By Joe Zagacki

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – It’s always the game that is circled on the calendar.

Miami and FSU is a passion play ripe with conflict. It’s a rivalry based on heartbreak, elation and geography.

For six decades it’s been a battle royal with 365 days of bragging rights going to the winner.

Lately FSU has carried the play, winning seven straight against the Canes, the longest streak in the series since the early 70’s.

After a 3-0 start the Hurricanes and FSU struggling out of the gate at 1-2, Miami is the favored team and ranked No. 13 in the nation.

Ending the seven-year curse is paramount for Miami in order to have a special season.

Here is how Linebacker Shaq Quartermann views the game.

“It’s the U vs. Florida State, and it’s our duty as a team to win,” Quarterman said. “That’s the only way I see it.

Head Coach Mark Richt agreed with that sentiment.

“It’s a game a lot of people look ahead to – it’s a big one for us,” Richt said. “We understand that, know it’s very important for conference play, also important to get an opportunity to play a great team at a great venue, to see how we can handle that. We’re looking forward to the battle.”

FSU is starting freshman quarterback James Blackman, who will be playing in only his 3rd game.

Blackman is 6-foot-5, 180 pounds with a lively arm. He has already demonstrated he can throw the deep ball.

Wide receiver Auden Tate has 16 catches and is Blackman’s go to receiver. Tate caught a 40-yard game-winning touchdown vs Wake Forest last weekend.

The key for Miami on defense will be the Canes defensive line. They must control this game.

Take the run game away from the Noles and then turn up the pressure on Blackman. They must badger him and sack him.

Miami has 10 sacks this season and 27 tackles for loss, which is 2nd in the nation.

The Canes run defense is allowing 129 yards a game just under four yards per carry.

Miami’s offense must protect the ball as FSU thrives on takeaways.

Getting turnovers is the fuel that provides the energy for their team. It’s vital that Miami protects the ball early and doesn’t allow FSU to start a pep rally at the beginning of the game.

It’s a swarming-hard hitting defense that sets out to strangle the run game.

Miami will try to feed its #1 running back Mark Walton.

The junior is averaging 134 yards per game, 5th best in the nation.

Walton has also been a key player in the pass game and will be again on Saturday.

Coach Richt knows Miami is going up against a top-shelf defense.

“Defensively [up front Derrick] Nnadi and [Demarcus] Christmas have played over 30 games in their career. Just big, physical, strong guys. Great edge rushers [too],” Richt said. “At linebacker very, talented guys. [Matthew] Thomas has 20 tackles so far, had 10 in the Wake Forest game alone, a great speed guy at the linebacker position. And you can’t go through the defense without taking about Derwin James. Two years ago, had 91 tackles, was an All-American. This year he’s already got 18 tackles, two pass breakups. [Tarvarus] McFadden great cover guy, last year eight interceptions. He’s the guy they’ll put on who they think is our best receiver.”

For Miami to win they must protect the ball, defensive line must live up to the hype, Rosier needs to outperform Blackman and winning special teams is always vital in this series.

GAME NOTES

  • This will be the 62nd meeting between Miami and FSU with the Canes leading the series 31-30.
  • Since 1988, the team that has won the rushing battle has won 22 of 30 games.
  • 14 different Hurricanes have caught passes this year, with six players having five or more receptions.
  • Mark Walton needs 30 yards to reach 2,000 career rushing yards. Walton also has 28 Touchdowns in 29 games.
  • FSU is averaging 18 points per game. The Noles have not averaged less than 30 points per game since 2010.
  • Florida State has thrown a touchdown pass in 11 straight games.
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