Welcome back to rivalry week! The Miami Hurricanes face off against the rival Florida State Seminoles for the 2022 installment of the series between the teams. And, with Miami-FSU on deck, we convened the SOTU crew for our annual roundtable discussion about, well, pretty much everything heading into the game.
Question 1: Miami has been up and down and enters this game at 4-4 (2-2 ACC). How are you feeling about things heading into this year’s rivalry game against FSU?
Cam Underwood: I mean, it’s been a disappointing season for Miami. No question about that. But, honestly, I’m pretty checked out on this season. It’s all about recruiting and flipping this roster to get the kind of team Mario Cristobal wants. On the field, 4-4 and 2-2 — and LUCKY to even be that successful — against the schedule we’ve faced is really, really bad. But like I said, I’m focused on next year, so it’s whatever.
Justin Dottavio: Not good. FSU’s offense looks like it can score on explosive plays. Kevin Steele finds those normal. Josh Gattis doesn’t know what they are. Tyler Van Dyke is more than likely out; Jake Garcia is more than likely bad. FSU has a pass rush and Miami’s O-Line can’t pass protect. This one doesn’t feel good.
Craig T. Smith: Pretty terribly. Miami just can’t get in any kind of rhythm in the passing game this season, so if they fall behind on Saturday, which I think they will, it’s hard seeing them being able to pull off enough chunk plays to win. Or at least that’s felt like the story this year far too often. Saturday probably won’t be any different, unfortunately.
Jake Marcus: Cautiously optimistic as anything can happen in a rivalry game but QB Jordan Travis has been electric this season with his top target WR Johnny Wilson who averages over 20 yards a reception (odds are there will be at least one play where Wilson is found wide open for a long play past Miami’s secondary cohort). This hasn’t been a fun season and the only silver lining has been off-the-field with nabbing a commitment from Cormani McClain. Year two will be big for Cristobal where there will be less latitude for excuses. Small victories like beating the Noles at home, and salvaging some type of momentum in clinching a bowl game, would be a nice redemption prize for the season’s disappointing play.
John Michaels: Angry! The narrative from the beginning of the year, to where we are today has been a 180-degree turn. Miami was predicted by just about everyone to compete for the coastal and the floor was seen as an 8-4 type season. How can we go from that to a team that could not compete with Middle Tennessee St and Duke? The offense i the worst I’ve ever watched at The U. Coaching has been questionable at best, and the players have not come close to living up to preseason billing.
Chris Picaro: If not for recruiting, this is probably the lowest I have felt about the program in a while. Thankfully, Cristobal and the staff have me hopeful for the future. But I don't remember a time in the last decade when neither the offense nor defense has been so tough to watch. This feels like a bizarro opposite of the team from 2018 that was continuously destroyed by the punting game, but Lou Hedley is the only player I genuinely trust on the roster.
Mike Schiffman: Mostly apathetic. Miami is not good, don’t get me wrong. Worse than that though, is that they are not fun to watch on either side of the ball. Josh Gattis’ play calling is predictable. Fear not though, it’s also largely ineffective. Meanwhile, the defense will follow up a big sack or TFL with multiple missed assignments and blown tackles. I almost fell asleep checking the score of the Virginia game last week while I was tailgating for GA vs FL. An exciting game between two rivals would be a welcome jolt of energy to this bore of a season.
Rob Weaver: This season, awful. A Toilet Bowl berth is now the best case scenario. And yet, there’s still reason for optimism thanks to Cormani McClain’s commitment reminding Canes fans that Cristobal’s strength is his recruiting, and the 2023 class could be a Top 5 haul. Stacking recruiting classes is our only way out of this. Even if Cristobal can’t get the job done, if he can string together three or four top 10 classes and Cristobal’s staff still struggles to compete for conference championships and major bowl berths, then the cabinet will be stocked for the next staff. Just got to finish out this season and find some positives in the muck.
Question 2: Tyler Van Dyke was injured against Duke and may not play in this game. What are your early impressions of backup-turned-starter Jake Garcia and his prospects for performance against Florida State?
Underwood: Garcia is talented, but clearly needs development time. He flashes ability but is inconsistent, which is to be expected from a player with his dearth of game experience. He’ll need to take a BIG step forward from what we saw him do against Virginia to have a successful game against FSU. And I’m not counting on that happening, especially with the Miami OL offering little to no help in their failed efforts to protect whichever QB plays.
