October 29, 2013

Insider Report: Top-10 matchup for FSU-Miami hearkens to rivalry's golden days

It took the better part of a decade, but Saturday's game is what the ACC had in mind when it expanded in 2003 and added Miami: top-10 football matchups between heated in-state rivals with the Hurricanes and FSU.

Now, with the undefeated No. 7 Hurricanes headed to also-undefeated No. 3 Florida State on Saturday for a nationally televised matchup, it's a good day for both teams and a good day for the ACC. It's just the second top-10 matchup between FSU and Miami since the Hurricanes joined the ACC. It's a welcome change.

"College football is getting right again," Jimbo Fisher said.

Fisher could quickly pick out his favorite Miami-FSU matchups from the past and the glory days of the two schools' rivalry: 1989 and 1993.And while the rivalry has national prominence again, players are clear: the game never lost its heat in Florida. Players said there's already been some trash talk from Miami early in the week - to the irritation of FSU's veterans.

"I don't know why they do," Terrence Brooks said. "I really wish teams would just be quiet and play football. Because at the end of the day that's what you've got to do, line up across from us and whoever wins that play. And we definitely plan on winning that play. It's kind of like those commercials, messing with Sasquatch. Tell you the truth, that's really all it is. We don't do that. We don't talk about other teams."

But Florida State's players say they welcome the heightened spotlight and stage of a second top-10 matchup in three weeks - especially against Miami.

"The ACC in general, the powerhouses from the past are starting to re-arise," Cameron Erving said. "People talk about this is one of the Miami-Florida State matchups that you'd see back in the day. Both of us in the top 10."

It'll also have plenty of implications for recruiting. The lengthy list of visiting prospects for the game includes a number deciding between FSU and Miami, and a number of FSU's most integral players are from the Miami area, including leading rusher Devonta Freeman and starting right tackle Bobby Hart. Freeman in particular, who played at Miami Central, went to high school with a number of players on Miami's roster.

"Since I've been here I can always tell the guys form Miami down south, they carry themselves with a different swagger this week," Freeman's fellow running back Karlos Williams said. "They catch the ball and get up field with a major explosion. … He does it every week but he knows he's playing a team full of guys he's familiar with."

Turnovers galore for defense

Through seven games this season, Florida State's defense has been a turnover machine.

The Seminoles already have 10 interceptions and eight fumbles forced so far this season. One more of each will tie the season total from 2012.

That's what the FSU defense was billed as at the start of the season - an aggressive, turnover-producing unit that would take the ball away. Saturday's game against N.C. State was the third multiple-interception game in FSU's last four outings, and FSU has seven total turnovers in the past two games. Safety Terrance Brooks said last week's game should have seen even more turnovers.

"We just have more aggressiveness out there," Brooks said. "I think we probably could have gotten five or six interceptions that game. Sometimes it's just us moving too fast. We definitely want to capitalize more on everything we get. We definitely create a lot of opportunities for ourselves we just have to capitalize."

So far, the Seminole defense has done a solid job of capitalizing on its turnovers. FSU has three defensive touchdowns this season as opposed to just one last year. Brooks attributed that increase to an increased comfort level with Jeremy Pruitt's new defensive scheme. It's shown in the past three games. After struggling at Boston College, FSU's defense has been lights out. Since giving up 34 points to BC, FSU is averaging 10.3 points allowed per game - and the first-team defense has given up just two touchdowns in that span.

"We always want to be around the ball as much as possible and I feel right now we're clicking more than ever," Brooks said. "The confidence is at an all-time high. The confidence is getting us a lot more plays and a lot more balls."

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