Preview: FSU vs. Miami
By Mike Mitchell
The long Labor Day weekend signals the beginning of another college football season with a massive 73-game schedule. Few, if any, of those contests will have the impact on rankings, conference championship and BCS title chances that this annual rivalry imposes.
Lately, Miami and Florida State haven taken turns with multi-year dominance in this series. The win by the Seminoles in Tallahassee last year broke a 6-game losing streak to the 'Canes. Prior to that, FSU had won five in-a-row.
Miami must be eager to play after a tumultuous offseason that included the firing of four coaches after last year's humiliating 40-3 loss to LSU in the Peach Bowl. Additionally, four players - two of whom would have been starting - have been suspended for this game for undisclosed violations of team policy. The players include starters Tyrone Moss (RB) and Ryan Moore (WR). Back-up LB James Bryant and WR Rashaun Jones will also sit out. Other offseason distractions included top recruit Willie Williams seeking a transfer and backup safety Willie Cooper suffering a gunshot wound in the rear end.
Kyle Wright returns at quarterback after producing the second-highest pass efficiency rating in the ACC in 2005 when he tossed 18 TD passes against 10 INT's. But Wright was sacked a league-leading 34 times and only one starter returns on the O-line.
With Moss on the bench, the top available rusher for the 'Canes in this game is Jr. Charlie Jones whose 507 yards and 5 TD's was second on the team last year when Moss ran for 701 yards and 12 scores. With Moore not on the field, the receiving corps is largely unproven with TE Greg Olsen being the top available returnee.
Florida State suffered through a rash of injuries on defense last year but came to life in its final two games against Virginia Tech (ACC Championship game) and Penn State (Orange Bowl). Only six starters return but the talent-level is deep, especially among the secondary.
On offense, Drew Weatherford is back under center where he led the ACC in passing yards last season with 3,220, nearly 700 yards more than the conference's number two QB in that category. His problem was the 18 INT's he threw to match his 18 TD's.
FSU has a strong corps of receivers but no superstar.
Both teams enter the year with lofty expectations from fans and the national media, alike. Some, but not me, have suggested that anything less than a BCS bowl game for Miami would mean the end of Larry Coker's head coaching career with the Hurricanes. Both have substantial obstacles to overcome with half of their 2005 starters gone and a conference that offers parity at the top.
One thing is for certain - the loser of this game will have a tough road back to the top of its divisional standings.
The game will be televised nationally on Labor Day Monday at 8pm on ESPN.