Willie Taggart. What are your thoughts on FSU's head coach and program in Year 2 with this staff?

Stefan: Obviously the rest of the season has yet to play out but, if it wasn’t for his buyout, I know of a few influential people at FSU that, as of now, would want Taggart gone by the end of the year. The Noles have been better at beating the teams they’re supposed to this season, however, they’ve lost to each of the best 4 teams they’ve played and had to survive by a missed XP in OT against UL Monroe. If they don’t beat Miami, they absolutely have to beat Boston College on the road to get to 6 wins and become bowl-eligible, because they aren’t beating UF at the Swamp (FSU still has their FCS game to play aka easy 5th win). 6 wins or less in Year 2 in a down ACC should be more than enough for any Taggart defender (if they still exist) to admit this experiment isn’t working. All in all, Miami fans should want the Taggart train entrenched at FSU for as long as possible.

Roman: What are you talking about "subpar"? Taggart is actually exceeding his expectations this year when you consider his career record is 56-61. The Noles should be excited over the fact that Taggart is right at a .500 winning percentage this season. I am currently looking online to buy a "Keep Taggart" tee shirt.

Lance: When Florida State hired him, I was excited. A program with the stature of a Florida State should not be hiring third-tier or unsuccessful coaches. Coach Taggart was a bit of a fraud at South Florida, who needed his old high school coach to bail him out. Then, at Oregon, he relied on his assistants to prop him up to 7-5. When neither of his top assistants followed him to Florida State, it was a flashing red light. His time at Florida State has done nothing to make me want him to go anywhere else.

Matthew: My view of Willie Taggart and Florida State has not changed much since last season. They still have a lot of the same roster problems that they suffered from a year ago. I will give him credit for trying to right the ship and make a change on offense by bringing in Kendal Briles. Despite that, the on-field results have not been there and it seems to me as if the players are really starting to question what the staff is preaching.

Q3: What have you observed this season from UM that makes you confident the Canes will beat FSU?

: The Canes' defense is one of the best in the country in creating havoc in the opponent's backfield and blowing up plays to put the offense in tough spots, like 2nd-3rd and long. Miami is 18th in the nation in TFL, and FSU is 124th in the nation in giving them up. That’s a mismatch of epic proportions. On top of that, FSU is likely to start Alex Hornibrook, who is a statue in the pocket. Miami’s defense putting Hornibrook in some bad down and distances will definitely happen in this game and is sure to lead to some game-breaking turnover opportunities for UM. Miami will also have a hidden advantage in the field position game, as Louis Hedley has been one of the best punters in the ACC, while FSU’s Tommy Martin is dead last in yards per punt.

Roman: The scoring defense and in particular Gregory Rousseau and his ACC-leading eight sacks. Once Diaz inserted himself (in some unknown capacity) back into the defense, consider the trend: Miami has given up 9 points, 7 points, and 12 points in regulation time when you consider that Georgia Tech scored on special teams and on defense. The Miami defense in total has only given up two touchdowns in three games. That is **** good. Now enter back my preseason game-changer pick in Rousseau. The Tarantula. He has used his length and reach to web up eight quarterbacks in eight games and he didn't even start the first half of the season. Every week Baker fielded a question about Rousseau and his potential to start. Now you know exactly why. Blake Baker was obviously on Cuban time with that decision.

Lance: Miami matches up well with where Florida State is deficient. Florida State does not rush the passer well, which as everyone knows, is an area that can really hurt Miami. Florida State struggles at the LB position and Jarren Williams does his best work in the middle of the field. With two TE’s who should be able to exploit where Florida State is weak, that is a plus matchup for Miami.

Matthew: I am about to sound like a Manny Diaz herald, but this Miami team does not quit and I think they do believe in the staff and what they are teaching. They do get up and punch back whenever they get hit in the mouth. I think that they are the more mentally tough team in this matchup, which is important because there are bound to be multiple momentum swings in this game.

Q4: What have you observed this season from UM that makes you believe the Canes might lose against FSU?

