In what would likely appear to be a major upset in the minds of most college football fans, yet would be just a mild upset in sportsbooks, Miami should win outright over Florida State in Week 12 of the 2014 college football season. The Hurricanes have flown under the radar for most of the season in the relatively unheralded ACC. All three of their losses have come on the road to teams that have combined for just six losses on the season. Furthermore, a deeper dig into the Hurricanes' numbers uncovers a team that is experienced and can be dominant in many ways and yet has improved significantly recently in the ways in which they are young and previously struggled. Regardless of whether this is viewed as a rivalry game or not and no matter where this game is played, Miami presents a difficult matchup for Florida State.
Miami is 6-3 straight-up and 5-3 against-the-spread this season against the 25th ranked schedule in the nation. The Hurricanes are up to #18 in our most recent College Football Power Rankings. Offensively, junior running back Duke Johnson leads the ACC in rushing with 1,213 yards and 7.7 yards-per-rush. Including a receiver, tight end and three offensive linemen, five seniors start on an offense that ranks in the top ten nationally on the ground. Through air, the team has made its biggest recent strides. Freshman Brad Kaaya struggled early, completing under 60% of his passes with seven interceptions in his first four games. In his last four starts, Kaaya has eight touchdowns to just two interceptions and has averaged 9.9 yards-per-pass (only Marcus Mariota has topped that mark for the entire season).
Defensively, Al Golden's team starts ten upperclassmen and has been tremendous as of late, holding five consecutive opponents under their per-game scoring averages. Miami is allowing just 4.2 yards-per-play, the seventh lowest mark in the FBS (out of 128 teams). In our strength-of-schedule-adjusted efficiency metrics, the Hurricanes rank in the top 15 against the run and the pass. Despite playing a top 25 schedule, the Hurricanes rank third in all of college football, out-gaining their opponents by an average of 2.6 yards-per-play.
This is not the same Florida State team that steam-rolled through the regular season in 2013. The Seminoles are undefeated, yet are just 2-6 ATS and have faced just the 51st ranked FBS schedule. They currently rank just 15th in our College Football Power Rankings and are outside the top 25 in the running game and against the run. Florida State lost its nose tackle, starting strong safety and three contributing linebackers from 2013. Those losses have shown on the field against the run. Against a markedly easier schedule, Florida State has only won by five more points on average than Miami. After accounting for strength-of-schedule and home field advantage for this game, that does not yield any discernible advantage, especially when considering that FSU has only out-gained its opponents by 1.2 yards-per-play (half of Miami's margin).
According to 50,000 games played by the Predictalator at PredictionMachine.com, Miami wins over Florida State 54.1% of the time and by an average score of 29-25. As two point underdogs winning straight-up, the Hurricanes cover the spread 55.6% of the time, which would justify a $34 play from a normal $50 better. The total goes UNDER 62.5 56.3% of the time, which warrants a wager of $41 from a normal $50 player. There are six stronger totals and 14 stronger against-the-spread plays according to our Week 12 analysis.