Roger Simmons and Brendon Sonnone on Miami vs FSU.
Here are three key matchups to watch in Saturday's contest between No. 3 FSU (7-0, 5-0 ACC) and No. 7 Miami (7-0, 3-0 ACC). The game begins at 8:18 p.m and can be viewed on ABC.
1. FSU defensive line vs. Miami offensive line
This is the matchup that every FSU defensive player has been talking about this week. As CB Lamarcus Joyner said, football is played in the trenches. FSU lost sight of that a month ago against Boston College, but has dominated in that category the past several games.
Jameis Winston on FSU-Miami rivalry: "It's more of a brotherly game. It's like we'll be in the back yard playing against each other."
Miami has a massive offensive line, one FSU DL Timmy Jernigan calls one of the best in the country. The Hurricanes average 318 pounds per starting lineman and have paved the way to RB Duke Johnson’s success. Johnson is 11th nationally with 117.6 rushing yards per game.
The Hurricanes have had a lot of movement across its line because of injuries and suspensions, so continuity has been a concern. But as the players gel, this OL becomes one of the most dangerous groups in the conference just based on size and talent alone. LT Ereck Flowers and RG/RT Brandon Linder both have NFL potential. RT Seantrel Henderson, who has been battling his way out of the doghouse after a suspension last month, is an elite pro prospect.
That means there will be a huge onus on Jernigan – who has been dominant at NT – and FSU DL like Eddie Goldman, Jacobi McDaniel, Nile Lawrence-Stample and Mario Edwards Jr. to not let the Hurricanes get much push up front and clear lanes for the LBs to make plays. Expect FSU to mix up its fronts to confuse Miami, going 3-4, 4-3 and nickel.
2. Jameis Winston vs. Miami secondary
The freshman QB goes against arguably the top secondary he’s faced all season.
The Hurricanes are surrendering 200.6 passing yards per game (17th nationally) and are forcing 1.71 interceptions per contest (13th nationally). CB Ladarius Gunter (6-2, 196) is physical, while CB Tracy Howard is very fluid and has three INTs on the year. They create a solid tandem and are capable of capitalizing on any mistakes Winston makes.
Winston has just four interceptions on the year, but what we’ve seen from the Hurricanes is that they force turnovers in bunches. Because of that, Winston cannot afford to get this aggressive group of DBs confident. FSU will likely be fine if it gets into a punting battle with Miami, but the Hurricanes could be in a position to upset the Seminoles if they shorten the field with a few turnovers.
3. Stephen Morris vs. FSU secondary
Another QB vs. secondary matchup, how original.
However, Morris is undoubtedly the X-factor of this game.
The senior signal caller entered the year as an intriguing pro prospect because of his arm strength, but has yet to hit his stride in 2013.
Morris, hampered by an ankle injury, has thrown for 1,463 yards, 10 TDs to 8 INTs while completing a little less than 60 percent of his passes. Those numbers are pedestrian given the strong run game and line he has around him. It’s even worse when looking at his stats in conference play (4 TDs to 6 INTs).
But FSU’s stellar secondary must be leery. If the Hurricanes get the run game going, Morris has the quick release and velocity to get the ball down the field on play-action passes. He has some big-play receivers and can really stretch the Seminoles, so FSU’s DBs must keep everything in front of them and cannot let Morris get in a rhythm.