: The play-calling and general scheme we’ve seen from UM on offense this season has been truly suspect. I worry they might not be able to take full advantage of FSU’s horrendous defense. Miami’s offensive line might have played their best game of the year considering the context of going against one of the best front sevens in football in Pitt last weekend, but they still haven’t proven they can be consistent week to week. And even though FSU’s D-Line has played just average this season, they have some of the best athletes UM will see all year and also just had their best game of the season in sacking Syracuse 6 times last week. A big mistake from either side can easily swing this game, and that is much more likely to come from UM’s side if Miami can’t protect Jarren Williams. Also, for a series history perhaps known most for its missed FG’s with the game on the line, Miami’s kicking situation scares the **** out of me.

Roman: I praised the defense the last question. But I will stay on that side of the ball and say I am concerned with the fact that they have given up 383 yards rushing the past two games. Cam Akers is having a really good season, which includes leading ACC running backs with 12 touchdowns. Akers is only behind Boston College's AJ Dillon in terms of yards per game with 114.63 per. I like the trend stating that if Miami is to pull off the upset in Tallahassee, it will be because they made FSU one-dimensional. I would like the odds of that trend continuing a lot better if the Canes didn't come into this game gashed up a little bit in the running game.

Lance: Florida State has several of the best individual players in this game - especially offensively. Cam Akers is the best RB Miami will see this season and Tamorrion Terry is the best WR Miami will see this season. Add to it that Florida State has the best DT Miami will see this season in Marvin Wilson, you can see the potential for star power to make big plays and derail the game for Miami.

Matthew: Miami has invented new ways to lose this season. Good teams find ways to win, so what does it say about Miami that (aside from the Pitt game) they always seem to pull out a defeat with victory staring them right in the face? From blowing a coverage on 4th and 17, to missing three chip shot field goals in one game, this team manages to do the unthinkable on almost a weekly basis.

Q5: Over the many years of the rivalry, many legends have been born from this game. Who from Miami needs to put their stamp on this series and make some big plays in the 2019 version?

: The obvious answer is Jarren Williams, but there’s a case to be made that this game is going to be won or lost at the line of scrimmage. With that being said, I’d love for Gregory Rousseau to put his stamp on this series and truly introduce himself to the nation on Saturday. The redshirt freshman has gotten better and more confident as the season has gone along, culminating in a 3 sack performance against Pitt last week. Add that to the fact that FSU is probably the worst FBS offensive line he’s seen all season, and is likely starting an immobile QB in Hornibrook. If Rousseau and the rest of the D-Line is harassing Hornibrook all day, that’s going to open up tons of opportunities for UM to get turnovers and shorten the field for their offense.

Roman: Jarren Williams. He just needs to remind everyone why he was selected to be QB1 in the first place. He still leads the ACC in completion percentage (69.6) and is insanely accurate with the ball. I put zero stock in anyone saying he doesn't have the arm strength to operate this offense. I have highlighted enough throws in my “From the Perch” series that show his ability to fit the ball in tight windows. And in this style of offense with many west coast elements, that will play dividends especially with FSU marching out a lot more zone coverage this year. Speaking of offense, cue up Dan Enos. He just needs to call a game that accentuates his team's strengths. Just have a better game plan than Richt. That is all I ask.

Lance: I will cheat and say multiple: Jarren Williams, Brevin Jordan, Greg Rousseau, Shaq Quarterman. Jarren needs to be accurate and keep drives alive with his legs. Brevin needs to be an All-American in all facets. Greg Rousseau needs to create havoc and force a turnover. Quarterman is the big one. He has taken some heat this year for his play not quite reaching the levels we had hoped for, but if he can step up and get the defense in position to stop the run and take away passes over the middle, he can take his legacy to another level.

Matthew: This is definitely the cliche answer, but it has to be Jarren Williams. The last time Williams started a game was against Virginia Tech, and we all remember what happened there. Florida State is weak on the back end of their defense and there will be plays to be made. Jarren just has to make them. Take the five-yard catch and run and stay ahead of the sticks. It is simple and obvious, but it is also the truth.

Q6: What FSU player does Miami have to stop in order to win?

: I see stopping Cam Akers as one of the keys to the game. They corrected it a bit last week, but this UM team has had a real problem with missed tackles. They may be able to get away with that playing lesser opponents, but Akers is a true homerun threat that can break a game open, the type of player Miami’s D hasn’t really seen at RB so far this year. Miss tackles on Akers, and he’ll make you pay. Miami held Akers to just 46 yards last year, and a similar line this season would be huge for their chances of winning this game.

