Will the FSU game determine Al Golden's fate at Miami?

Miami fans’ bloodlust for a coaching change will be satiated for now. Then it’ll get ravenous again – especially if the Canes suffer an embarrassing loss at Florida State Saturday night.

Miami Dolphins coach Joe Philbin is out after just four games this fall.

Miami Hurricanes coach Al Golden now is under the griddle after a 34-23 loss at Cincinnati, and heading into this weekend’s rivalry showdown with Florida State in Tallahassee’s Doak-Campbell Stadium.

The Hurricanes knew they were going to see an inspired Bearcats’ team playing in a newly renovated stadium and record crowd of over 40,000.

But to score only 23 points against a team that gave up 53 the week before is bad man, just bad. In addition, Cincinnati played without a handful of its top players.

It’s also bad in that this is a Cincinnati team that Miami had beaten 11 times in a row. An Al Golden team also had never lost to a non-Power 5 school before.

Now, of the Hurricanes’ last 12 losses, 10 have been by double digits.

Florida State has issues of its own, particularly in its offensive backfield with the recent injuries suffered by Dalvin Cook, Mario Pender, and Johnathan Vickers. But the Seminoles haven’t lost to Miami since Jimbo Fisher arrived at FSU, and the home team is a solid 9.5 point favorite four days out this time around.

It’s never good when fans, especially Miami’s, see one of their coaches fired when they’ve pushed so hard for it. It just seems to empower them even more.

What people need to remember is that a coaching change – particularly in college – can be risky. A recruiting class can be greatly affected; and if the hire doesn’t resonate, top prospects could turn away from another rebuilding effort in South Florida, and butts won’t fill the seats, creating a destructive cycle for UM.

So in that regard, Hurricane fans might better be careful for what they wish for when they say they want Al Golden gone.

But for a proud program — and a fanbase that has considerable trouble adjusting to not being a national power on the gridiron — it would seem that a win over the Seminoles is just about the only thing that will get the critics off Golden’s back in the foreseeable future.

Given the magnitude of the FSU game for Miami — and the way that single game can affect the trajectory of the remainder of the season — this game will probably determine Al Golden’s fate with the Hurricanes, one way or another. That doesn’t mean he’ll get fired after the game if they lose, but it does mean that the writing may be on the wall come December.

Given the way the Hurricanes folded up and largely checked out after the narrow loss to FSU last year, it’s entirely reasonable to conceive a dreadful “wheels falling off” scenario to the second half of the season, with players verbally attacking coaches, and perhaps one another, and all sense of togetherness and fighting for a common goal getting thrown out the door.

Beat Florida State, and the Canes will be in position not only to realistically challenge for an ACC title, but also to tell recruits that there will be stability in Coral Gables after all.

A win over the Seminoles would give Miami some breathing room in league play. They could essentially slip up and lose to somebody like Clemson, and still win the Coastal Division if they run the table against those six opponents (Duke, UNC, Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh, Virginia, and Virginia Tech). They may even be able to suffer two ACC losses, but a loss to FSU and two other league rivals would more than likely keep the Hurricanes out of the Coastal Division’s top slot.

Lose to Florida State, and Miami heads into the second half of the season with minimal hope of anything but an improbable Coastal Division title run, and a possible rematch in the ACC Championship Game with the Noles. But that would take a nearly-perfect run to end the season.

There won’t be much margin for error with a loss in league play to the Seminoles. Another ACC loss — particularly one to a Coastal rival, thereby giving away a vital tiebreaker — could kill Miami’s chances of playing in Charlotte in early January. And it would likely kill any realistic chance that Al Golden will be welcomed back for a sixth season as Miami’s head coach.

While coaches are usually the first to tell people that one game doesn’t make a season, Miami’s upcoming game with Florida State is not just the 2015 season, but it’s Golden’s career hanging in the balance.