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2023 Week 1 Game Preview: Miami (OH) RedHawks @ Miami (FL) Hurricanes

Miami is probably going to win this game.

Miami Ohio v Kentucky Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Game notes

  • Time and date: Friday, September 1 at 7:00 p.m. ET
  • Network: ACC Network
  • Location: Hard Rock Stadium — Miami Gardens, FL
  • Spread: Miami (FL) (-17)
  • Over/under: 45.5
  • All-time series: Miami (FL) leads, 3-0
  • Last meeting: Miami (FL) 54, Miami (OH) 3 — November 7, 1987
  • Current streak: Miami (FL), 3 (1945-87)

Miami vs. Miami

It’s dubbed “The Confusion Bowl” due to the identical program names, and the broadcasters are going to have a blast in this opener.

Miami will occupy both sidelines Friday night in Miami Gardens, FL. Miami will win and Miami will also lose. But one Miami hails from Coral Gables, FL and the other from Oxford, OH.

In Florida, “Miami” is derived from the Native American word “Mayaimi,” which meant “big water.” “Mayaimi” was the original name for Lake Okeechobee, which then became the name for the Native American people living around the lake, and eventually transitioned into the name of a river in South Florida, and finally, a coastal city built at the mouth of said river. University of Miami is named after the metropolitan area in which it was founded in 1925.

In Ohio, “Miami” is derived from the Native American word “Myaamia,” an Alogonquian term which meant “downstream people,” referring to tribes residing around the Great Lakes region. The name was essentially assigned to the tributary of the Ohio River, and then to the valley occupying the surrounding area. Miami University is named for this valley which it was founded upon in 1809.

Yes, in terms of originality, the original Miami is Miami (OH), which was founded 116 years prior to Miami (FL). Even on the football field, Miami (OH) was first, as the Ohio-based university fielded a team in 1888 — 28 years before the Florida university launched its program.

During Sunday’s press conference, Miami (OH) quarterback Brett Gabbert was asked, “The real Miami’s where, Coral Gables or Oxford, OH?” to which Gabbert responded, “Oxford, OH — I think we’ll show them September 1,” officially igniting a weeklong rivalry between the similarly-named schools which haven’t met since 1987.

Miami RedHawks outlook

Miami (OH) is the model of continuity in the Mid-American Conference. The RedHawks hold the designation of the league’s longest-tenured head coach as Chuck Martin enters season 10 at the helm. Even his offensive and defensive coordinators enter their 10th seasons in Oxford.

But the continuity extends beyond the coaching personnel. Quarterback Brett Gabbert enters his fifth-straight season as the RedHawks’ Week 1 starter, and the redshirt junior has quite a polished résumé with a MAC championship, a bowl MVP, and an All-MAC appearance. Gabbert missed the majority of 2022 with a non-throwing shoulder injury sustained in the season opener. He retained a redshirt as he was limited to four games, but displayed tremendous efficiency with four touchdown strikes and zero interceptions across that sample size. In his last full season of action in 2021, he was lethal with two 400-yard outings, three 4+ touchdown performances, and a final touchdown-to-interception ratio of 26-to-6.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 23 Frisco Football Classic Bowl - North Texas v Miami (OH)
Miami (OH) QB Brett Gabbert won MVP honors of the 2021 Frisco Football Classic, a one-time bowl game against North Texas.
Photo by Steve Nurenberg/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Gabbert will rejoin the starting lineup for the first time since Nov. 8, 2022. But should the RedHawks need him, they also tout an experienced backup in Aveon Smith, who started nine games last season.

Since Gabbert missed nine games in 2022, Miami (OH) redefined its MO offensively and became more predicated on its rushing attack. The RedHawks return a similar cast of characters in the run game with Keyon Mozee as the feature tailback and Kenny Tracy and Kevin Davis as the more receiving-oriented options. Former South Carolina running back Rashad Amos also joins the mix, hoping to improve upon the team’s collective 3.8 yards per carry from last fall.

The passing game predictably took a step backward without Gabbert, finishing 10th-to-last in the FBS in yards per game. Miami’s passing offense overwhelmingly involved Mac Hippenhammer, who collected more than double the amount of receptions, yards, and touchdowns of any other RedHawk. Finding a new No. 1 is a priority Friday and several candidates exist including last year’s No. 2 option Miles Marshall as well as a slew of transfers looking for expanded playing time — Joe Wilkins Jr. from Notre Dame and Cade McDonald from Michigan State. FCS transfer Gage Larvadain could also become an instant force after dominating the Southland Conference the prior two seasons.

The RedHawks should be comfortable with their pieces at tight end and offensive tackle. Two tight end sets are quite common for Miami (OH) and the duo of Jack Coldiron and Nate Muersch should play a steady role in the passing game. And on the offensive line, the RedHawks return last year’s starting tackles Will Jados and Reid Holskey, in addition to Sam Vaughan — the Week 1 starting left tackle who suffered an immediate season-ending injury. The 6’7” Vaughan’s presence should be a welcoming sight against a sturdy Miami (FL) defensive front.

In Miami (OH)’s defense, nearly all key contributors from 2022 are retained with the exception of middle linebacker Ryan McWood and cornerback John Saunders Jr. The RedHawks are led by the versatile playmaking of outside linebacker Matt Salopek, a former safety and the team’s only returning All-MAC defender. Salopek surpassed 100 tackles for his second consecutive season, raking in 124 to go along with 9.0 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks.

Up front, the team generated pressure at a respectable rate and forced an onslaught of turnovers — particularly excelling in the forced fumbles department. Defensive ends Corey Suttle and Brian Ugwu were the premier pass rushers in 2022, combining for 11.0 sacks and 74 tackles.

