This Friday, Miami University and the University of Miami (henceforth referred to as “other Miami”) will clash in the Battle of the Miamis. The namesakes will meet at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, and the matchup will be televised on ACC Network at 7 p.m.
“We’ve got the far superior university,” Miami football head coach Chuck Martin said in the game-week press conference on Friday, Aug. 25. “… It’s pretty cool, Miami vs. Miami. I’m worried about trying to block their [defensive] ends. See if our receivers can get open on their DBs, supposedly they got two first round safeties, a first round D-lineman.”
The RedHawks, who finished 6-7 last season, are hoping to keep the score close on Friday and maybe even sneak out of South Florida with an unlikely win over the Hurricanes, who finished 5-7 in 2022. Last year, Miami played pretty well in its games against Power Five opponents, keeping games close in the first half. The RedHawks went into halftime against then No. 20 Kentucky losing just 13-10, then against Cincinnati (who is now Power 5) losing just 24-17, and then they beat Northwestern outright, 17-14.
“Playing at Kentucky a year ago will help us,” Martin said. “We played hard and did a lot of good things, but we also did a lot of really goofy stuff on tape … When we watched the tape, we felt like we could’ve gotten more done.”
With about three minutes remaining in that Kentucky game, Miami star quarterback Brett Gabbert ended up under a Kentucky defensive lineman and sustained a clavicle injury that required surgery. He returned to play on Oct. 22, 2022, but sustained an ankle injury three weeks later against Ohio that ended his season.
“This is the best I’ve felt in four or five years,” Gabbert said at the same presser.
Miami is poised to have an excellent season, at least on paper. The team is returning its star quarterback, who quarterbacked the team to a Mid-American Conference (MAC) Championship as a true first-year in 2019. It’s returning most starters from a defense that was stingiest in the conference last season.
“We’ve got a ton of experience back on that side of the ball,” Martin said. “So I’d like to think we’re gonna take another step forward on defense … We led the league in scoring defense a year ago, but we also had eight new starters a year ago. Those kids for the most part are back.”
The team returns two running backs with career marks of at least five yards per carry (Kevin Davis and Kenny Tracy) and two more with Power Five carries (Rashad Amos and Keyon Mozee).
The wide receivers aren’t experienced, but there’s talent in the room and there’s 18 of them, in addition to six tight ends (talk about internal competition). Gabbert mentioned sophomore Reggie Virgil (6-foot-4, 190 pounds) and redshirt-first-year Javon Tracy (6-foot, 194 pounds) as receivers he expects to impact the Miami offense this season.
The offensive line returns three starters and Sam Vaughn, who was the starting left tackle before losing his season to a Week One injury last season. Punter Dom Dzobian and kicker Graham Nicholson are both back.
Enjoy what you're reading?
Signup for our newsletter
But other Miami should pose an extremely difficult test for Miami. You won’t find anyone who thinks the RedHawks are particularly close to the Hurricanes talent-wise.
“The biggest issue is, the guy who’s lining up across from you is gonna be big, strong and fast, and we’re gonna have to match that,” Martin said.
Not to mention, the RedHawks have to travel over a thousand miles to South Florida, where they’ll have to deal with likely unpleasant weather. The Weather Channel forecasts a high of 92 degrees and p.m. thunderstorms on Friday.
“We’ve played a lot of top end schools in my time here,” Martin said, “... but we’ve never gone across the country to play at a top end school.”
The RedHawks have doubtlessly watched plenty of tape on other Miami, but it’s still not clear what they should expect from the new-look Hurricanes, who have new coordinators on both sides of the ball this year. The RedHawk offense should be unpredictable too, though, and the defense is used to dealing with it, according to junior defensive back Jacquez Warren.
“[The offense] has been throwing a lot of new stuff at us,” Warren said. “With the amount of stuff that they’ve thrown at us, we can say we’ve played almost every team already. It’s been kinda crazy …”
Other Miami Preview
The RedHawks might actually have a chance to score some points on this Hurricane defense.
At the end of last season, the Hurricanes gave up 82 points in their last two games against Clemson and Pitt. They also gave up 45 to Middle Tennessee in late September.
They return All-American safety Kamren Kinchens and many more highly touted players around their defense, but they are replacing two cornerbacks and playing under a new defensive coordinator.
On offense, the Hurricanes return quarterback Tyler Van Dyke, who, like Gabbert, followed up an impressive 2021 season with a more middling 2022. Van Dyke threw for 1835 yards and 10 touchdowns last season and threw five interceptions in nine games. Van Dyke apparently dealt with a shoulder injury last season, so he could be back to his old self come Friday.
Martin said Van Dyke reminds him of Will Levis, who was drafted in the second round of the NFL draft by the Tennessee Titans last season.
According to experts, other Miami has built what could be one of the best offensive lines in the country, which will help on first-year offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson’s attempt to implement an air-raid system in Coral Gables. Like the RedHawks, the Hurricanes don’t have much established talent at wide receiver.
Many aspects of Friday’s game are uncertain, but one thing is for sure. The RedHawks are going to come out playing hard.
“We’re gonna have a lot of guys on that opening kickoff trying to win the game for us,” Martin said.
Friday’s game will be one of the most anticipated openers in years for the RedHawks, with how good this team seems poised to potentially be. Well, that and the name thing.
“I don’t think it’s weird at all,” Warren said. “I think it’s a good conversation starter and a good way to start off the season for us. Miami vs. Miami, we get to see who’s the real Miami.”