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Countdown Q&A: Miami

Georgia Tech v Miami Photo by Lauren Sopourn/Getty Images

Another season is upon us, and therefore it’s time to embark on the whimsical journey of the weekly opponent Q&A. Sometimes we only gain a little insight, but often our football brethren from across the country share a wealth of knowledge about their respective teams and what we may see when they roll the ball out there in the next few days.

The Cards next opponent is the Hurricanes of Miami. After running through the nonconference slate the Canes stumbled out of the block in the ACC, but have a very talented team that will challenge the Cards all day. With a berth in the ACC Championship game on the line for Louisville, and the opportunity to knock off a Top 10 opponent for Miami, the stakes are going to be high. To learn more about the Canes I reached out to our friends over at ‘State of The U’ and talked with Cam Underwood to understand what type of situation the Cards are walking into at Hard Rock, and what Miami team he thinks might show up. Lets get it.

I take us back four months ago, mid-August timeframe, and I tell you the Canes handle their business in the non-conference, including taking down Texas A&M, and they get a win over preseason ACC favorite Clemson, and you have to think they’re in the thick of it for an ACC Championship appearance, right? But here we are, and it appears that ship has sailed in 2023. What happened this year where it appeared as if we got two different Miami teams at times during the season?

Texas A&M v Miami Photo by Lauren Sopourn/Getty Images

Yeah, it’s been a journey this season for Miami, that’s for sure. As you noted, things started well with a 4-0 non-conference portion of the schedule, including the 48-33 win over Texas A&M that, at the time, looked like it was going to be the landmark win that would push this team forward to success that hasn’t been seen in 15 years. However, it ended up being a win over a middling team, and not really indicative of anything, since that performance hasn’t been seen since.

The loss to Georgia Tech after the bye week — courtesy of the moronic, idiotic, unacceptable decision to not kneel the ball, with 33 seconds left, the lead, and the opposing team having no timeouts — was a clear line of demarcation for the year. Including that game (again, that should have been a win), Miami’s gone 2-4 after the calendar turned to October. And yes, one of those wins was in overtime against Clemson, but this year’s Clemson isn’t the CLEMSON of years past. So, like the Texas A&M game, it was a win, but not the landmark victory that the Canes hoped it would be.

So, what happened? Game management issues (GT), injuries (all over the roster), and, mainly, Tyler Van Dyke has turned into a turnover machine. The former 2021 ACC Rookie of the Year has not reached those heights since the TAMU game, and with 13 turnovers in his last 5 games, his penchant for giving the ball away has single-handedly killed the chances for Miami to win in those games. While he missed the Clemson game with a knee injury, Van Dyke’s issues have not been health-based; he’s mentally broken. He’s got the yips worse than anybody I’ve seen since Chuck Knoblauch or Rick Ankiel. He doesn’t trust his eyes; he’s thinking too much; he’s aiming the ball; and he’s scared of making mistakes....which doesn’t help because he’s still making mistakes. It’s been the worst and most inexplicable regression I’ve ever seen from a solid-to-good player such as Van Dyke has previously been. And that’s why this team is 6-4, basically.

Maybe I’m a bit dated in my viewpoint of the program, but my mind always gravitates towards Miami having a really good defense, and the offense trying to do enough to win tight, low scoring contests. Accurate or not over the last decade this year seems to fit that mold in some respects as the Canes are holding teams on average to around 20pts/g and have a stout run defense ranked Top 10 nationally (86yd/g), an area Louisville will absolutely try to test on Saturday. What makes the run defense so dangerous? Do you think they stick to that game plan and force Plummer to beat them with his arm?

Your viewpoint isn’t dated, it’s just....not very accurate. Miami’s never been an Iowa type team, wanting to play low scoring games. Miami has been a team with a good, speedy, disruptive defense, but.....that’s the only part of the question that I think actually fits where this program has been, or wanted to be.

