Kickoff: Noon ET
TV / Radio: ABC / 93.9 The Ville
Spread: Louisville -1.5, O/U 46.5 (FanDuel Sportsbook)
Louisville hosted College Gameday in week two of the 2020 season, but it would be the Hurricanes who spoiled the party for the Cardinals. Though Louisville outgained Miami (FL) 516-485, they gave up three turnovers to Miami’s zero, and constantly allowed big plays (including back-to-back one-play, 75-yard touchdowns on Miami’s first two drives in the second half). The 17th-ranked Hurricanes capitalized on these mistakes, along with a 325-yard, three touchdown performance from quarterback D’Eriq King, to pull out a 47-34 win over the 18th-ranked Cardinals.
Miami leads the all-time series 11-3. Louisville and Miami (FL) have split the last six meetings dating back to 2004, but the Cardinals have never beaten the Hurricanes in Miami.
Heading in: Miami Hurricanes
After starting 4-0 to open the 2023 season, averaging over 40 points per game in that stretch, Miami has lost four of its last six games. The Hurricanes enter Saturday’s contest with a 6-4 record, coming off a road loss to undefeated Florida State.
Miami Hurricanes Offense: What to Know
Miami’s quarterback situation has been a wild story this season. Tyler Van Dyke entered the season with some hype to return to his 2021 form (62.3% completion, 25:6 TD/INT ratio, 2,931 yards, and nine yards per attempt), but he has had a rough stretch from the start of October to now. After starting the first four games with ten passing touchdowns and just one interception, he’s thrown five touchdowns and 11 interceptions afterwards.
This eventually led to Van Dyke being benched for true freshman Emory Williams in last week’s game against Florida State. Though Williams made some big throws, he had accuracy issues, and eventually left the game with a brutal arm injury in the fourth quarter. This leads to Van Dyke returning on Saturday as the starter. Van Dyke has shown that he can be a big time quarterback, with a solid arm that’s capable of hitting most throws on the field. But again, turnovers are the key issue here. If Van Dyke continues to struggle with ball security, one has to wonder whether or not head coach Mario Cristobal would pull him again.
Van Dyke, however, has a pair of dynamic receivers that can make plays after the catch. Jacolby George is a big play threat, averaging 15.4 yards per catch while leading the team in receiving yards and touchdowns. Xavier Restrepo is another solid option that’s available, he leads the team in receptions and can usually provide a safety valve for Van Dyke.
Miami doesn’t have a workhorse back like they’ve usually had this century, but they have a very solid quartet that can rotate and make plays. Henry Parrish, Jr. (77 carries, 469 yards, four TDs), Donald Cheney, Jr. (87 carries, 464 yards, two TDs), and Mark Fletcher, Jr. (74 carries, 342 yards, two TDs) have each had 100-yard games this season, with Ajay Allen (58 carries, 282 yards, four TDs) also squeezing in reps as a true freshman.
Players to Watch: WR Jacolby George (46 rec., 707 yards, seven TDs); WR Xavier Restrepo (60 rec., 683 yards, four TDs); QB Tyler Van Dyke (66.7% completion, 2,086 yards, 16 TDs, 12 INTs)
Miami Hurricanes Defense: What to Know
To the surprise of probably no one that’s ever followed Mario Cristobal’s career, the Hurricanes boast an excellent defense under him. Miami leads the ACC in rushing defense (86 YPG allowed) and sacks (33), while also being second in the conference in tackles for loss (77), and third in total defense (312.5 YPG allowed).
The stats give this away when looking at the Hurricanes defense, but the reason for that is their front seven. They have outstanding depth and a great combination of youth and experience. Defensive end Rueben Bain has been excellent as a true freshman, logging 8.5 TFLs and 6.5 sacks with two forced fumbles. He’s a high motor player that has a lot of potential to be an elite player in college football, and potentially a high end draft pick in the coming years. Leonard Taylor III is another very talented player on the line that can cause mismatches with his size and athleticism (6’3″, 305 lbs.), he just hasn’t been able to replicate his 2022 season (10.5 TFLs, three sacks, six QB hurries).
The strength of the Hurricanes defense, though, is in their linebacker group. Francisco Mauigoa is another tremendous player, and he just makes impact play after impact play for them. 15 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles (all team highs) puts him in position for First Team All-ACC honors and potentially in the conversation for ACC Defensive Player of the Year. Corey Flagg, Jr., Wesley Bissainthe, and Louisville transfer K.J. Cloyd each have six tackles for loss and also provide depth to the unit. These guys can bring fire and energy to the team with their big hits, and it tends to reverberate with the entire unit if they can land big hits.
And if that wasn’t enough, Miami also has a good secondary, especially in the back end. Kamren Kinchens leads the team in interceptions and PBUs as a safety, he also can make plays in the run game if needed. James Williams leads the team in tackles (60) and is a huge presence at 6’5″ and 215 lbs., able to match up well with tight ends and be physical in run support. Williams was the 14th overall prospect in the 2020 recruiting class (per 247Sports), he has a high pedigree with very impressive physical traits, but hasn’t been able to take the next step to an elite level. Te’Cory Couch is a solid CB1 with man coverage skills.
Key Players: LB Francisco Mauigoa (15 TFLs, 6.5 sacks); DL Rueben Bain (6.5 sacks, 8.5 TFLs, two forced fumbles)
Keys to the Game
- Louisville needs to win the turnover battle
I’m getting the obvious out of the way; Louisville has to win the turnover battle and avoid making mistakes that have kept them in tight games away from L&N Stadium. Miami has a -10 turnover margin in their losses, their 20 turnovers is tied for the worst in the conference, and their -5 margin on the season ranks them 11th in the ACC. However, Louisville has a -2 margin in road/neutral site games (including -3 in the loss at Pitt).
Jack Plummer will need to play a clean game and be patient, find open receivers when he can. When Louisville’s defense is on the field, though, they’ll need to continue doing what has been successful for them; get pressure on Van Dyke, and try to force him into rushing throws into tight windows.
- Louisville may need to win the game through the air
With Miami’s defense leading the conference in rushing yards allowed per game, Louisville may need to find plays in the passing game to give them the edge. Louisville is averaging 215 rushing yards per game on 5.51 yards per carry since the bye week, but their two closest games so far (NC State and Pitt) have (A) been true road games, and (B) seen the Cardinals average just 1.62 yards per carry in those games.
And maybe Jordan / Guerendo can get the running game going. Miami did allow 235 rushing yards in their loss to North Carolina, and 138 in their win over Virginia. But UNC, along with Florida State, did average over eight yards per attempt with over 250 passing yards in wins over the Hurricanes. Guys like Jamari Thrash and Chris Bell will be important for Louisville to pull out a road victory and keep the chains moving, just as they did against NC State last October.
- Louisville has to limit the big plays by Miami (FL)
In spite of his turnovers, Van Dyke does possess some nice arm talent. He’s made some big throws and been able to hit them on a rope, I was definitely impressed in his game against Texas A&M back in September. It also helps that he has talented receivers like Jacolby George and Xavier Restrepo to get open and make plays, especially after the catch.
Louisville’s defense has been outstanding this season in terms of creating turnovers and getting crucial stops, but some of their closest games have seen teams be able to create openings and hit throws in the intermediate / deep range. Georgia Tech, Indiana, Pitt, and Virginia were also able to average at least 7.7 yards per attempt against the Louisville defense. Louisville will need to keep Van Dyke from hitting big throws and getting George or Restrepo to take over games, forcing them into third-and-medium or third-and-long plays would give the front seven a chance to create havoc and force Van Dyke to improvise with his feet.