Oct. 19, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida State's may not know until kickoff Saturday night who it will face at quarterback for Miami in this year's edition of one of college football greatest rivalries but that doesn't matter.
Stephen Morris, who is listed as "doubtful" against the No. 12 Seminoles (6-1, 3-1 Atlantic Coast Conference), has yet to be officially declared out of the starting lineup despite dealing with an injured ankle he sustained in the Hurricanes' (4-3, 3-1) loss to UNC last weekend. To counteract the uncertainty of whom they will see across the line of scrimmage at Sun Life Stadium, FSU coach Jimbo Fisher and defensive coordinator Mark Stoops have had the 'Noles defenders prepare for both quarterbacks -- Morris and backup Ryan Williams -- this week at practice.
Even though Morris has a better ability to extend plays by rolling out of the pocket and throwing on the run than the more traditional drop-back style of Williams, Fisher doesn't think the difference is enough to alter FSU's defensive gameplan.
"They’re going to do some things different, but there are 10 other guys on the field and they’re going to run their offense,” Fisher said. "There’s only so much they can change. They’ll make adjustments -- don’t get me wrong -- and call plays each of them like differently. We don’t know what the other one likes so much, but they’re still going to run the basis of their offense and the foundation of their offense."
With Morris in control, Miami's offense averaged 35 points per game through the first five weeks of the season. And while the 'Canes have scored just a combined 17 points in back-to-back losses leading into the game against the 'Noles, Miami is still averaging 437 yards of offense per game and nearly 300 of those come through the air.
No matter who is throwing the football, Miami still possesses impressive speed and athleticism at its offensive skill positions.
"It's going to be a challenge," said FSU safety Karlos Williams, who was high school teammates with Hurricanes starting tailback Mike James. "Those guys can stretch the field and run. Phillip Dorsett, who played [in high school] with [FSU receiver] Rashad [Greene], we know that he's capable of doing a lot of things down the field. They have a freshman, Duke Johnson, that can split out and run routes and catch balls.
"They have a lot of athletic guys that can make plays."
But so do the 'Noles.
Florida State is coming off its fourth 600-yard game of the season after dismantling Boston Collge, 51-7, a week ago. To put that total into perspective, prior to this season FSU had just two 600-yard performance since the 2000 season.
The Seminoles will travel south boasting the ACC's No. 1 squad in total offense and scoring offense. FSU is also sixth in the country in scoring offense and 12th in total offense.
"It's a very complete offense and they pose a lot of challenges to you," Miami coach Al Golden said, "and you've got to do well on third down, got to find some stops in the red zone and you have to take the ball away."
That will be a tall task for a Hurricanes defense that has struggled mightily this season. While FSU, which ranks third nationally in total defense and is the only team in the entire country to rank in the top six in both scoring offense and scoring defense, excels on that side of the ball, Miami ranks last in the ACC in rushing defense, pass efficiency defense and total defense.
Out of 120 FBS schools across the country, the 'Canes' 506.57 yards allowed per game ranks 117th.
Despite those favorable numbers from an FSU perspective, 'Noles players aren't buying into the talk that they should be able to run and throw all over their rivals.
"We go out there with a mindset thinking it's going to be easy or something that's when you have letdowns," FSU quarterback EJ Manuel said. "So we are going to go in there with the mindset knowing Miami is going to be ready to play and we have to do the same."
Saturday night's game will air live nationally on ABC to a little more than 80 percent of the country. Those FSU fans that do not fall into the broadcast footprint can view the in-state showdown online at ESPN3.com.
"We are ready for it," Manuel said, "we are up for it and I know [Miami] is going to be ready for it the same way."