Insofar as the Canes defense, the scheme has gone from a 4-2-5-ish look with an extra safety being the overhang player to a 3-3-5 stack look. That’s mainly due to the fact that Miami’s starting EDGE players from the opener — Akheem Mesidor and Nyjalik Kelly — are out for the year (Mesidor hasn’t played in 8 games so, even absent that announcement, I think that’s a safe assumption at this point), and at the same time, the Linebackers have been one of the best performing units on the team. That 3-3-5 can look a lot of different ways at alignment, and the athleticism of the players in the front has wreaked havoc on opposing offenses. Miami is among the top teams in the country in TFLs (tied for 12th with 77 TFLs), and that’s a credit to the scheme of DC Lance Guidry, and the athleticism of the players getting up the field to make plays in the backfield. With that front doing work in both rushing and passing situations, the secondary has been able to play well. CB Darryl Porter Jr. and S Kamren Kinchens lead that group.

Since changing to the 3-3-5 about a month ago, Miami has had their best defensive performances of the year. The goal is to make teams uncomfortable in the run game, and have QBs beat them with their arms. I don’t see any reason why they would change that up against Louisville. Jawhar Jordan is the clear best and most impactful player on the Cardinals offense. I’d much rather force Jack Plummer to try and beat us with his arm instead of letting Jordan run free all day. That’s not even a question, IMO. If Plummer is able to dial it up and hit throws against the pressure and coverage Miami will employ, then I’ll tip my hat and move along. But I’m damn sure gonna make him go out there and deliver the performance needed to get the win.

I was watching FSU-Miami Saturday and I tip my cap to the “grown man” play by Emory Williams to give everything to stretch for the first down late. As we know, unfortunately it left Williams sidelined and the QB role appears to be falling back into the hands of Tyler Van Dyke. You think TVD is the man this week or do they look at maybe Jacurri Brown to throw a wrench into the plan? If it’s TVD, what’s the concern? What’s the positives?

Virginia v Miami Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images

Mario Cristobal has already said that Tyler Van Dyke will return to the starting quarterback role, so that’s a concrete answer, not conjecture. The concern, as stated in the “why is this team 6-4?” question, is Van Dyke’s current and continuing issue with the yips. He’s not right mentally, and that’s had a massive negative effect on his performance. The concern is that, despite being benched for the FSU game, and despite the meetings with the sports psychologist and his grandfather (a former D1 athlete and coach), Van Dyke will continue to turn the ball over at breakneck pace. And he’ll be hesitant on other plays, that will also stall drives and see the Miami offense fail to gain the traction they’ll need for success.

The positives? Van Dyke is a veteran, he’s had multiple 400 yard, 3+ touchdown games, and maybe he wakes up and reverts to THAT version of himself, and puts on a show against Louisville. This was a player who had NFL aspirations, and chatter, heading into this year, and who dropped 374 yards with 5 TDs and 0 INT against Texas A&M....THIS SEASON!! He can make all the throws, and he can push the ball vertically, which is something Miami used to great success to beat Louisville a couple of times recently. Maybe that Tyler shows up on Saturday. That would be the positive.....if he’s able to make that happen.

And, in general, his experience is a big plus over Jacurri Brown, a physically talented but incredibly raw player who is still a ways away from being able to operate a passing game to a P5 level. Brown is redshirting this year — by design and also his request. He could appear in special packages, but if it hasn’t happened to this point of the year when those could have been useful in several other games, I find it hard to believe that, absent injury to Van Dyke, we see Brown at all on Saturday.

Cards look to be without a starting corner once again this week (Brownlee) and some key positions are still a bit banged up (Jordan, Brown, Thrash, etc). Outside of Williams, noted above, any other major injury news that may impact Saturday?

