The biggest game on the 2023 University of Miami schedule has a strikingly similar feel as the biggest game on last year’s Miami schedule.
Rivalry week in Florida will end with Miami (6-3, 2-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) at No. 4 Florida State (9-0, 7-0) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday (ABC) in the 68th installment of one of college football’s most exhilarating showdowns. But will it end with Tyler Van Dyke as the Hurricanes’ quarterback?
More pressing: Will it begin with Van Dyke as the Hurricanes’ quarterback?
“What I would say is that we’re always competing at every position, we’re always assessing and we always make the decisions that give us the best chance to win,’’ Miami coach Mario Cristobal said early this week regarding the starting quarterback question.
Van Dyke, who early last month was No. 2 in the nation in passing efficiency, is now No. 41. He has had two consecutive poor performances and has thrown 10 interceptions in his past four games. He is 170 of 251 (67. 7 percent) for 2,057 yards and 16 touchdowns, with 11 picks. He was pummeled and sustained injuries to his right knee, back and ribs in an Oct. 14 loss at North Carolina.
Last year, on Nov. 5, Van Dyke also went into the FSU game ailing after being held out of the previous week’s game because he had sustained a third-degree AC joint sprain of his right shoulder Oct. 22 against Duke. He was clearly not well enough to start, but start he did. He lasted eight passes for 24 yards and left the game early in the second quarter.
Van Dyke’s 2022 replacement, redshirt freshman Jake Garcia, threw an interception on his first pass. Garcia was replaced after one subsequent completion to make way for then-freshman Jacurri Brown, who finished 5 of 9 for 37 yards, with an interception, and ran 14 times for 54 yards.
FSU won 45-3 for UM’s worst home loss in series history.
Garcia transferred to Missouri, and Brown, now a sophomore, has not played this season. Brown can participate in each of the final four games, which includes a bowl, without losing his redshirt status.
Van Dyke’s 2023 backup, true freshman Emory Williams, was 24 of 33 (72.7) for 151 yards and one touchdown, with one interception, in his lone start Oct. 21 at home against Clemson. UM won the game in double overtime, and Williams has not played since. If he plays at FSU, it will be his fifth game and he will be unable to claim this season as a redshirt year.
Either way, be assured the Seminoles, who already clinched a spot in the ACC Football Championship on Dec. 2 and are well on their way to a College Football Playoff semifinal should they keep winning, will be ready for fourth-year junior Van Dyke or No. 2 Williams at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee.
‘One of greatest games’
“What better week than this week?’’ FSU coach Mike Norvell said Monday at his news conference. “This is what college football is all about. One of the greatest games this country has. Everything we’ve done throughout the course of the year is to prepare you for this moment, for this week...’’
Florida State, favored by 14 1/2 points, averages 40 points a game and is led by redshirt senior quarterback Jordan Travis of West Palm Beach. Travis is 186 of 289 for 2,469 yards this season, with 19 touchdowns to only two interceptions. He has rushed for 190 yards and another seven touchdowns.
FSU is No. 9 in scoring offense and No. 16 in scoring defense (17 points a game allowed). The Seminoles are 33rd in total defense (332.6) and 17th in total offense (458.3). They are the only team in the country that did not allow a passing touchdown in October, and now rank 16th in red zone defense.
Cristobal wants this game badly. He’s a proud former Hurricanes player whose season has slipped and knows the significance of a win against UM’s archrival. “It’s always a good time for a rivalry game,’’ Cristobal said. “That’s what college football has always been and will always be about. The intensity, the pageantry, the passion behind it is awesome.
UM finished 5-7 last year in losing three of its last four games. The Canes have lost three of their past five.
“No time to turn the dial down,’’ insisted Canes freshman running back Mark Fletcher, who earned ACC Rookie of the Week with a career-best 115 yards on 23 carries in his first start in last week’s 20-6 loss at NC State. “We gotta turn it up. ...To beat FSU is what you come to Miami for.’’
This series, which Miami leads 35-32, is punctuated by streaks. Florida State had won seven consecutive UM-FSU games before Miami made it four in a row from 2017 through 2020. Then, in 2021, FSU scored 11 points late in the fourth quarter to win 31-28 before last year’s win made it two in a row.
Turnovers, naturally, could be integral in determining the victor Saturday. Van Dyke, who has been slammed unmercifully by UM fans on social media since last week’s loss, will have to disregard the naysayers and become the old “TVD” if he is to pull off a turnaround.
“He’s good, he’s tough, he’s resilient,’’ Cristobal said of Van Dyke. “I don’t know how much social media affects him... That can never be a factor. That has nothing to do with the work that needs to be done. ...He is very determined to be the best teammate he could possible be and the best player.’’
Said freshman defensive end Rueben Bain, who leads UM with 6 1/2 sacks and is thrilled to play in his first UM-FSU game: “With Tyler, we just love him up.
“That’s our quarterback. We’re always going to stick beside him.’’