This game won’t have much juice nationally, but I have a vested interest in both programs. I grew up in New Jersey to two Rutgers athletes. I lived in Miami (Fluoride) for three years up until the beginning of this season. So ... I’ve watched more of these two teams over the past four years than any other squads. A waste of time, maybe, and probably shocking that Iowa didn’t crack the top two, I know. What kind of OTE contributor am I?
This is a 2023 Pinstripe Bowl preview.
The Facts, Señorita
Rutgers Scarlet Knights (6-6, 3-6 B1G) vs. Miami Hurricanes (7-5, 3-5 ACC)
Pinstripe Bowl: Thursday, Dec. 28 | 2:15pm | Rutgers -1.0 | O/U 40.5
Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NY
Miami has played Rutgers 11 times. They have won 11 times. The history here is not pretty for one side. The only common 2023 opponent was Temple who Rutgers beat 36-7 in Week 2 and Miami beat 41-7 in Week 4. Sizing up the stats this year are pretty irrelevant since Miami is missing so many starters, more on that below. The ESPN betting line opened at Miami minus 3.5 and has shifted at my last glance to Rutgers minus 1 spread, a massive 4.5 point shift.
About Miami (FL):
- Started the year 4-0 and cruised into a bye, including a surprising 48-33 upset of then #23 and NIL stalwart Texas A&M.
- Out of the bye, Miami held a 20-17 over Georgia Tech at home with 1:22 left on the clock. The hurricanes had a 1st and 10 at the GT 30 yard line, the Yellow Jackets only with one time out left (maybe none as it is still a topic of contention). And yet because former Rutgers Assistant, now ‘Canes head man Mario Cristobal refused to take a knee, Miami then fumbled, and somehow allowed a 44 yard touchdown pass with 10 seconds left in the game. From there, the season began to spiral out of control. This was Cristobal’s second career moment losing because he didn’t kneel the ball.
The University of Miami lost this game pic.twitter.com/8MKGrjErGK— Oluwajomiloju (@JomiAdeniran) October 8, 2023
- The following week we saw the first QB change, when Tyler Van Dyke was benched after a 391 yard, 4 TD, 2 INT performance against an undefeated #12 UNC Tar Heel squad. Imagine a Big Ten team throwing for that many yards against a top 15 team and benching the guy. (Illinois didn’t do that, did they?)
- The remainder of the season featured a bunch of close wins and losses, highlighted by a 7 point loss to Florida State who still had Heisman hopeful Jordan Travis under center and a close loss to the other ACC title game participant, Louisville.
- The season finale punctuated a ‘what could have been’ year with a 45-20 undressing of already bowl bound, former Big East foe Boston College (who Rutgers beat by one point in 2022).
- Overall, the last three losses came to teams currently ranked 18th or higher. The first to Georgia Tech doesn’t look as bad now that the Yellow Jackets finished 7-6 with a bowl win. Then #12 UNC crumbled to an 8-4 finish after beating the then #25 Canes.
- Opt-outs / transfers for the Hurricanes: Where do I start? Between opt-outs and a few transfers, Miami will be missing, QB1, QB2, RB3, Slot WR1, RG1, C1, 3 of 4 DE, DT1, SLB1, FS1, SS1. That doesn’t count any other late entrants to the portal or injuries.
- Miami’s QB situation features QB3 Jacurri Brown as a result. He hasn’t taken a snap in 2023, but his last pass in 2022 was the worst pass I’ve ever seen live. And remember I have been a lifelong Rutgers and New York Jets fan! Brown’s upside is Vince Young. He’s tall, fast, slim, and has a fairly accurate, albeit 3⁄4, low-angle throwing motion. He’s a one or at most two read QB before he takes off. If he gets loose, he’s hard to tackle. His one career win as a starter came against Georgia Tech in 2022.
- Even with all the guys missing, Miami still has more overall talent per man than Rutgers. They haven’t had a recruiting class lower than 12th nationally this decade. On offense, slot receiver Restrepo is hard to stop. On defense, Francisco Mauigoa is a monster at linebacker. There is speed everywhere other than offensive line.
- Demolished Northwestern and Virginia Tech (who both ended up with winning Power Five conference records), en route to a 6-2 start and the first traditional bowl eligibility since 2014. That said, Rutgers won a game they had less than a 2% chance of winning or else they might have missed said bowl game.
Didn’t Michigan state have a 98.3% chance of winning their game and lost? pic.twitter.com/O46cws8Mxm— Cory Bush (@_CoryBush) October 14, 2023
- Facing the toughest final four games in the nation by every conceivable metric, RU ended the regular season on a four game slide with losses to OSU, PSU, Iowa, and Maryland. There were points in those games they looked good and points they looked noncompetitive. The Maryland game was particularly bad as the team fell down 28-3 before giving themselves a chance into the early 4th quarter.
- Opt-out for the Knights: CB Max Melton.
- Missing two-deep players: MLB1 Tyreem Powell, TE1 Johnny Langan, RT1 Tyler Needham, & WR1 Chris Long (long-term injuries). WR Naseim Brantley (eligibility). In the portal: Slot WR2 Rashad Rochelle, RB3 Avery Young, RT2 Kamar Missouri, RG2 Mike Ciaffoni, QB2 Evan Simon.
- Rutgers’s QB situation is Gavin Wimsatt right now. His only experienced backup (Simon) is in the portal, so the QB2 for this game is probably true freshman Ajani Sheppard who has one career drive against an FCS team under his belt. Former QB and now TE1 Johnny Langan is also out. Minnesota starter Athan Kaliakmanis has not committed anywhere yet after a visit to Rutgers, generating some minor controversy.
- 10 senior starters, mostly on defense announced they would be returning for 2024. All are expected to play in the bowl game except Powell.
The Special Teams
- Miami is hit and miss. They have an electric return man and above average kicker in Borregales the younger.
- Rutgers wins when their special teams makes a game changing play and they can win the field position battle.
- In terms of special teams Power Index Efficiency, Rutgers ranks 16th and Miami (FL) ranks 66th. (Oddly, Miami of Ohio is actually #1 in the country by a large margin.)
So what’s going to happen?
Miami is a below average ACC team and has half their two-deep, while Rutgers is an average Big Ten team with pretty much everybody playing. RU Head Coach Greg Schiano has been on the former “rival” revenge tour with wins over three other former Big East now ACC schools in as many seasons. If Rutgers wins, it would be their 5th win over a current Power Five team this year, something they have only ever done twice before in the history of the program. Cristobal’s motivation is to beat his former boss and the school he rejected the head job for in 2012 when he turned down the opportunity to be Schiano’s successor.
For my full breakdown, check out the Scarlet Faithful podcast. In short, either team could end up in a Syracuse-type situation with an injury to their starting QB. And neither of the starters are known for slinging it as it is, so this could be ugly to watch regardless.
Both teams will come in and play it conservative with QBs that struggle to read defenses and throw more than their first two reads. The weather should be cold for south Florida standards, but not frigid (high of 52F) which should favor Rutgers, though rain is now likely. This game means so much more to Rutgers and they will have the home field advantage, hence the gamblers moving the line so much. That said, there is easily a path to a two score win for the Canes as well if they get their speed loose and win the turnover battle. I’ll trust Schiano and OC Kirk Ciarrocca with the additional prep time, since RU’s two best games of the year were the season opener against Northwestern and coming off their bye when they put a scare into Ohio State. — Rutgers, 23, Miami (FL) 18.
And for the record like Rutgers DC Joe Harasymiak, I also grew up a Mets fan. A tough life, i know.