Roman: Mavin Wilson and his 5 sacks. The Miami offensive line has had its share of problems, so in return, worrying about FSU's best pass rusher seems like a safe pick.

Lance: Cam Akers is the big one. If Florida State is consistently churning out yards and staying ahead of the chains, it will be difficult for Miami to win.

Matthew: Most people would immediately think of Cam Akers, but I am almost more concerned with defensive tackle Marvin Wilson. You can have running backs and tight ends help out the tackles when you play against an elite defensive end, but you are limited in your options when trying to slow down an elite interior force. Cory Gaynor and the guards will have their hands full with Wilson in this one. If they are unable to hold up, it will be a long day for Miami.

Q7: What would a win against FSU mean for Manny Diaz's tenure at Miami and for the program in general?

: Well it’d keep Miami’s slim hopes of winning the Coastal alive, which is always the goal every season. Coaches that don’t beat their rivals don’t tend to last very long, so it’ll obviously be an important gauge for Manny’s long-term prospects at Miami. The season’s already a disappointment regardless, but beating FSU and winning a bowl game would at least give the program something positive to hang on to during what is sure to be a long offseason. Also, this game is huge for recruiting seeing that both programs are clearly behind UF right now. The team that loses this game will be viewed as the #3 option in the state, and nobody wants that.

Roman: That is a very good question and honestly my answer might surprise you. Absolutely nothing. Why? These are two 4-4 teams. There is no major streak to break. This isn't an FSU team on the verge of playing for a national championship any time soon. This isn't a Miami team on the verge of playing for a national championship any time soon. This year this rivalry is in nomenclature only. Sure it will be chippy, heated, no doubt have some good plays here and there and it might even come down to a kick. But the winner of this game is 5-4, still falling behind UF in the state, and just inched closer to playing in a bowl game no one truly cares about. Manny beating FSU doesn't erase the fact this season has fell flat of expectations. Miami losing to FSU doesn't increase the fact that the season is already a disappointment. The only salvageable avenue for me is that Miami goes on a run and wins the rest of its games. In that regard, you will need to beat FSU to do that.

Lance: Beating Florida State is the standard at Miami. With a two-game winning streak against them and the potential to get back over .500 and stay alive in the Coastal division, a win against Florida State allows Manny to continue selling hope to recruits and fans alike.

Matthew: A win vs. FSU could go a long way for Manny because neither of the last two regimes won their first game against the Seminoles. A win vs a rival, especially your most hated rival, would go a long way in changing the perception around this program and around this 2019 season. When you beat FSU, recruits are more interested, the team plays with more confidence, the fans are in better spirits, the water in the building tastes better; everything improves across the board. The confidence in Coach Diaz and the staff by the fans would take a much-needed shot in the arm should Miami go on the road and win this weekend.

Q8: Prediction time - how does this game end up going?

: The way I see it, the key to the game is this: to win, the Canes just have to not help the Seminoles' offense out. FSU really struggles sustaining long drives due to inconsistent offensive line play, but they are opportunistic. If Miami starts getting careless with the ball on offense or starts blowing coverages and missing tackles on defense, FSU has the stars to make them pay. But, if Miami protects the football, plays technically-sound defense, and wins the field position battle, I don't think FSU can score enough on UM’s defense to win this game. I see a close game throughout, with UM scoring a TD late to seal the deal. Miami wins, 21-17.

Roman: Miami wins. Close one. 27-24. Yes, I know that means Miami kicked 3 extra points and 2 field goals to do it.

Lance: I believe this is another close affair, with both teams having moments where it looks like they will pull out the victory. Ultimately, I’ll go with Miami winning 20-17.

: This game is hard enough to predict any given year, but especially this season as Miami is the most unpredictable team in the country. With that being said, I think Miami does just enough to win in a low scoring defensive battle. I think as a full unit, Miami has a better defensive front than Florida State. For that reason, I think Miami pulls out a 17-13 win in an ugly defensive struggle.

Comments (43)

Roman with the win. Great answers.

Any score would make sense considering the inconsistent performances of both teams this year.
Nice write-up.

