Game 6: Buffalo at Miami
When: Saturday October 29th
Where: Yager Stadium
Series History: Miami 10 - Buffalo 2
If Miami were a different team. If they were say Akron, or Eastern Michigan then what they did last season would be legendary. The RedHawks, however, are not a perpetually moribund team, they are typically one of the better teams in the MAC. So Miami going from worst to first in one season is not a minor miracle and it's not a fluke.
Don't think that this in any way diminishes what happened in Oxford under now departed coach Mike Haywood. Nobody picked Miami to do much of anything last season so they did shock the world. But the difference between them and one of the teams with a lesser track record is that when the RedHawks climb to the top you expect them to stay awhile.
With a very unexpected Coaching change it will be difficult for the RedHawks to repeat as MAC champs. They have a hard draw getting Ohio and Temple on the road and drawing Toledo and Western Michigan in cross divisional play. On top of that Miami, being Miami, has a tough out of conference schedule which includes Missouri and Cincinnati and not an FCS cupcake to be seen.
Miami's new coach, Don Treadwell seems to be making himself right at home. Being a RedHawk himself the former Miami wide receiver has been playing up tradition since day one and appears top be content working with what he inherited. Let's face it If you got a coaching job that comes with 20 returning startes from the previous season's Championship team wouldn't you be content?
Miami on Offense:
Miami did not blow their opponents away last season, but that was by design. Mike Haywood ran a high percentage low return offense. A light running attack set up an offense based mostly on short passes. It was an effective but not a flashy offense. He had the people to make it work and the result was an offense that usually put up three to four touchdowns a game. New offensive coordinator John Klacik has been using basic pro-style offense this summer so Miami 2011 should look a lot like Miami 2010 with just a few wrinkles.
The RedHawks return two great quarterbacks, last years starter Zac Dysert and the man who took over when he went down, Austin Boucher. Behind these two quarterbacks the RedHawks completed more than 60% of their passes for 3,552 yards and 19 touchdowns. There was some inconsistency leading to 15 interceptions but the offensive line at Miami was not stellar in pass protection and should be better this season.
They are also sporting one of the leagues best receiving corps and that's what made the short passing game work for Miami. If Dysert or Boucher got the ball near their receiver is was going to be caught, and likely with some decent yards after the catch.
Running the ball will probably be no more of a priority this season. The RedHawks lost their top two running backs from last season, one of them graduated and the other left the program this spring. They are going to throw either true freshman Dawan Scott or converted linebacker Erik Finkleain the backfield and hope for the best.
Miami on Defense:
So how you you score just 23 points per conference game and go 8-1? You bring a talented and fundamentally sound defense. They are a 3-4 hybrid with Wes Williams doing the honors of playing the 'Buck' position. He is surrounded by a front seven that was second in the MAC at getting to the quarterback last year and lost not a man on the line.
The RedHawks were not nearly as solid against the run. They had their moments, like the MAC Championship Game, but on the whole teams who were solid running the ball could move around on the ground. If they could force an opponent to pass, if the opponent fell behind or Miami's front seven was having a good game on the ground, then their secondary was able to really clamp down.
The Redhawks are a bit small at the corner but they have impressive speed and physical safeties to step in and help. They have most of their talent returning and will benefit from the same pass rush they had last season. If a team withstands that rush and has big outside receivers they might be able to get over Miami but few teams managed to do that last season.
Close but no Cigar (Likely Loss): Miami really never blew anyone away even Buffalo, as poorly as they played, lost by less than two touchdowns. Miami got the breaks last season and sometimes fate punishes a football team that won on breaks. Even if they are not getting all their breaks I have a hard time seeing UB putting up a lot of points on this defense and their offensive style is one that can really capitalize on a green secondary.
The Bulls can win if:
They put up more than 24 points against one of the better defenses in the conference while UB's secondary manages to walk the line between shutting down the short stuff and not getting burned deep on the outside. I think the offense might be able to hold up its end but with four new starters in the backfield Miami will have little trouble throwing the ball on us.
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