Hurricane Irma delayed the University of Miami's game at Florida State, which didn't seem like the worst thing for the Canes at the time. UM was coming off a less-than-impressive season-opening victory over Bethune-Cookman, and Miami's Week 2 game against Arkansas State had also been canceled because of Irma. And FSU was then the number three team in America.
So most Canes fans thought a couple of more weeks to prepare for the Noles was just what the team needed. But in hindsight, fans shouldn't have been worried: UM now looks like a well-oiled, ass-kicking machine that's risen all the way to 13th in the AP poll, while FSU has tumbled out of the rankings altogether.
The rankings aren't the only reason the Hurricanes (3-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) are poised to finally end a brutal seven-game losing streak to their most hated rival this Saturday. Here's why:
1. The Hurricanes have a clear advantage at quarterback. Canes quarterback Malik Rosier is off to a fast start under center in his senior year. Though he has only three more career starts than Florida State's true freshman, James Blackman, his years of practices and learning to play at the speed of college football will be the difference in Tallahassee Saturday.
Blackman might well be the much better pro prospect in the long run, but all that matters right now is October 7, 2017. Rosier is the better, more disciplined quarterback at the moment. Blackman is a wildcard who has yet to face a defense that moves at Miami's speed.
2. The Hurricanes' dominating linebacker corps will stuff the Noles' rushing attack. Shaq Quarterman, Michael Pinckney, and Zach McCloud are throwbacks to a time when Hurricanes linebackers scared the shit out of opponents. The Seminoles were able to barely overcome the trio last season in large part thanks to Dalvin Cook, who had 150 rushing yards and a 59-yard catch in a 20-19 Seminoles win. He was pretty much the Noles' entire offense.
Lucky for Miami, he won't be in Tallahassee this weekend because he now plays for the Minnesota Vikings. That's bad news for the Noles.
FSU freshman running back Cam Akers is a Dalvin Cook in the making, but he hasn't proven to be ready for the spotlight yet. Veteran Jacques Patrick is a lumbering back who isn't exactly the sort of player who will run away from such a talented defense.
Advantage, Miami's dominant linebackers.
3. Florida State has already tasted defeat twice this season. In the world of college football, a loss puts you on probation, and a second defeat has the pre-Christmas bowls scouting your games. FSU's season is over. It was over through two games. UM's season is far from over. It has just begun. The Hurricanes could be playing for a championship weeks after FSU plays Western Illinois in a bowl game.
Role reversal much? People say, "You throw the records out the window," when rivals meet, but when one team has already seen its season circle the toilet bowl, that team is much likelier to have a few guys not going all out for the win. Any Canes fans who have witnessed the past seven games in this rivalry will confirm that point.
4. Mark Walton will run wild on the Seminoles. Just as NFL-ready running back Dalvin Cook was the difference in last year's game, this year's contest could hang on the fact that the Canes have their own pro-in-the-making: Mark Walton. Talent matters in this rivalry. The better team usually wins. FSU has been the better team for seven seasons, but this season, talent-wise, it's a much closer contest than it's been since Randy Shannon was coaching UM.
Walton already has 403 yards in three games on just 44 carries. Next season, an NFL quarterback will be handing the ball off to him. If the Hurricanes' improved offensive line can give Walton even a minute to work, he should score at least twice this Saturday.
5. It's Miami's time. This one is less a statistical analysis than a strong, rivalry-fed feeling. The UM-FSU showdown has been a roller coaster over the years. Before Florida State won the last seven meetings, Miami had won eight of 11. Before that, FSU had won six of seven. Before that, Miami had won ten of 13. This rivalry goes in streaks, and it's bound to flip back to UM at some point.
This weekend in Tallahassee, the Canes have the talent and momentum to end the Seminoles' seven-game winning streak. It might just be the beginning of a new winning streak in South Florida.
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