Dottavio: Garcia looks unprepared. I’m not sure if it’s the disconnect between Josh Gattis and Frank Ponce or what. Because Van Dyke also looked unprepared to start the season. When a head coach hires position coaches and the OC doesn’t that spells disaster. I understand Cristobal was worried about Gattis leaving, but right now, is he that worried?
Smith: The timing between Garcia and his receivers is off, he’s missed open guys, and he’s looked tentative going through his reads. Or at least that’s what it’s looked like to me. But the entire blame doesn’t fall on Garcia. Outside of Colbie Young, no one is getting open consistently. Miami’s young WRs, I’m afraid, are not what they were advertised to be when they were recruited, and that’s highly disappointing. When that’s happening, and when you have a QB that’s not sharp...well, that’s when you have this mess of an offense as a result.
Marcus: Garcia provided a nice sparkplug in the MTSU game but that may have been more a byproduct of being thrown into the fire and a different offensive scheme. He came back down to earth in a big way against Duke, where he once again came in for relief duty. And then against Virginia it was uninspired from start-to-finish. He definitely has potential but it seems like Tyler Van Dyke and Garcia are running different offenses and the entire formation is not in sync. If he can limit mistakes and build more rapport with everyone’s safety blanket, Xavier Restrepo, it’ll open up the offense in a big way. It sounds like Miami will run with at least two QBs this game, which indicates Jacurri Brown may provide an x-factor as Gattis implements creative in-game tempo changes.
Michaels: Garcia is a kid who is not ready to start. He has played like your typical backup QB all season long. He entered against MTSU, had a quick burst for the team and then petered out. It was the exact same thing against Duke, and he looked completely unsure of himself against Virginia. Garcia will fight for the job next year if TVD leaves, but it is no longer a guarantee that he will be the starter.
Picaro: I’m not willing to give up on Garcia quite yet. He has missed throws, make bad reads, and struggled all together. But so has the whole offense even with Van Dyke. But it is absolutely concerning that he has struggled and has Colbie Young to thank for not being completely terrible. Van Dyke struggled for a few games last season before going on a tear, but it’s pretty clear that TVD is a better quarterback than Garcia. Florida State is a top-25 defense in the country, so Garcia will need to improve a lot this week if the Hurricanes have any chance.
Schiffman: He’s not very good. The fact that Garcia looked live against Middle Tennessee State shouldn’t mean anything. Middle Tennessee State isn’t a good football team. Coming in for TVD against Duke, he missed throws and was rattled by pressure..against Duke. I know their coach, Mike Elko, is a smart defensive mind, but it’s still Duke; and Miami still has speed and skill at receiver and tight end. Garcia needs to trust his arm and talent around him. We’ll see if he’s capable of that on Saturday night.
Weaver: His first appearance against Middle Tennessee he came in with a ton of swag and tried to take command of that offense. And he succeeded, for the most part. But then he seemed absolutely overwhelmed against Duke. Last week against Virginia the offense looked like uber conservative Big Ten football. We looked like Iowa or Northwestern. I think that was an over correction to the turnover fest the week earlier. Hopefully this week will be something in the middle with Garcia getting a win under his belt and Xavier back to give him another reliable receiving option.
Question 3: Florida State is 5-3 (3-3 ACC), which is an improvement compared to years past and Miami’s record this year as well. What are your impressions of FSU on the field this season?
Underwood: FSU is starting to flash the elements of the program Mike Norvell wants to have. Explosive run game. Star DE wreaking havoc on opposing offenses. They’re doing some nice things, but it’s not like they’re 2013 national championship FSU or anything. Even still, they’ve been a bit better than Miami this year, and much better than they were last year, so credit where it’s due on that.
Dottavio: FSU has a really solid run game, Jordan Travis is protecting the ball much better than he had before, too. He’s turning into a real college QB instead of a single wing QB. FSU is hitting on big plays which hurts Miami. BUT, the ‘Noles have committed even more penalties than the ‘Canes. They’re sloppy and do some stupid stuff. They also can be beat through the air on deep balls, too.
Smith: Well, their offensive line has improved massively from previous years. They’re protecting Jordan Travis well - FSU is tops in the ACC in fewest sacks allowed - and they’re also running the ball nicely. Fortunately the strength of Miami’s team (by a mile) will be facing off against that unit. I just think Travis is playing significantly better than Garcia right now, so that gives them the edge.
