Miami (Ohio) Preview:
Now, for those of you that don’t know, I attend Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. But I call St. Louis home, where the Mizzou pride is loud and strong. I will obviously be rooting for my Redhawks to win. But before we get into who I think will win, let’s take a look at the matchup between the two teams.
Miami, the defending MAC Champion, is coming off a 10-4 season. The Redhawks will have to come out strong early and try to stop the running game. If they can mess up Franklin’s rhythm, they will have shaken the newbie QB’s confidence, and that will be the key to the game. The other thing will be turnovers. Miami will have to be all over turnovers. All in all, Missouri provides a lot of problems and competition for the Redhawks.
Last season, Miami set an NCAA record and made history for being the first team ever to go from double-digit losses to double-digit wins in a single season. Miami lost some key players from last year that include Thomas Merriweather at TB, Armand Robinson at WR, Bob Guiley at OG, Nate Williams at OG, and Trevor Cook at kicker. Those players will be tough to replace, but looking at the team they have put together, I think Miami will be able to pull through the season extremely well.
On offense, Miami returns 8 starters, including standout sophomore WR Nick Harwell. Last year, Harwell averaged more than 95 receiving yards per game, with his biggest yardage being 219 in the game against Ohio. He will be a player to watch during the game, and look for Miami to rely heavily on him to try to break up the physical Tiger defense. Another returning player is senior receiver Chris Givens, but only if he is healthy. Givens has been plagued by injuries since 2008, but if he is healthy, he is an intimidating presence on the field. The 3rd target that Mizzou should zone in on is junior Andy Cruz. He will provide the explosiveness along with Harwell that will be needed against the Tiger defense.
As for Miami’s running game, look for them to use Danny Green to help rev up the offense if the passing game is taken away. Also, look for freshman Dawan Scott to get some playing time and to mix up the spread. He is a bullet on the field, so he will be much-needed. Mix him in with Harwell and Cruz, and Mizzou will have a handful with those three. But with the dismissal of TB Tracey Woods, the running game is looking a little thin for Miami.
The quarterback situation could not be better at Miami. Junior Zac Dysert, the starter from last year, returns after a devastating injury that cut his season short. He is back, and after watching him in camp, he looks sharp. Don’t be surprised, though, if his backup, sophomore Austin Boucher, gets some playing time as well.
Overall on offense, Miami looks very formidable as they get ready to defend their title as the MAC East Champs this season. Last season, their offensive and defensive line was pressured into being more physical, and I think that will pay off well for them against Mizzou.
On a defensive front, Miami returns 7 starters, and they have a very strong defensive line. Last year, Miami only allowed 2.56 yards per rush in the red zone. Returning for Miami is junior tackle Austin Brown and senior linebacker Jerrell Wedge. Brown had an outstanding 2010 season, with 40 tackles, 10 of which were for loss of yards, 3 of them sacks, two forced fumbles, two hurries, two breakups, two blocked kicks, and a fumble recovery. He will be a deciding factor in this game. Mizzou will have to be all over Brown. According to the Miami coaches, Wedge is described as a premier run stopper, holding the team record for tackles (101).
Brown and Wedge are not the only formidable pair on Miami’s defense. Helping them out will be junior defensive end Jason Semmes, who had six sacks last year among his 34 tackles in 13 games.
While the front seven of Miami’s defense is extremely strong and filled with upperclassmen leaders, the backfield is certainly not lacking in the slightest. The problem for Miami last year was the pure fact that their players were inexperienced. This year, Miami returns junior D.J. Brown, who led Miami with 13 pass break-ups last year. Also returning will be sophomore Dayonne Nunley, who started last year as a freshman — and finished with 5 interceptions.
Miami is in good hands with sophomore kicker Mason Krysinki. He started when Trevor Cook got hurt at the end of last season and performed extremely well.
As long as Miami can figure out whom to put in at running back, they have an extremely good chance to repeat as MAC Champs and compete for another bowl bid this season.
