Every day (well, every weekday), we’ll bring you a Hurricanes top five list at lunchtime. It’s something to look forward to.
Mondays: Answers to Top 5 Game Preview from Friday
Tuesdays: Top 5 in the ACC
Wednesdays: Unique Top 5 List
Thursdays: Unique Top 5 List
Fridays: Top 5 to Watch for Upcoming Game
5. Will the energy be there? Miami won’t win the Coastal Division. Florida State needs help to win the Atlantic. It’s been suggested the Hurricanes could actually forfeit their bowl game if they qualify because of the NCAA investigation and potential sanctions, and Florida State’s preseason aspirations for a national title went up in smoke a few weeks into the season. But this is Miami-FSU. Break down the game all you want, but this is one of those rivalry games that if the teams are close in talent level, which they are, it could go either way. Still, the game has lacked the angst it’s had previously.
4. Who starts strong? Starting strong seems like a necessity for the Canes to win this season. They got up early on North Carolina, which allowed them to withstand the Tar Heels’ comeback bid. They got up early on Georgia Tech, which set the tone for the afternoon. Then they started slow against Virginia and couldn’t come back for the win. They got off to a good start against Duke in the blowout. Florida State has been down at the half of all three losses and led at the half of all six wins. And the way the Florida State offense has been playing and scoring points the last four weeks, Miami likely cannot afford an early deficit.
3. Stopping E.J. Manuel shorthanded. Manuel has been the difference on the FSU offense since his return, although the competition hasn’t been the toughest with matchups against Duke, Maryland, NC State and Boston College. Manuel has completed over 70% of his passes in each of the last two games, and while he has eight interceptions on the year, he has just two in the last four games. Miami has only five interceptions all year and is without a plethora of players along the defensive front seven (including linebacker Jordan Futch, who’s out for the week with a shoulder injury), and safety Ray Ray Armstrong, who has been suspended and didn’t make the trip.
2. Miami passing game. The Hurricanes have to score points. The defense has struggled most of the year, and they seem to be more and more shorthanded every week. If the Hurricanes can throw the ball, they’re going to be successful. Much of that will hinge on whether they can get Lamar Miller going on the ground, but it wouldn’t be the first time this year the Hurricanes were forced to get something going without an effective ground game. Tommy Streeter is one of the breakout stars of the ACC, and Travis Benjamin had a big day in 2009 in Tallahassee. Allen Hurns has come through, and freshman Phillip Dorsett has been used as well. The Florida State secondary has had it pretty easy lately thanks in large to a dominant defensive front, but the receivers are about to get tougher to cover.
1. Miami OL vs. FSU DL. Florida State is fifth in the country with 3.33 sacks per game (30 total). The Miami offensive line is 28th with 1.33 sacks allowed per game (12 total). Harris has made tremendous strides in decision making, and has done a fine job of getting rid of the ball when need be. The Canes struggled with the Virginia defensive line a couple of weeks ago, and they cannot afford to give ground to a helluva FSU defensive line. Bjoern Werner leads the team with six sacks, followed by Cornellius Carradine with four and Brandon Jenkins with 3.5. Winning the battle up front is going to be the key to keeping up with a Florida State offense that’s expected to find the end zone.