Miami University football isn’t known for its history or its toughness. It has a few all-time greats, like Ben Roethlisberger and more recently Zac Dysert, but it isn’t known as an NFL factory or a destination for top recruits. Miami University is a football program simply trying to survive. It makes the school some money, but aside from that, Miami football comes across as a program that has very little to lose. Surely fans wants nothing more than a winning program, but Oxford, Ohio, situated in the southwest corner of Ohio very near Cincinnati is in prime recruiting country of a whole lot of big-time football programs.
It simply cannot compete. Miami football should not compete with Kentucky this weekend.
Miami enters the ballgame in a similar situation as UK, forced to play a load of young guys. With just 12 seniors, 14 juniors, 23 sophomores, and 51 freshmen, Miami is one of the youngest teams in college football. Similarly, Kentucky has 68 freshmen and sophomores on its team, and six freshmen saw action versus Western Kentucky last week.
Austin Boucher (QB) — A quarterback taking over for a school legend is typically not an easy task, but Boucher looks poised to replace the legend without much of a hitch. As a freshman in 2010 he filled in late for the injured Dysert and he tossed for more than 1,000 yards in four games, leading the Redhawks to four victories, including a come-from-behind game-winning drive against Bowling Green. Two years later, his first game back in the saddle against Marshall was forgettable, but he did pace the offense with 165 yards. Now with a game under his belt the Miami offense could really take off in week two against the Wildcats.
The similarities between he and Western Kentucky quarterback Brandon Doughty are there; first-year starters in a pass-heavy offense going up against a terribly weak Wildcats secondary. Doughty torched the Cats, somewhat unexpectedly so from the get-go, so it is a safe bet to say the Redhawks will draw up similar schemes to get over the top of UK’s D-line… What is supposed to be its strong suit.
Steve Marck (TE) — As a fourth-year tight end, Marck looks to be a strong target in the passing game for Boucher. He hauled in 27 passes last season for 299 yards. Last week against the Thundering Herd he caught four passes, matching his career high, for 41 yards and a touchdown. He may not light up the stat column, but he has the potential to do a lot of damage on mid-third downs slipping off a block and being wide open underneath.
Lined up at wide receiver is junior Dawan Scott who caught seven touchdowns last season and racked up 851 yards. He will be the primary receiver, but a freshman will line up opposite of him, and depth is a serious concern for the Hawks — a unit that caught just 10 passes against Marshall. Marck was the leading receiver with his four receptions.
Dayonne Nunley (CB) — The senior cornerback is among the top 48 defensive backs in the country, listed on the Jim Thorpe Award watch list in the preseason. Nunley was fifth on the team in tackles last season with 63, and he added a team-high three interceptions. His work earned him a spot on the First-Team All-MAC squad heading into his final season, which has two other defensive backs on the Thorpe Award watch list.
With 172 tackles, 37 passes defended, 19 tackles for loss, and 12 interceptions in his three-year career, you can bet Nunley will be all over Demarco Robinson this weekend. His ability to smother Robinson will open the door for Javess Blue and Ryan Timmons to shine in Kentucky’s pass attack.
WHO GETS BEAT
It’s tough to suggest you want a pass-oriented offense to pass on you, but that is exactly what Kentucky should be hoping for against Miami — at least expecting the same results the Redhawks had last week in its 52-14 loss to Marshall. Boucher completed just 10 passes for 165 yards — for an offense geared to passing, that’s a pretty miserable day. Especially when you consider Marshall is one of the worst defensive units in FBS.
The running game tried and tried but it could never get going; a total of 34 carriers for just 74 yards for a downright atrocious 2.2 yard average. The Redhawks O is either really slow to get churning or it’s a lot worse than anyone realizes. This weekend’s game will likely bring those ideas to light. The Wildcats defense should remain focused on the passing game. Don’t let a relatively weak receiving corps and a quarterback who only connected 10 times his last time out beat you. Let the run game have its space if it means staying back in coverage for a split second longer. The UK defensive line surely had its reality check and so long as it avoids being owned up front like it was against Western, things should be fine.
If Miami wants a chance it will need to do better on the ground. Even a terrible secondary can figure things out if you never move the chains on the ground. Just two third-down conversions last week against Marshall means the Redhawks will surely be looking for big plays on first and second down to keep the momentum. Redshirt sophomore Spencer Treadwell will line up at tailback, but with just 249 career rushing yards, and only 15 yards on five attempts last week, his potential is still uncovered.
The Redhawks defense will have its hands full. It allowed 52 points to a pass-happy team last week, and if Neal Brown really wants an opportunity to prove himself and his philosophy to the team and fans, and show everyone it can work with this team, now would be a great time to unleash the Air Raid. Marshall quarterbacks threw for 287 yards and five touchdowns last week… but the Herd also rushed for 304 yards. Kentucky had an equally balanced attack against Western, throwing for 203 yards and rushing for 216. Redhawks defenders can easily be kept off balance with a good mix of run and pass, and copious amounts of play-action. We know Max Smith will take over for Jalen Whitlow under center. Hopefully he has the confidence to air it out, because we know what we’re getting with Raymond Sanders on the ground.