Marcus: Impressed across the board as I expected them to be a hotter mess than what Miami has been this year. FSU has a lot of playmaking talent led by QB Jordan Travis, who has played like one of the best dual-threat passers this season as he has thrown for over 2,000 yards and has a 14:3 TD:INT rate. WR Johnny Wilson is pushing up his draft stock, while the balanced rushing attack of Treshaun Ward and Trey Benson (both with 72 attempts, 480+ yards, and 3 TDs) makes you have to defend in different ways. The defense is a bit banged up but CB Jammie Robinson and DE Jared Verse are two of the top 2023 draft prospects and UCF transfer tackling machine LB, Tatum Bethune, has been strong all season.
Michaels: They are better than they have been at any time during the Mike Norvell, which may save his job. Offensively they run the ball well, and Jordan Travis has turned into a solid QB. FSU plays hard, and even in 2 games where they were way behind, the Noles fought back into the game. Miami will go against a team that will fight to the final whistle.
Picaro: I’m not shocked they improved because their pass-blocking isn’t as awful as the years passed. For half a decade, the Seminoles couldn’t protect their quarterback if the entire program depended on it. This year, they have allowed only 10 sacks in eight games. A lot of credit for that can be given to Jordan Travis as a dual-threat quarterback, but not allowing over three sacks per game like each of the last four seasons makes a huge difference for their offense. They have their issues across the program, but that has been one of the major issues.
Schiffman: FSU better be improved this year. They went 8-13 their last two seasons and were irrelevant to the college football world. There was nowhere to go but up. QB Jordan Travis is better than I thought as his passing has been impressive this season. Other than that, they don’t seem much different to me. There is still consistent lack of discipline, missed opportunities on offense, and defensive breakdowns. Is Mike Norvell good? I don’t think he is.
Weaver: FSU looks improved but certainly not ‘back.’ FSU was competitive in their three losses against ranked competition (Clemson, Wake Forest, and NC State). Coupled with their signature win against LSU, and the Seminoles look close to competing again for major bowl births. Frankly, this might be Miami’s toughest opponent this season aside from Clemson.
Question 4: Miami enters this year’s game against FSU as a touchdown underdog. What would it take for Miami to earn victory against the Noles?
Underwood: A lot to go right that hasn’t very often this season. +2 or better in turnover margin. A field-tilting (and scoring?) advantage on special teams. Really great tackling. Tyler Van Dyke healing faster than Wolverine to come back in 2 weeks from whatever undisclosed shoulder injury he sustained against Duke that Cristobal won’t tell us. WRs getting separation. Fewer than 4 penalties. Excellent clock and game management from the coaching staff. And, last but definitely not least, a player for Miami stepping up to make a POSITIVE game changing play, not a disastrous blunder. Yanno, just a few things.
Dottavio: Miami will have to hit on explosive plays on offense, protect the QB, and keep a run game going to some degree. Some major kicking game wins would help, too. Big returns, pin them down on a punt or two, maybe recover an onside kick or pick up a first down on a fake punt. Cut the turnovers way down, keep the penalties to a minimum. Find some way in hell to control Travis on 3rd and long!
Smith: Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. I don’t think Miami’s offense is capable of moving the ball on extended drives very often against FSU’s defense, so it will take Leonard Taylor, Mitchell Agude, Caleb Johnson, Nyjalik Kelly, Jahfari Harvey, Jared Harrison-Hunte, and the rest of the Canes front seven forcing some mistakes to have a chance. If Florida State’s line dominates, then turn out the lights....the party’s over.
Marcus: Limit mistakes and more efficient offensive prowess. Miami has looked completely flat in recent weeks and have reverted back to some lazy play on the field. FSU is certainly beatable but Miami will need momentum, especially on the offensive side.
Michaels: Score touchdowns when they reach the red zone. Miami has moved the ball fairly well in between the 20’s. but has been mostly horrible in the red zone. Games like this are all about momentum, and Miami must seize all of those chances. Coach Cristobal also needs to take points when they are there. one of the biggest indictments on this staff is going for it at the wrong times, which can stymie momentum the wrong way.
Picaro: The Seminoles are blowing 145 yards per game on the ground. Henry Parrish Jr. and company need to have success running the ball to help Garcia out. But Garcia also needs to take advantage of that success in the ground game, hitting open receivers consistently. They also need to limit penalties as a unit, not killing drives on their own. The defense needs to do the same, not making it easy on Florida State and letting them shoot themselves in the foot.