I think local writers need to be clear when they refer to "expectations". Vegas had Miami's over/under at 8.5. A win positions Miami to get to 8 wins on the year. Yes, that would be a "half win" below expectations, but it's essentially right in line. And then Miami would have a chance to play in a solid bowl game vs a quality opponent.

If you're referring to the unreasonable expectations of fans and local homer media, then sure. The team will fall short of expectations no matter what happens in this game.
20-10; FSU.

^They'll get two short fields off of turnovers and turn them into 10pts.
^Opening drive of the game, they'll drive down and get a field goal.
^Garbage time TD late in the 4th when Miami scores a TD late in the third to get within 3.

Otherwise, it'll be the same **** with the offensive ineptitude displayed in EVERY game this year despite the opponent.
I’m going to dismiss Roman’s assertion that the outcome doesn’t matter for either coach--the **** it doesn’t. We ebb-and-flow wins and losses with teams all the time but no ebb has more weight than one against FSU. There are many ways to have the heat turned up on your head coaching job and none quicker than losing this game. Here is a neat factoid--In the last 18 seasons, head coaches from both programs either voluntarily resigned or were fired in years in which they lost to their in-state rivals (except Mark Richt)

Florida State Head CoachesLast Year as Head CoachVisitorHost
Bobby Bowden2009Miami 38FSU 24
Jimbo Fisher2017Miami 34FSU 20

Miami Head CoachesLast Year as Head CoachVisitorHost
Larry Coker2006FSU 13Miami 10
Randy Shannon2010FSU 45Miami 17
Al Golden2015Miami 24FSU 29
Mark Richt*2018FSU 27Miami 28
*Only head coach to leave the same year they defeated their in-state opponent.

As long as there is breath in the Miami and FSU program defeating FSU is must-win in perpetuity.
If FSU loses this game - Willie is prob done

If Miami loses this game - Manny won't be done, but it will really kill the recruiting class, off season, and continue to make the fan base question him.

So, all in all, this is a must win for both teams
3 weeks ago I would have said that FSU would beat us by 28, but last week's game against Pitt was big - the defense looked MUCH better and so did the OL. If the OL can give Jarren a semi-reasonable amount of time to work with, and Jarren can make good decisions with the ball, I think we will be okay.

I've watched several of FSU's games and their defense sucks. They are all completely gassed by the 4th quarter.
3 weeks ago I would have said that FSU would beat us by 28, but last week's game against Pitt was big - the defense looked MUCH better and so did the OL. If the OL can give Jarren a semi-reasonable amount of time to work with, and Jarren can make good decisions with the ball, I think we will be okay.

I've watched several of FSU's games and their defense sucks. They are all completely gassed by the 4th quarter.

This is a very bad FSU team in general. If we don't turn the ball over I think we win by 10.
Great discussion, thank you for posting. I have a really hard time seeing much scoring in this game. Unfortunately that means it will probably come down to kickers and special teams....yikes.

What I hope for is the OL keeps Jarren's jersey as clean as possible, and we can sustain some drives and give the D a breather that they haven't been getting. I think simply holding the ball longer helps us out in many ways. Getting DjD back is huge in that regard.

But we have to hit some big plays (getting 4 back is huge in that regard, if we could ever get him the ball) if we want to get the ball in the end zone. As this season has proven, if we get in the red zone we may as well either assume we're going to turn it over on downs or miss a FG.

My prediction: possessions are at a minimum in this game, with Akers doing work on the ground, and us taking the air out of the ball some to keep our offense on the field longer. A late game momentum swing play (sack fumble by Rousseau, field position swing via punt return, big run by Cam that doesn't get called back by holding, something like that) turns the tide, and we pull it out something like 19-13. We get to 19 with three td's, with one missed XP and one missed 2-pt try.
FSU has a bad kicking game also. So that is something that gives me hope. That being said if we don’t tackle we will lose easily
FSU has a bad kicking game also. So that is something that gives me hope. That being said if we don’t tackle we will lose easily
Yeah the big thing I am going to be watching for is our tackling and our 3rd down play calls / conversions. We are nearly the worst in the country on 3rd down - Enos has his hands full and he better figure it out this game or else.