During Atlantic Coast Conference media days in July, Miami's players said they didn't want the Florida State game to a focal point of the season.
With a 34-23 loss at Cincinnati on Thursday night, not only has the glare of the Oct. 10 game against the Seminoles intensified, but it might decide coach Al Golden's future with the Hurricanes (3-1).
''This obviously is a big game for us and something we're excited about,'' Golden said during a conference call Friday. ''This game is always going to be a big game. It's really about response and our quest to be a consistent team week in and week out and we weren't last night.''
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If a five-game losing streak to Florida State isn't enough to anger Miami fans, there are a couple other disturbing trends. Under Golden, the Hurricanes are 15-5 in August and September, but 16-18 the remainder of the season. The loss to Cincinnati was their seventh double-digit setback in the past 18 games.
With a couple extra days to prepare for the Seminoles, Golden said the main areas of emphasis will be pass protection and improving on third down. After Cincinnati allowed 412 yards passing and didn't get a sack in a 53-46 loss at Memphis a week earlier, Miami passed for 281 yards and was sacked twice. Golden said Cincinnati regularly dropped eight into coverage and rushed only three yet was able to collapse the pocket.
The Hurricanes (3-1) also haven't solved their issues on third down and penalties. Miami was 4 of 15 on third-down opportunities and couldn't make a first down on two third-down plays under 3 yards. Penalties wiped out two touchdowns, including Corn Elder's punt return.
''If we can get more third downs that are manageable, our short yardage will definitely help that,'' Golden said. ''We're looking at all of it, including who were targeting, what we're calling and what we have to move to in terms of personnel and what our quarterback does.''
Linebacker Jermaine Grace, who suffered an ankle injury, is a possibility to be ready for the Florida State game. Golden noted that if this was a normal week, Grace would likely not have enough time to get ready to play.