Key matchups of the week: FSU @ Miami

Florida State will look to notch its first win of the season this Saturday, as the Seminoles travel to South Florida to take on their arch-rival, the #12 ranked Miami Hurricanes. Without head coach Mike Norvell, who tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday, the Seminoles will be looking to win their first game in the series since 2016.

Here are three pivotal matchups they must capitalize on if they want to come out victorious.

1. Miami Rush Offense vs FSU Rush Defense

In their first two games, the Hurricanes rushing game has been on an absolute tear. The team is averaging 248.5 yards on the ground per game, which slots inside the top 15 nationally. Cam’Ron Harris currently sits atop the ACC rushing leaders, and the true freshmen tandem of Don Chaney Jr and Jaylan Knighton have also impressed. Houston transfer, D’Eriq King, who is second on the team in carries and yards, is as dual-threat as a quarterback can come.

The key for the ‘Noles defense will be setting the edge and preventing the Canes from getting outside. Defensive ends Janarius Robinson, Derrick McLendon II, and Joshua Kaindoh (if he is active), must improve from their performance in week one. Amari Gainer, who led the team in tackles against Georgia Tech, should have more help in the tackling department from Kalen DeLoach, Emmett Rice, and Stephen Dix Jr., to name a few. The Seminoles boast more talent on the defensive side of the ball than UAB and Louisville, but if they hope to slow the ‘Canes down, they must be the aggressor and capitalize on opportunities.

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2. D’Eriq King and Miami Passing Offense vs FSU Secondary

Coming off a 47 point outing in a nationally televised win against a ranked opponent, the Canes’ newly implemented RPO offense looks to be thriving with King at the helm. Miami has only allowed three sacks on the year, so if the pass rush is ineffective (FSU only had one sack vs Georgia Tech), the secondary must step up. Brevin Jordan, arguably the top tight end in the country, will demand attention from the FSU secondary. Jordan leads the team in catches (10), yards (171), and touchdowns (2). The possible return of Hamsah Nasilrideen should help, but expect Jaiden Lars-Woodbey, Renardo Green, and Travis Jay to closely monitor Jordan throughout the game. Asante Samuel Jr, who brought in two interceptions in week one, will likely be matched on Mark Pope, the Canes number one wide receiver.

3. FSU O-Line vs Miami D-Line

Many will wonder why I did not choose the ‘Noles passing or rushing game here. The truth is those two will never reach their potential until the offensive line progresses. Sure, the group took a step forward in the opener. They only gave up one sack, and looked improved from last year. With all that being said, the Miami defensive line is more talented than the Yellow Jackets. Jaelan Phillips, Nesta Jade Silvera, and Quincy Roche are all defensive lineman capable of causing havoc as pass rushers or run stoppers.

Keep an eye on redshirt freshman center Maurice Smith, who was the best graded FSU offensive lineman (and player) from the Week one loss according to Pro Football Focus, with an 80.8 rating.

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