Welcome back to rivalry week! The Miami Hurricanes face off against the rival Florida State Seminoles for the 2023 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 6-3 (2-3 ACC). How are you feeling about things heading into this year’s rivalry game against FSU?
Cam Underwood: Pretty bad, to be honest. Despite the defense doing everything they can to keep Miami in games recently — like last week at NC State — Tyler Van Dyke has lost the plot, turned into a football version of Oprah — you get an interception, you get an interception! — and regressed to the worst performances we’ve seen from him in his career. So, on the heels of that failure, we stay on the road to face an FSU team that, while not perfect, is playing MUCH better football than we are. Do. Not. Like. This. At. All.
Justin Dottavio: “Not great, Bob!”- Peter Campbell. I expected three losses, but to teams with a little more fight than NCSU and Georgia Tech (ie. a better Clemson and Texas A&M). This has made it a ‘weird’ year. So you can beat Clemson and TAMU, but not GT and NC State? Just more boring offense, bad QB play, and strange coaching from the CEO.
Craig T. Smith: Discouraged. There’s absolutely no way this team should have lost to NC State. That is a bad, bad, bad, uninspired, no good loss against a team that Miami is significantly better than talent-wise. Hearing Shannon Dawson’s comments afterwards about (not) using Brashard Smith just further prove to me this offense is not just broken, but also being grossly mismanaged. And Tyler Van Dyke is unfixable at this point, I fear. That’s a massive shame because I think Miami’s defense is good enough to keep them in the game against FSU.
Mike Schiffman: Disappointed. I had no expectations for this year after the disaster that was the 2022 season. Then the Canes stomped a flawed, yet talented Texas A&M team. The defense was (and still is) better than I thought it was going to be. The offense was explosive again. However, that all changed once ACC play started. Tyler Van Dyke and Miami’s passing offense looks as bad as I’ve seen in a long time. I don’t know how that changes against what is likely the best team they will play all year in FSU.
Rob Weaver: Terrible. I predicted 8-4 at the start of the season, and it’d take a miracle to hit that mark. Miami’s last three games are against the likely ACC Championship game participants plus traveling to a bowl-eligible Boston College team in winter conditions. 0-3 is more likely than 2-1. And it’s a shame too because our offensive line is improved, our defense is improved, basically everyone is improved except Quarterback (which has grossly regressed) and WR/TE (which are stagnant but serviceable).
Jake Marcus: Cautiously optimistic. After a rough October, the season could be salvaged a bit with a rivalry win. Starting the season with promising victories may have gotten our hopes up, but that hope was quickly eviscerated by the collapse against the Yellow Jackets. Really the only hope left for this season is showing fortitude in the final games. Otherwise, if they fail to put it together over the final three weeks, this could be a slippery slope of a lost program for years to come.
Question 2: Tyler Van Dyke has struggled recently, with 10 interceptions in his last 4 games. What are your thoughts on Miami’s QB situation heading into FSU?
Underwood: He’s been so bad that I actually answered this in the first response. TVD’s mental game is shot. He’s got the yips like Chuck Knoblauch or Rick Ankiel. You watch him and can see him THINKING his way through every play, not reading and reacting. He’s a shell of the player we’ve seen him be previously, and it couldn’t be coming at a worse time (not that there’s a good one). My thought is this: either ride with TVD all year and maybe sprinkle in some Jacurri Brown — who can play in every remaining game including the bowl game and still redshirt.....or burn Emory Williams’ redshirt, hand him the keys, and turn over the team to him from here on out. I’ll let you debate which path Miami should take, but that’s the fork in the road I see Mario deciding between at this point regarding QB.
Dottavio: Cristobal either needs to go all in on Van Dyke, or all out. You can’t handcuff the guy and say, “Don’t make this throw or that throw,” he has to just make the reads, run the offense, and play football. If he blows up the 1st quarter, or half, pull him for Emory Williams. If you’re starting Williams, you can’t pull him after one or two mistakes. Then Williams and Van Dyke are ‘broken’ QB’s and ‘24 is another figure it out year, vs. the year to make that big push to the ACC Championship Game.
Smith: I talked about it in Monday Musings, but this is a terrible spot to put Emory Williams in. He’s the future of this team, and he’s coming off an uplifting showing against Clemson. Don’t throw him to the wolves in a game that Miami probably isn’t winning either way. If you want to shake it up, give Jacurri Brown - who’s faced a tough road environment before - a look. His running skills could also add a much-needed element to this stagnant offense. Hand the keys to Williams next week and move on in that direction without looking back.
