TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) If anyone knows how much a win in the Miami-Florida State rivalry can revive a program, it is Jimbo Fisher.
In Fisher’s first year as head coach in 2010, the Seminoles went to Miami as a rebuilding program and had lost eight of 11 to the Hurricanes. Behind a ground game that got 298 yards, Florida State built a three-touchdown lead en route to a 45-17 victory.
The fortunes of both programs have gone in different directions since that game. Florida State is 54-10 and won a national title in 2013 while Miami (3-1) is 35-28. The 12th-ranked Seminoles (4-0, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) go for their sixth straight win in the series Saturday night when they host the 3-1 Hurricanes.
”I think it was huge because of the past that Florida State had so many tough games in Miami. It woke people up to say, hey, Florida State does have a chance to be that program again,” Fisher said about the 2010 game. ”We had struggled so much as a university in the past, and to be able to get down and do that, give people hope for the future. Once you get hope, anything can happen.”
That game also sealed the fate for Randy Shannon as Miami’s coach as he was fired at the end of that season. His successor, Al Golden, has also struggled. In his fourth season, Golden’s teams are 4-7 against Top 25 teams, 11-18 against FBS winning programs and 10-15 in road games.
During his tenure Miami teams have gotten off to quick starts. They are 15-5 in August/September games but when the calendar reaches Oct. 1, they are 16-18 the rest of the season.
Miami thought they had Florida State’s number last year, getting out to a 13-0 lead in the first quarter. But the Seminoles rallied for a 30-26 victory.
Golden didn’t deny that a win over Florida State would be huge for the program.
”I thought we played with a lot confidence last year. We didn’t finish,” Golden said. ”We have to learn a lot from what we did well and what we didn’t do well.”
For both quarterbacks, a win would go a long way toward satisfying their fan base. Florida State’s Everett Golson and Miami’s Brad Kaaya have mostly been solid but not spectacular.
Golson has completed 64.2 percent of his passes and has seven touchdowns but the biggest improvement he has made is not turning the ball over. At Notre Dame last season Golson threw 14 interceptions and lost eight fumbles.
The biggest problem for Golson this season has been slow starts. All but one of his touchdown passes has come in the second half and his 176.81 passer rating after halftime is 13th nationally.
Kaaya leads the ACC in passing yards per game (273.5) and has thrown only four interceptions in his last 342 attempts. But Miami’s biggest problem on offense has been third down. The Hurricanes have converted only 13 of their 53 opportunities and Golden has a lot of time since their last game – a 34-23 loss at Cincinnati on Oct. 1 – trying to find ways to rectify that.
Here are some other things to watch when Miami faces Florida State:
COOK’S HEALTH: Florida State running back Dalvin Cook, who scored the go-ahead touchdown in last year’s game, is probable after straining his left hamstring in last week’s 24-16 win at Wake Forest. Cook leads the ACC in rushing with 570 yards and ran for 266 yards in Florida State’s last home game, which was Sept. 12 against South Florida.
YEARBY IN SPOTLIGHT: Miami’s Joe Yearby, who went to high school with Cook at Miami Central, is averaging 7.31 yards per carry, which is ninth in FBS. The sophomore has rushed for over 100 yards in the Hurricanes’ last three games.
IN THE TRENCHES: After getting only 17 sacks last season, Florida State has eight a third of the way into the year. Defensive end DeMarcus Walker had 1 1/2 sacks against Wake. Miami has allowed just four sacks, which is tied for first in the ACC.
STINGY WITH TURNOVERS: The teams have combined for a plus-14 turnover margin. Miami is second in the nation with a plus-nine margin while Florida State is the only team to not have an offensive turnover.
SOUTH FLORIDA BRAGGING RIGHTS: There are 53 players on both rosters who went to high school in either Broward or Dade counties. In a lot of cases former teammates have become rivals.