Schiffman: Big, huge, gigantic offensive plays. Jake Garcia needs all the help he can get. I don’t see him leading ten-plus play scoring drives, even at home. Miami needs their former quick strike offense to return. Throw the ball deep. Let Colbie Young go up and make a play. Draw a defensive pass interference penalty. Run a couple trick plays. Gattis has to let the young kids loose Saturday night or this could get ugly.
Weaver: No negative outlier stats. No ridiculous number of chunk plays (Middle Tennessee). No ridiculous number of penalties (UNC). No ridiculous number of turnovers (Duke). Miami needs to play fundamentally sound football with a clean stat sheet, and then trust their big playmakers to make a few chunk plays.
Question 5: Which star FSU transfer will have the bigger impact on the result of this game: WR Johnny Wilson or EDGE Jared Verse? And, how can Miami neutralize them to mitigate their impact.
Underwood: Jared Verse. Miami’s offensive line hasn’t been great protecting quarterbacks and Jermaine Johnson II was a menace for FSU against Miami in this same spot last year. Apart from the 304534808 5-star DL on Texas A&M’s roster, Verse is the best defensive lineman that Miami will have faced to this point of the season. And I think his impact in this game will be substantial. That, and I’m much more keyed into FSU’s running game than passing game, though I admit that Wilson is very good and incredibly large for a WR (6’7” 235).
Dottavio: Tough one. I want to say Wilson because of Miami’s inability to communicate in the back seven and FSU’s explosive plays. But then for Verse the pass rush in ‘21 killed Van Dyke and the offense early and John Campbell and DJ Scaife have played terribly against any DE’s with a pulse. Oof. Uh... I’ll go with Wilson because I know Miami can’t score so two TD’s from one WR could be all FSU needs.
Smith: Wilson. I watched him absolutely dominate the Louisville game and I said to myself, “oh man, he could be a problem.” And that was BEFORE MTSU and Duke looked like the 2022 Miami Dolphins’ offense against the Canes’ defense. Wilson could be in for a massive day unless the communication and tackling on the back end are far better than they have been this year at Hard Rock Stadium.
Marcus: Verse, even though he has been slightly banged up. Last year, 2022 first round draft pick, Jermaine Johnson II, feasted on the Canes’ OL with three sacks. Verse is extremely athletic and will be working alongside a formidable defensive tackle in Robert Cooper and linebacker Tatum Bethune. Canes’ right guard, Anez Cooper, is coming off a strong game but it will take the entire unit clicking to protect the Canes’ signal caller. Wilson’s averaging over 20 yards a catch but the U somehow neutralized MTSU’s big target, Izaiah Gathings, but definitely got beat in other ways. Canes could definitely put all their eggs in on covering Wilson, but then they’ll get beat in the run game or by WR2 Mycah Pittman.
Michaels: Johnny Wilson is 6’7” and can run, and if FSU can effectively run the ball, then Wilson will be the guy who they take big shots with. Miami has given up some monster plays on play action throughout the year and cannot allow that to happen this week. He is also a matchup nightmare down in the red zone, so it will be interesting how Miami defends him 20 and in.
Picaro: This comes down to who will consistently change the game. Has the defense figured out how to limit the huge plays? Will the offensive line make any improvements and not get worked all game? I see Verse in the backfield all night and making constant plays. Wilson will have his moments, I’m sure. But it is Verse who scares me. The offensive line has looked foolish against lesser players this season and I don’t see anyone stopping him in this game. Hopefully, the offense can overcome his playmaking ability.
Schiffman: Verse. He’s terrifying. Miami does not have an offensive lineman who I would want to block Verse one-on-one (Zion Nelson doesn’t count because he doesn’t play). I think Tyrique Stevenson and James Williams have the ability to contain Johnny Wilson and not let him win the game. However, if Verse is able to get into the backfield consistently, Garcia’s confidence will be shot by halftime and the rest of FSU’s defense will have all the confidence in the world.
Weaver: Considering the shambles that Miami’s offensive line has been this season, I’m way more concerned about Verse who could see this as an opportunity to return to his early season form. Verse started the season strong with 2 sacks against LSU, but since has been beaten up a little bit missing the Boston College game and being limited a bit thereafter due to a knee injury. Slowly but surely some injured Canes linemen are starting to see the field again, and the RB’s did a better job last week of not being a turnstile on pass protection. Garcia and the O-Line have to watch for Verse on every play and ensure the protection checks are sound.
Some good answers, and some thought-provoking points about this week’s Miami-FSU matchup.
Keep the conversation going in the comments below. Roundtable part 2 drops later today.