Schiffman: I’m confused. I don’t know what else the coaches need to see in order for them to make a change. I’d rather see Emory Williams and Jacurri Brown platoon at quarterback at this point. Tyler Van Dyke is missing open reads he has no business missing. He looks terrified when he’s not handing the ball off to a running back. It’s not working with him. Maybe he’ll put on the cape against FSU and play like he did in 2021..but I wouldn’t expect it.
Weaver: Not since Kirby Freeman have I seen a Hurricanes quarterback regress so badly. Kirby. Freeman. TVD’s regression is completely throwing off Offensive Coordinator Shannon Dawson’s play calling. We saw against Texas A&M what Dawson can dial up with a good quarterback. But Van Dyke is misfiring and misreading most non-screen plays. I know football is a team sport, I know a college football team is mostly teenagers, but all criticism of Van Dyke is valid and well deserved because the quarterback play is the number one reason this team isn’t taking the next step.
Marcus: I really really want to give Van Dyke the benefit of the doubt that the hand issue is causing all these problems, but that is even becoming difficult to justify. Similar to this Canes’ team generally, a bounceback season for TVD looked to be on the horizon. However, all his confidence looks lost as he is just making terrible reads routinely at this point. Early in the season, it seemed he was doing a strong job of divvying the ball up in Shannon Dawson’s air raid offense. However, he reverted back to a shell of himself that we saw his sophomore year and stays locked onto his favorite target, Xavier Restrepo, for wayyy too long. I’d like to see what Emory Williams or Jacurri Brown can get done implementing Dawson’s concepts.
Question 3: Florida State is 9-0 (7-0 ACC), on a 15 game winning streak dating back to 2022, ranked in the top 5, and have already clinched a berth in the ACC Championship game. What are your impressions of FSU on the field this season?
Underwood: They’re a solid team, with top-end players in key spots — QB, WR1, EDGE — and they ride those players to victories. They’re not an OVERWHELMING FSU team, but they’re damn good, have gotten pretty lucky (Boston College, Clemson), but they’ve also made their luck. And when you combine the good they are with the luck they’ve gotten/created, that’s how you get to mid-November with an undefeated record. So a begrudging kudos to them.
Dottavio: When Keon Coleman and Johnny Wilson are both healthy- they’re what I thought UNC would be, which is really darn good. Norvell took his lumps in 2020 and 2021 to come out on the better side of it so far. His biggest achievement is turning Jordan Travis into a quarterback rather than a singlewing runner. He may not play QB in the NFL but he could be a College Football Playoff QB.
Smith: Mostly good, but they’ve played some stinkers this season. Clemson, with even a below-average college kicker, wins that game. Boston College could have won. However, FSU looks to be getting a little healthier in their banged-up WR room, which bodes poorly for Miami on Saturday. I still see Tez Walker running through the Miami secondary in my nightmares.
Schiffman: They are incredibly talented, but have played stretches of bad football in several games this season. Jordan Travis is super athletic and can improvise about as well as any quarterback in the country. That said, he seems to still make a couple big mistakes per game. What I just wrote about Travis could also describe their defense as a whole. It’s up to Miami to take advantages of those mistakes.
Weaver: Equally impressive and vulnerable. Jordan Travis practically has ACC Player of the Year honors locked up, and is currently third in the Heisman odds according to Draft Kings. RB Travis Benson is playing at an all-conference caliber. WR Keon Coleman is a stud, although he’s banged up. The defense has yet to surrender 30 points against anyone, and have held opposing teams to 20 points or less for five straight games. On paper they’re hard to fault, and yet when you watch a Seminoles game they lack that explosive flair you’d expect from a national title contender. There's a reason the CFP Committee ranks them behind Georgia, Ohio State, and Michigan. The Seminoles remind me a little bit of TCU last year - really good, and favored to make the playoff, but you have to wonder what would happen when they face Georgia or Michigan or even Louisville.
Weaver: They are a really good team with studs across the board, especially on offense led by Jordan Travis, Keon Coleman, Trey Benson, Jaheim Bell, and Johnny Wilson. Jared Verse was the top returning pass rusher in college football and is proving his worth in the return season, but is also assisted by tackling machine, Tatum Bethune, and secondary weapons, Akeem Dent and Jarrian Jones. Even though they’re a playoff contender right now, this team is not flawless. Coleman may be the best WR in the nation not named Marvin but he was locked up for one catch for 2 yards against Boston College where the Seminoles narrowly skated out of Chestnut Hill with a win 31-29. Similarly, they were trailing Duke going into the fourth quarter and needed overtime to take down Clemson. The Noles are not untouchable.
Question 4: Miami enters this year’s game against FSU as a 2 touchdown underdog. They were touchdown underdogs before losing by 6 TDs in this game last year. What would it take for Miami to earn victory against the Noles?
