Miami and FIU return to the site of many historic college football contests, when they take the field at Marlins Park on Saturday night.
The stadium is built on the same grounds as the historic Miami Orange Bowl, which stood from 1937 to 2008 and hosted two prior contests between these programs.
I caught up with Gaby Urrutia from our SB Nation sister site, State of The U, to preview the game.
Also, here are my answers to their questions.
1. How is Jarren Wiiliams progressing? Is what we’ve seen the last few weeks indicative who he is as a quarterback?
SOTU: Williams’ progression throughout the year can’t be understated.
He took 10 sacks against Florida to open the year and at least five of them were on him. He didn’t know how to work the pocket or keep his eyes down field.
Now, you’re seeing an extremely confident guy that has completely shifted the way he works in and climbs the pocket and has completed eight passes that went 30+ yards in the last two games, plus the last drive against Pitt, which was the only one he played.
He’s 44/67 (65.7%) for 616 yards and nine touchdowns since returning from his injury and I believe this is who he truly is when healthy.
2. Just how good is this Miami defense?
SOTU: They’re really good up front. I don’t think there’s a better and more versatile pass rusher in this country than Greg Rousseau, other than Chase Young.
You also have Jon Garvin, who had 17 tackles for loss in ’18, and is still a dominant player that deals with a ton of double teams and extra attention.
Seniors Shaq Quarterman and Mike Pinckney are having career years at the linebacker spot and they are as solid as they come.
It’s a fast and powerful defense that’s top five nationally at both tackling for a loss and sacking the quarterback. In the back end, it gets much thinner.
Miami only rotates a few corners and they took a big loss when Bubba Bolden went down for the year against Pitt.
3. Manny Diaz being a first-year head coach, how has he been on gamedays? Have there been any hiccups in terms of game management?
SOTU: I wouldn’t say there have been hiccups. I haven’t personally felt any moment where I was like “what the hell are you doing, Manny?” but I’m sure others have other opinions.
The only hiccups have seemed to be in preparation earlier in the year.
They played one of the worst games of football I have ever seen against Central Michigan and that Georgia Tech loss was inexcusable.
A players-only meeting before the Pitt game seemed like the point where everything started to come together.
4. Last year, Gerald Willis III dominated the game upfront - who’s that guy for Miami this season?
SOTU: Definitely redshirt freshman Greg Rousseau.
You’re talking about a guy who’s fourth in the nation in sacks (12) and has gotten them from the interior defensive line as well as from the edge.
He’s a legitimate 6’6 250 and he’s long and explosive. There’s no other way to describe him other than a bad dude.
5. While teams have been able to run against FIU, the secondary has performed well (13th overall in FBS football). Who are the top targets for UM?
SOTU: Miami has a few different guys they can get you with. Jeff Thomas and K.J. Osborn are top dogs, but these past two games sophomore Dee Wiggins has emerged with seven catches for 159 yards and three touchdowns.
Junior Mike Harley had a career-high 116 yards and two touchdowns last week against Louisville.
Then you need to worry about Brevin Jordan, who was just selected as a Mackey Award semifinalist despite missing some time recently.
Running back Deejay Dallas has also caught a career-high 14 passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns so far this year.
There is a lot of options in the passing game with the way Jarren Williams is playing these days.
6. What are Miami fans’ feelings about playing on the grounds of the old Orange Bowl?
SOTU: Some Miami fans won’t go because it’s “not the Orange Bowl” but I think that’s a little ridiculous.
You have an extra opportunity to go and support your team in the heart of Little Havana, where they played for a long time.
Others are going to go tailgate in the same spots they did back in the day. Others are concerned about the game play, specifically the lack of space behind the endzones.
Overall, I think people are excited about the idea of playing on those grounds because it means something and it’s against FIU, which is always a great event.
7. Is this a series that Miami fans would like to see continue? Do they view as important, if not for athletics, for the City of Miami?
SOTU: I think Miami fans would be okay with playing FIU, maybe not yearly, but every once in a while.
The way Miami is scheduled for the next like 15 years leaves very little room to work with, but I think there should be an effort to make it happen every now and again.
I don’t think anybody views it as “important” for athletics, like you mentioned, but there may be some Miami pride that makes the game so special.
That’s why I think they should try and figure out a way to have a home-and-home at least once a decade.
8. Predictions on a final score?
SOTU: I’m really concerned about James Morgan being a more stationary quarterback and having that big brace on his leg.
Florida State quarterback Alex Hornibrook wasn’t mobile, and Miami sacked him nine times and Rousseau had four of them.
FIU is amongst the top teams nationally at protecting their quarterback, but Miami is a different animal.
Jarren Williams just broke the record for touchdown passes in a game with six against Louisville and despite FIU also being better at protecting the pass, they’re catching Miami at a tough time.
Then you have Deejay Dallas and Cam’Ron Harris that can run with the best of them behind a vastly improved offensive line. I think Miami covers the 18.5-point spread and then some.
Miami 41, FIU 13