I have written Florida State-Miami previews for years, but this will be a first time comparing college football's Seminoles and the NFL's Dolphins instead of the Hurricanes. On 5Dimes' wins prop, FSU is a -140 favorite to finish with more regular-season victories than the Fins, who are +110.
Florida State has dominated the ACC for the best three seasons, winning the Atlantic Division and conference championship game in each. Last year, the Seminoles had their second straight unbeaten regular season behind 2013 Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jameis Winston. They might have been equal parts lucky and good in 2014 as there were a handful of games they should have lost. FSU beat Clemson in overtime, a game Winston missed due to suspension for another stupid off-field transgression, escaped Notre Dame thanks to a very questionable last-minute penalty on the Irish's apparent winning touchdown, rallied from a 23-7 deficit to win by four at Miami, edged Boston College by three, Florida by five and Georgia Tech by two in the ACC title game.
That luck all ran out in the Rose Bowl College Football Playoff semifinal as FSU was stomped by Oregon and 2014 Heisman winner Marcus Mariota. The Ducks scored six straight times they touched the ball in the second half, with five of the touchdowns covering at least 21 yards and the last four coming after Florida State turnovers. That ended FSU's 29-game winning streak and was Winston's only collegiate loss as a starter.
Of course, Winston was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft by Tampa Bay. Somewhat surprisingly, he was the first Seminole to ever go No. 1. The Noles also lost school record-setting receiver Rashad Greene, who is trying to make the Jaguars' roster as a fifth-round pick. He caught 99 passes for 1,365 yards and seven scores in 2014.
Presumably the focal point of the 2014 offense is going to be running back Dalvin Cook, who really came on late last year as a freshman. He had been indefinitely suspended for misdemeanor battery on a woman in Tallahassee on June 23. On media day earlier this month, FSU took one team photo with Cook and one without. The school has really had some issues with its players and women. But Cook was found non-guilty on Monday, so he has been reinstated to the team and was back at practice on Tuesday.
So with that big question resolved, the other is who replaces Winston. It will either be his backup from last year, Sean Maguire, who started that Clemson game, or Notre Dame transfer Everett Golson. I tend to believe it will be the latter. He has more upside and played in big games at Notre Dame. Maguire struggled in FSU's spring game. FSU listed Golson as the No. 3 quarterback on the depth chart to start the preseason, and he has split reps with the first-team offense. Only one offensive line starter is back.
FSU should have little trouble in its first two games as it hosts Texas State and South Florida before opening conference play at Boston College and Wake Forest. Things toughen up considerably after that, as Florida State hosts Miami on Oct. 10, Louisville on Oct. 17, visits Georgia Tech on Oct. 24 and goes to Clemson on Nov. 7. Almost surely the winner of that game will take the Atlantic Division. The regular season ends as usual against Florida, this time in Gainesville.
Florida State is +260 to make the College Football Playoff again and -380 to miss out. It's +130 to win the Atlantic and has a wins total of nine, with the "under" a -120 favorite.
As for the Dolphins, it's absolutely a make-or-break season for Coach Joe Philbin, who is just 23-25 in his three years and yet to make the playoffs. Philbin is +1200 to be the first coach fired, and I think I'm putting my money there. Owner Stephen Ross is not going to be patient with Philbin this season after paying huge money to land the top defensive free agent on the market this offseason in former Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. The Dolphins also acquired receiver Kenny Stills from New Orleans in trade, signed Browns free-agent tight end Jordan Cameron and dealt away locker-room cancer Mike Wallace to Minnesota. QB Ryan Tannehilll has some really nice weapons now. Second-year WR Jarvis Landry is going to be a star.
Miami should be the team to benefit most if Tom Brady's four-game suspension is upheld, although the Dolphins don't get to play the Patriots in those first four games. The Fins' strength of schedule is ranked as the 17h-toughest with an opponents' combined winning percentage of .492. I see no reason why this team can't be 6-0 when it visits New England on Thursday, Oct. 29. Miami's first six games are: at Washington, at Jacksonville, vs. Buffalo, vs. NY Jets, at Tennessee (after a bye week) and home to Houston. The schedule definitely gets harder starting with the Patriots game.
5Dimes lists five win totals for Miami: 9.5 (over +134, under -154), 9 (-117/-103), 8.5 (-170/+150), 8 (-321/+261) and 7.5 (-413/+332).
I would probably list Miami's floor at 8 wins and ceiling at 11, but I'd lean over 8.5 among the options above. I think FSU runs the table at home but loses at Georgia Tech and Clemson, so that's 10 wins. So lean the Seminoles on this prop -- although I can definitely see a push.
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