Underwood: A lot to go right that hasn’t very often recently. +2 (really +3) or better in turnover margin. A field-tilting (and scoring?) advantage on special teams. Really great tackling. Tyler Van Dyke figuring his shit out and playing like he did against Texas A&M (or better) instead of turning the ball over nearly 3x a game as he has for the last month (11 turnovers in 4 games). 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: Travis going down would slow down the FSU offense, but they’d still be as good as NC State without him, but with a better defense. So Miami would have to have a positive turnover margin, no stupid personal fouls on 3rd down, and hope to score on FSU’s defense. ie. I can’t see it happening, even with Travis out.
Smith: It’ll come down to the defense playing absolutely out of its mind and creating multiple turnovers in the process. Miami will have to be able to move the sticks consistently on the ground, which FSU is surely going to load up to try and stop. A herculean effort from Miami’s defense, offensive line, and a few key completions from whoever starts under center.
Schiffman: The defense has to be dominant. Lance Guidry’s unit needs to get off the field on third downs. They need to force multiple turnovers. They need to put heat on Jordan Travis. They need their best players to have their best performances of the season. That means Rueben Bain Jr., Leonard Taylor, Francisco Mauigoa, and Kam Kinchens must lead the way by example. They need to make big plays, while not having any big lapses.
Weaver: A quick start coupled with a lights out performance by the defense. FSU is a second half team that frequently starts slow. Five times this year FSU was tied or trailing after the first quarter (LSU, Boston College, Clemson, Duke, and Pitt) and three times tied or trailing at halftime (LSU, Clemson, Duke). Miami might be the best defense FSU sees this regular season, so if FSU has another slow start, and Miami finds itself with a one or two score lead at halftime, the Hurricanes will have a puncher’s chance at the upset.
Marcus: Pretty much resurrect whatever they did for the first month of the season. That will be largely dependent on QB play so Van Dyke needs to wake up. They’ll also need a little help. That is, if we see an FSU team similar to what they brought against BC, Duke, or Clemson, the chances of Canes’ success are increased dramatically. Quick start will be key as well.
Question 5: WR Keon Coleman is the latest transfer to step into a starring role at FSU. How can Miami neutralize his impact on Saturday?
Underwood: Step 1: watch the film of Miami trying to defend WR Tez Walker at Carolina. Step 2: DO THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF THAT. And roll double coverage his way. And vary the coverage looks. And get pressure with 4 up front so Travis doesn’t have time to sit and wait for Coleman to get open.
Dottavio: You can’t give Coleman a cushion or he’ll screen you to death. You can’t play him press man without an elite CB. Does Miami have an elite CB? I heard a lot about Porter Jr. and Davis in the preseason, where are they? We’re back to Couch (and I like Couch for his effort) getting a ton of PT. The answer is, you probably can’t.
Smith: Don’t let him get the football. Miami will need to pressure Travis and keep him from kicking his feet up and picking his poison. But if there’s one area where I like Miami’s chances, it’s in the defensive front.
Schiffman: I’ll leave the specifics on guarding Coleman to Coach Guidry. Obviously, the best way to truly neutralize him is to put constant pressure on Jordan Travis. Miami’s success this Saturday starts with their defensive line. If they can wreck the game consistently, the Canes have a chance. If not, Coleman is going to have time to get open, and Travis will find him.
Weaver: Hope that he can’t take the field. He’s questionable although Mike Norvell hopes he’ll be back “extremely soon.” But seriously, Coleman is giving me flashbacks to UNC’s Devontez Walker, another highly touted transfer who smoked Miami for 132 yds and 3 receiving touchdowns a few weeks ago. The one difference since UNC is Miami’s continued improvement on the defensive line, led by the emergence of freshman phenom Rueben Bain, Jr. If Jordan Travis has to get the ball out quickly, that’ll limit Coleman’s ability to race down field or find his way to open pockets.
Marcus: Coleman may be the best WR in the country not named Marvin and with a successfully pre-draft process, he could be a top ten pick. Sidenote, Coleman was part of a Michigan State Spartans roster that had current NFL WRs Jalen Nailor and Jayden Reed, as well as NFL RBs/FBs Kenneth Walker III and Connor Heyward, yet ranked 39th in the country in points per game. Similar to the stacked offense for Sparty, the Noles have plenty of weapons that can beat you outside of Coleman, including 6’7” WR, Johnny Wilson, who was one of the only weapons Miami was able to lock up in last year’s 45-3 debacle. RB Trey Benson and TE Jaheim Bell will be playing on Sundays, which is all orchestrated by the QB who keeps climbing up Heisman charts, Jordan Travis.
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.