Overall, this game is looking to be a very competitive one. The one thing that Miami will have to do is to make sure they come out strong and to not let Mizzou settle into a rhythm. This is the Tigers home turf, and if this game is a repeat of the first 7 seconds of last year’s game, the Redhawks are completely done. That being said, if the Redhawks come out strong and play their game, they are going to give Mizzou a run for their money.
Still, in the end, as much as I love my school, I understand the difference between the MAC and the Big 12. I pick Mizzou to win 35-14. It will be a close game, no doubt about that. But in the end, Mizzou is a very good team this year, and it’s at their house. But, and this is what I love most about college football: the season openers are famous for having the most spectacular upsets.
Mary Kate Burgess, a student at Miami, recently completed an internship at KMOX.
The potential for the Missouri Tigers in 2011, and hopefully 2012, begins with a home opener at Faurot Field against Miami of Ohio. Lately, the news out of Columbia has not been good involving a scandal that has touched the Missouri basketball program and new head coach Frank Haith, so a distraction will be nice for Tigers’ fans. The new motto for the season, “Accept the Challenge”, was given more credibility after being ranked #21 in both major preseason polls.
Each season, the Missouri Tigers are looking to set new standards and break more barriers. In 2010, beating top ranked Oklahoma putting the team at 7-0 was the high point of the season, yet a 3-2 finish put them in the Insight Bowl Game against the Iowa Hawkeyes. Though quarterback Blaine Gabbert had an epic 41-57, 434 yard performance, all of that was forgotten when he threw away the Tigers’ final chance with his second interception.
What was turning into a historical season for the Tigers, quickly took an all too familiar ugly turn when Mizzou was dropped in its last conference game against Nebraska and then stunningly lost to Texas Tech. Overall, the Tigers won 10 games for the third time in the last four seasons and they made an impact in the first round of the NFL Draft once more. Surprisingly, Missouri is tied with Alabama for most first round draft picks over the past few seasons. That certainly makes the Missouri football program more appealing for possible prospects.
Entering his 11th season, head coach Gary Pinkel has said that this could be his most talented team with 15 returning starters. They originally had 17 returning starters, but injuries have trimmed that number.
The 2011 squad has already faced some adversity before ever playing an official down. Beginning with the quarterback competition that had a very lackluster ending when St. Louis native Tyler Gabbert made the decision to transfer therefore making James Franklin the default choice. Getting JUCO transfer Sheldon Richardson, also from St. Louis, to practice eventually happened after his academic credits were confirmed by the NCAA. Most recently, injuries to tackle Elvis Fisher, center Travis Ruth, wide receiver Jerrell Jackson, and cornerback Kip Edwards will test the depth of this team.
Losing Elvis Fisher to a season-ending knee injury is a big blow to the Tigers’ offense, yet Gary Pinkel and offensive coordinator Dave Yost are confident that sophomore Justin Britt will do a sufficient job in protecting James Franklin’s blind side. The other ailment on the offensive line is an achilles injury to center Travis Ruth, but is not as serious. Ruth will miss the first game, but could be back sooner than later. Senior Jayson Palmgren, who was mainly working as a backup tackle, will start at center on Saturday.
Jerrell Jackson, who had 50 receptions for 656 yards, is missing the first game due to an ongoing hamstring issue, but could be back for the second game. Marcus Lucas, a 6-5 205 lbs. sophomore, will make his first start at the X-receiver position.
The injuries have put somewhat of a damper on early high expectations, yet this Tigers team has depth and veteran leadership. Though a first-year starter, quarterback James Franklin has been around for a while and knows that he needs to do to lead the offense. Guys like T.J. Moe, Michael Egnew, and three very capable tailbacks will take some of the pressure off of Franklin. Defensively, look for the Tigers’ defensive line to have a lot of success. With guys like Brad Madison, Dominique Hamilton, and Sheldon Richardson, the front four should be tough to beat by ground or air.
Aside from more injuries, the Tigers need to avoid early mistakes so as not to give Miami any ideas of an upset. The Redhawks came very close in 2010 to upsetting Florida in Gainesville, yet this Missouri team is much more skilled than those Gators, and could be better than the 2010 Tigers. Miami is probably just hoping not to get beaten in Columbia like last season when they were dropped 51-13.
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