NCAA Football: Miami (Ohio) at Northwestern
Miami (OH) nickel Michael Dowell ranked third in tackles last season, falling three short of the century mark.
David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

On the back end, four of five starters return in a 4-2-5 scheme. The safety room exudes copious amounts of talent and experience, showcasing the trio of Jacquez Warren, Eli Blakey, and Michael Dowell. Dowell, a former Michigan State commit, saw a breakthrough 2022 with 97 tackles and six pass breakups, and his coverage ability will be heavily relied upon at Hard Rock Stadium on Friday night.

Overall, this was the MAC’s top scoring defense and top run defense in 2022. The team didn’t excel against the pass to the same degree, but with a veteran defensive back corps, the potential to progress in that facet is on the table for 2023.

Miami Hurricanes outlook

Miami (FL) entered 2022 with a preseason No. 16 attached to its name and lofty expectations to contend in the ACC. But the program exited the season 5-7 with 24 or more points of separation in each of its final four losses.

Now, second-year head coach Mario Cristobal looks to leverage his impressive recruiting pedigree and a healthy mix of incumbent talent and transfers to accomplish what the program was set out for the year prior.

Miami (FL) returns Tyler Van Dyke at quarterback who missed parts of six games due to recurring injuries last season. Van Dyke’s status appeared in question as several reports concerning a thumb injury floated around, but Cristobal assured in his weekly press conference that the quarterback is practicing at full-speed and will be 100 percent Friday night.

NCAA Football: Middle Tennessee at Miami
Miami (FL) QB Tyler Van Dyke is set to return the lineup after missing substantial action in 2022.
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Van Dyke won ACC Rookie of the Year honors in 2021 for a season exhibiting 2,931 passing yards, 25 touchdowns, and only six interceptions. While his numbers took a step back in an injury-marred campaign, Van Dyke enters 2023 with a cleaner slate of health, hoping to see a repeat of his freshman year — when he ended the season with six consecutive 300-yard, 3+ touchdown outings.

The element of the offense where Miami (FL) seeks the most improvement lies within the run game. The Hurricanes racked up 128 rushing yards per game, finishing 95th in the FBS while exuding a 3.7 average. Henry Parrish Jr. returns as the lead back, but finding a second option to replace the transferred Jaylan Knighton is something the Hurricanes must figure out Friday night. Returning sophomore Donald Chaney, Nebraska transfer Ajay Allen, and 4-star true freshman Mark Fletcher are names to watch in that regard.

The premier receiving threat in this offense last year was tight end Will Mallory, who warranted a fifth round selection by the Indianapolis Colts. No other player on the roster secured 35 catches or 400 receiving yards, so new emerging talent must be witnessed in the wide receiver and tight end rooms. At receiver, transfer Tyler Harrell could assume a significant role after previous stops at Louisville and Alabama. Colbie Young (367 receiving yards, five touchdowns in 2022) and Xavier Restrepo (240 receiving yards, two touchdowns in 2022) are other likely starters expected to test the Miami (OH) secondary. And as far as the Mallory replacement, former Oregon tight end Cam McCormick followed Cristobal from Eugene to the 305 in hopes of seeing a production spike.

Several intriguing newcomers will make their debut on the offensive line Friday. All-AAC center Matt Lee transfers in-state from UCF, All-SEC guard Javion Cohen arrives from Alabama, and 5-star true freshman Francis Mauigoa — widely regarded as a top 10 recruit in the country — could make his highly-anticipated debut at tackle.

Like Miami (OH), the Hurricanes were more adept at containing the run than limiting the pass last year, and the combined result was the nation’s 65th ranked defense — sitting exactly in the middle-of-the-pack. However, there is no shortage of star-caliber talent in the unit which is headlined by junior free safety Kamren Kinchens.

NCAA Football: Miami at Georgia Tech
Miami (FL) FS Kamren Kinchens earned All-American honors as a true sophomore for a season featuring six interceptions.
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Kinchens earned 2022 First Team AP All-American honors for a season featuring a Miami (FL)-high 59 tackles complemented by an ACC-best six interceptions. Kinchens ballhawking abilities were well-documented and he produced 99 return yards on those six picks, complete with a pick six. The zone coverage specialist will certainly be on Brett Gabbert’s radar Friday as he attempts to pick apart a Hurricane defense led by a pair of transfer cornerbacks in Davonte Brown and Jaden Davis.

Elsewhere on the defense, the Hurricanes bring back the majority of their pressure up front with Akheem Mesidor and Leonard Taylor on the line. Both juniors registered 10.5 tackles for loss last season, leading the effort in limiting opponents to 143 rushing yards per game. Mesidor was the kingpin at getting to the quarterback with 7.0 sacks, and he’ll aim to power through a RedHawks’ line which allowed 2.9 sacks per game in 2022 — situated in the bottom 25 in the FBS.


It’s clear Miami is going to win this game at the expense of Miami.

But which Miami earns the honors of becoming the true Miami, at least for Week 1 of the 2023 college football season?

The RedHawks could be able to limit the Hurricanes’ rushing game, as they stifled a litany of opposing backfields in 2022, and that is not necessarily a strength of Miami (FL). But Tyler Van Dyke has shown his explosive capabilities as a passer before and Miami (OH) must be prepared for a barrage of medium-to-long passes Friday. A new premier receiving threat must emerge for the Hurricanes, who will remain one step ahead of the RedHawks throughout the contest.

Miami (OH) should be able to register a handful of touchdowns given Gabbert’s abilities as a passer, but the RedHawks may find a difficult time establishing a run game when pitted against the Hurricane defensive line.

In summary, Miami wins.

Prediction: Miami (FL) 30, Miami (OH) 21