Fisher downplaying huge spread vs. Miami
Seminoles favored by 21.5 points in top-10 showdown
And everyone knows it.
Fans are reminiscing about the rivalry's most memorable games. Wisecracks that begin and end with the words "wide right" or "wide left" are flying. And the winner of the game, just like in the glory years, might just play for the national championship.
"This is one of the great traditions in college football," FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher said of the rivalry series, which began in 1951 and features two teams with a combined seven national titles. "One of the reasons why you come to Florida State (is) to be able to play in this game. And then, of course, both teams being in the top 10 -- (it's) like the old days."
And that's just how the Seminoles want it.
"That's what I came here for -- FSU-Miami, FSU-Florida -- just the big games and the big-game atmosphere," said Seminoles heralded freshman quarterback Jameis Winston, arguably the hottest player in the country with 1,129 passing yards and 11 touchdowns in his last three games -- all blowout wins, with two coming against top-25 opponents. "It's a big rivalry game, and they're going to come with it and we've got to come with it, too."
The annual Sunshine State showdown had lost some of its luster in recent years with each team going through slumps -- and in Miami's case, a few NCAA sanctions. Plus, Florida State has dominated as of late. The Seminoles have won six of the last eight meetings, including three in a row by a combined 45 points. But for the first time since 2004, both programs are ranked inside the top 10 coming in.
No. 7 Miami, which enters unbeaten at 7-0 overall and 3-0 in the ACC, survived a scare last Saturday with a 24-21 comeback win against Wake Forest to ensure this would be the biggest game in week 10 of the college football season. Saturday's 8 p.m. kickoff isn't just a primetime, top-10 showdown, it's also No. 3 FSU's second date with ESPN's College GameDay in three weeks after the Seminoles (7-0, 5-0) went to Death Valley on Oct. 19 and crushed then-No. 3 Clemson, 51-14.
That win, coupled with Florida State's 49-17 rout of N.C. State last weekend, has impressed oddsmakers enough to make the Seminoles huge 21.5-point favorites against UM -- the largest spread in college football history between two top-10 opponents, according to Yahoo! Sports.
Fisher couldn't care less.
The fourth-year coach scoffed at the mere mention of the line and how he felt about FSU being such a big favorite in a game featuring two unbeaten, top-10 programs during his weekly press conference Monday.
"I have no idea what the point spread is. I don't even look at the point spread. I don't worry about the point spread," Fisher said, shaking his head. "I know they have a great team."
"Great" might be a little generous. In reality, Miami, which is without a lot of star power other than the ACC's No. 2 rusher Duke Johnson, has been more like "good enough" thus far in 2013.
The Hurricanes' perfect start has come against programs that are a combined 20-34, not to mention none are currently ranked in the top 25. Meanwhile, some critics have dubbed this year's bunch the "Cardiac 'Canes" after the Hurricanes have fallen behind to lesser competition in three straight games, only to somehow find a way to win.
Florida State, however, has been quite the opposite.
The Seminoles -- who are ranked first in the nation in pass defense, second in passing efficiency, third in scoring offense and fourth in scoring defense -- have been scary good all season, especially in their last three games. They outscored Maryland, Clemson and N.C. State by a combined 163-31, and all three games were all but over by halftime. And Winston, a Heisman Trophy candidate, has been nearly flawless during that span with FBS' second-best pass-efficiency rating, a mind-boggling 207.0. FSU is also the country's top red-zone team, converting on 38 of 39 trips this season.
But numbers like that weren't good enough for the BCS computers to keep the Seminoles at No. 2, where they debuted a week ago when the first BCS rankings came out. FSU was leapfrogged by Oregon this past week after the Ducks routed No. 12 UCLA, 42-14.
Of course, if FSU wins Saturday, it'll surely jump the Seminoles right back.
"(We) don't worry about it. Control what you can control and keep playing and don't worry about it. Polls don't concern us," Fisher said. "We'll worry about that when the year is over. Those things take care of themselves in time."
And Seminoles safety Terrance Brooks, for one, can't wait to have a hand in controlling FSU's destiny -- especially if it comes at Miami's expense.
"Miami, we're definitely going to be ready for them," said the senior, who is tied for the team-lead with two interceptions. "I can't wait. It's going to be a big stage, and that's what we all want."
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
--Freshman K Roberto Aguayo because it's no secret that kicking woes, particularly with the game on the line, have plagued Florida State in its rivalry series against Miami. And while it bodes well for FSU that Aguayo has already broken the school record for most consecutive kicks made to start a season (58 of 58 between PATs and FGs), kicking demons have cost FSU four potential wins in the series -- and very possibly, a few national championships. In 1991, kicker Gerry Thomas missed what would've been a game-winning 34-yard field goal with no time left as No. 1 FSU lost to No. 2 Miami, 17-16, in a game forever known as "Wide Right I." A year later in 1992 came "Wide Right II" when Miami, ranked No. 2 at the time, hosted No. 3 Florida State. This time it was Dan Mowrey who missed a 39-yarder wide right as FSU lost, 19-16. In 2000, it was "Wide Right III" when FSU's Matt Munyon couldn't convert from 49 yards out, and the Seminoles, who were ranked No. 1, lost, 27-24, to the No. 7 Hurricanes. And two years later came "Wide Right's" ugly brother, "Wide Left," when -- for the fourth time in a little more than a decade -- FSU would lose to Miami on a field goal. Xavier Beitia missed this one as time expired, and Miami prevailed, 28-27. FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher was asked this week if he felt the need to remind Aguayo about those past failures. "I don't. It's just another game. If your kicker comes in and it's time to make it, stay true to the process, go out there and kick the ball," he said. "It's no different than the kick you had in practice. Do it the same way."
--Senior LB Christian Jones might be the unsung hero of FSU's defense this season. The 6-4, 235-pounder is third on the team in tackles (31) and second in tackles for loss (6.5) and sacks (two) despite playing in just six of FSU's seven games and only starting five of them. He recorded eight tackles in FSU's huge win against Clemson and four last week in a half of action against N.C. State, drawing the praise of Fisher, who said he felt Jones may be the key to stopping Miami star RB Duke Johnson on Saturday. "(He's) great on the end of the ball, can rush, playing the run very well, athletic," Fisher said of Jones. "He's a problem for (Miami)."
--Senior WR Kenny Shaw because, while leading receiver Rashad Greene (690 yards, 39 catches) gets most of the ink for his team-leading eight TDs and WR Kelvin Benjamin and TE Nick O'Leary are making the highlight reels with their acrobatic catches and long runs, Shaw has been FSU's most consistent receiver. He averages 82 yards a game and leads FSU in all-purpose yards with 753 as FSU's primary punt returner. Shaw also wants to end his FSU career against Miami with a bang after only recording two catches for 28 yards in last year's 33-20 win.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I've watched their offenses. They can run it, they can throw it, they've got good balance. They're creating a lot of plays and (they're) doing a great job of coming back late in games and being able to make drives to win games late. Coley has done a great job. I always said that Coley is a great offensive mind. I think he's a very good coach and a great recruiter, and he's got a great future in this business." -- Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher on facing Miami offensive coordinator James Coley, who was Fisher's offensive coordinator at FSU last season.