Fearless Predictions: Miami vs. Florida State

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Miami at No. 18 Florida State

Monday, 8 p.m. ET

Line: Florida State -6


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Regardless of their status in the national hierarchy, it’s always an event when the ‘Canes and the ‘Noles meet for their annual brawl. These games are always tight, intense and hard-hitting. The 54th meeting has a little special meaning, as both schools try to regain some of the swagger that’s disappeared over much of this decade. A primetime win in the opener could be just the catapult one of these young programs needs to build a head of steam for a nasty September schedule. After using an inordinate number of rookies a year ago, Miami hopes to take off the training wheels and begin turning the corner this fall. Has it really been four years since Florida State played a January bowl game? The Seminoles will try to build on last year’s nine-win season and seize control of the jump ball in the Atlantic Division. After 34 seasons, you never know when this could be Bobby Bowden’s last chapter of this storied rivalry.

In a game between two relatively equal rivals, there’s no reason to believe the script will deviate from the past few decades. In other words, expect the defenses to make a handful of memorable plays and the outcome to be in doubt in the fourth quarter. Harris is a mature kid, but he’s yet to start a road game in this type of atmosphere, giving a distinct advantage to QB Christian Ponder and that Florida State offense. It’ll pick up where it left off in 2008, moving the chains on the ground and sprinkling in pass plays on intermediate routes. The ‘Noles better hope the game doesn’t come down to field goals. While they could be replacing Graham Gano with a true freshman, the ‘Canes have a star in Matt Bosher.

Why Miami might win: The potential exists for the Hurricanes to sport their most potent offense in years. Sophomore QB Jacory Harris is a year older and a year wiser, and his supporting cast is flush with size, speed and upside. In the backfield, Javarris James joins Graig Cooper to give the running game two dynamite runners, and Aldarius Johnson, LaRon Byrd, and Travis Benjamin are three of the ACC’s most exciting young receivers. They’ll be facing a defense that is not vintage Florida State and could be a little light on the first and last lines of defense.

Why Florida State might win: The Seminoles’ improvement on the ground was no fluke in 2008, and isn’t about to change just because Antone Smith is out of eligibility. The key is up front, where a youthful offensive line is growing up rapidly and on the fast track to becoming one of the better units in school history. Rodney Hudson, Andrew Datko and Ryan McMahon, in particular, will control the line of scrimmage, allowing Ponder to make plays with his feet and backs Jermaine Thomas and Ty Jones to get past the first line of defense. When Florida State gets the running game cranking, it’s a tough team to beat.

Who to watch: Now that Everette Brown is a Carolina Panther, Florida State desperately needs a defensive end to rise up and replace some of his pass-rushing production. For senior Markus White, that’s an opportunity to enter the minds of NFL scouts. He has the closing speed and natural instincts to burst on to the radar, especially against a Miami offensive line that can struggle in pass protection. No. 98 is liable to spend a big chunk of Monday night looking for Harris in the ‘Cane backfield.


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