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November 2, 2013

Canes, FSU renew rivalry - with national implications

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Hurricane flags have been flying over the Florida State practice fields this week. Miami is coming to town.

Not just Miami, but truckloads of television cameras and a national TV audience. No. 3 FSU (7-0, 5-0) faces the No. 7 Hurricanes (7-0, 3-0) in a battle of the last two unbeaten teams in the ACC. It's the type of matchup that was common in this heated rivalry in the 80s and 90s and one that the ACC hoped to pin its football hopes on when it expanded to include Miami in 2003.

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

And even though this is the first time in almost a decade that Florida State and Miami have faced off both ranked in the top 10, players still understand there's plenty of pride at stake with an in-state rivalry.

"Historic man," Timmy Jernigan said. "It started a long time ago and it's been a very competitive rivalry since it started. It's always going to be a tough game no matter what the teams are ranked. In the state of Florida we look forward to it every year."

It's easy for Florida State to get excited about the renewal of national interest in Miami and Florida State's rivalry: the Seminoles are a three-touchdown favorite and have looked downright unstoppable in the past three games. FSU has outscored its past three opponents - two of them ranked - by a combined 163-31.

"It's a very complete team playing with a white-hot quarterback right now," Miami coach Al Golden said. "The quarterback's playing exceptionally well right now. The receivers can beat you deep, they can come back to the ball. They have length. They're the most complete team that we've seen."

Despite Florida State's recent dominance, the FSU-Miami game has been anything but predictable historically. And Miami has shown a penchant for comebacks and wins in close games. The Hurricanes rallied for wins against Georgia Tech and North Carolina to stay both undefeated and on top of the Coastal Division. Even if the Hurricanes lose on Saturday, they could easily see Florida State again in the ACC Championship game.

Not only that, but Miami's offense does feature the one aspect that Florida State's defense has struggled with in the past: a dominant running game with Duke Johnson, who averages 117.6 yards rushing per game.

"What doesn't he do well?" Fisher said of Johnson. "That'll be a shorter conversation. He's very durable. He's very strong, he's got great body control"

Boston College and Pittsburgh were both able to establish some kind of offensive flow around the running game against FSU at times. The Seminoles have been dominant defensively in the most recent stretch of games against spread-oriented teams, but Saturday's game will be a test to see how far the run defense has come. When asked if opponents could still find success with the run against FSU's defense, defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan was confident.

"They can try," Jernigan said.

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