Mario Cristobal seldom talks about injuries, because Miami’s a private school so he doesn’t have to. But, he gave us a couple nuggets this week. RBs Henry Parrish and Ajay Allen were “close” to being ready for the FSU game and should be full-go this week. S Kamren Kinchens was battling a foot issue in the second half at FSU but he’s gonna give it a go. Starting corners Darryl Porter Jr. and Jaden Davis missed the FSU game and only played a handful of snaps, respectively. Their status will be key. Freshman Damari Brown and Sophomore Vanderbilt transfer Jadais Richard started in their absence...and did pretty well last week.

I like what wideout Xavier Restrepo brings to the offense, and while the Louisville defense has been solid this year, there are weapons on Miami that can create chaos. Who else should we be aware of on that side of the ball?

Restrepo is good. He’s better as a #3 than a #1 in a passing attack, but that’s a conversation I’ve had before.

The Canes OL and run game has been much improved this year. Miami will rotate between Mark Fletcher Jr., Donald Chaney Jr., Henry Parrish Jr, and Ajay Allen depending on who’s hot and the game situation. Each back has more than 280 yards on the year, so this is very much a group by committee. Each brings something different to the table, and that diversity of skill can be challenging for opposing defenses.

In the passing game, it’s been Jacolby George and Colbie Young joining Restrepo as the main (only) targets this year. George is a technician who abuses man coverage situations — see the 8 catch, 153 yard, 2 TD effort against FSU just last week for evidence of that. Young is a big 6’5” 215lb receiver, who is surprisingly quick and used in the tunnel screen game often. If it’s not George, Young, or Restrepo, the next receiver up is Brashard Smith, a speedster offensive weapon used on KR, at RB, and in the slot. After Smith’s 19 catches, no other player has double digits. So, really, Louisville should focus on those 4 receivers — maybe also account for Isaiah Horton, a 6’4” receiver with big play ability up the field — and that should cover the options Miami would reasonably look for on Saturday.

In the history of Louisville football, it would be tough to tell the story of the program without mentioning Miami. From the Top 15 win over the Canes in 2006 to launch them into National Championship conversations to the opening ACC win over the Canes to start 2014, there have been some happy moments on this side of the aisle, BUT....a big but....Miami is still dominating the series overall (11-3-1) and even the modern series (post-2000) is tied 3-3. One thing the Cards have yet to beat Miami at home. What’s your take on this one? What do we see happen at the Hard Rock nooner?

My take on this one is that there have been great moments for Miami against Louisville. Like in 2004 when Brandon Meriweather OBLITERATED that Tight End over the middle. Then Devin Hester’s punt return in that same game. “He’s got the punter to beat....HE BEAT HIM!!! THE MIAMI HURRICANES TAKE THE LEAD!!!” It was one of the games in our Games We Love feature a few summers ago. Y’all be sure to click that link and relive that game. It was FANTASTIC!

But, that was then and this is now. I don’t think Tyler Van Dyke is right, and without that, I don’t think Miami keeps that never-lost-at-home streak going against Louisville. I think the defense keeps things competitive throughout, but Tyler’s penchant for multiple turnovers will be the thing that tanks Miami’s chances for a win. And, while I don’t think Jawhar Jordan does his normal numbers, he can get loose once or twice and that will be enough to hurt a moribund Miami team that’s not gonna score much — by futility, not by design.

Final Score: Louisville 23 Miami 21


A big thanks to my guy Cam for not only providing the high level stuff, but giving us some depth to chew on for Saturday. Feel free to check out Cam and ‘The State of The U’ on TwitterX right here, for up to date Miami news. I’ll also link my Q&A with Cam over on SOTU right here.

I understand the concern about TVD, but it just seems like at least one of these “struggling touted recruit” always wakes up against Louisville every year. The fear of him reverting back to old on Senior Day and dropping 300+ yards has crossed my mind more than once, he is capable without question. The counter to that is the pressure from Louisville’s front should create challenges and I think a slow Miami start and a typical fast start for Louisville creates early separation the Canes can’t quite claw back from. I do worry about a slow 3rd quarter from the Cards, but I think a turnover at the end of the game seals the win. Cards 31-27.