Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015
3:30 PM ET
Meet the Opponent
Welcome to the 120th installment of the "Battle For The Bell".
This rivalry goes back to the first matchup between the two schools on December 8, 1888 in Oxford. While the rivalry has had it's parity throughout, the series has been lopsided as of late with the Bearcats winning the last nine meetings, going back to 2005. The RedHawks lead the series 59-53-7, but the Bearcats are looking to add to their record winning streak with a 10th straight.
The Miami (OH) RedHawks are 1-1 this season following a Week 1 win over Presbyterian, 26-7, and a Week 2 loss to the Wisconsin Badgers, 58-0. The RedHawks are young and clearly in the middle of a rebuild with second-year coach Chuck Martin, a former offensive coordinator with Notre Dame. Martin inherited a roster that simply lacked FBS talent and while Martin appears to have changed the mentality and the roster in a short time-frame, the youth still shines through.
In Week 1, the RedHawks looked like the better team over Presbyterian, but the gap wasn't as wide as you would expect, playing against a team that lost to Charlotte by an equal margin last week. In Week 2, the RedHawks were completely outmatched. The Badgers held the Miami quarterbacks, Billy Bahl and Drew Kummer, to 13-for-34, 160 yards passing and three interceptions. The RedHawks, as a team, were held to minus-3 yards rushing on the game and the Badgers led 51-0 at the end of the third quarter.
Miami (OH) Offense vs. Cincinnati Defense
I'm not really sure what to say. The Miami (OH) offense looked respectable, even good, in Week 1 with senior Drew Kummer at quarterback. Kummer was 14-for-19, 255 yards and two touchdowns against Presbyterian and the RedHawks ran for 205 yards, as a team, led by Alonzo Smith (12 carries, 86 yards, two touchdowns). Kummer is likely to get the start, but Billy Bahl has played in both games and was brought in the Wisconsin blowout to replace Kummer. However, Bahl was only 7-for-20 with 98 yards passing and two interceptions against the Badgers a week ago.
Either way, the quarterbacks are inexperienced and can be forced into mistakes. The run game is a bit of a mess. Smith led the RedHawks in Week 1 and Leonard Ross led the team with 16 yards last week on eight carries. Cincinnati's defensive front isn't as formidable as Wisconsin's, but I feel pretty comfortable saying they are more like the Badgers than the Blue Hoes. Cincinnati should be able to control the line of scrimmage and force the RedHawks to throw the ball. Receiver Jared Murphy is a talented player, but the Bearcats secondary is more than up for the task of tracking the Miami receivers.
As with this entire matchup, the Bearcats have the clear talent advantage. I expect to see the Bearcats flood the box and force the RedHawks to pass. Even when Miami drops back, the Cincinnati defensive front should be able to generate pressure without really needing to blitz. If the Bearcats can create that pressure, they can force, whoever the Miami quarterback is, to make some mistakes. If the RedHawks become one-dimensional, they don't have the overwhelming talent to compensate.
Miami (OH) Defense vs. Cincinnati Offense
There is absolutely no reason why the Bearcats shouldn't put points up on the RedHawks this week. Nothing against the Miami defenders, it's just that the Cincinnati offense has too many weapons to not put up points. Heck, the Bearcats are sixth nationally in total offense even after facing off with Temple's incredibly talented defense just a week ago. Whereas the Owls play a complicated and sophisticated defensive that "beat" Gunner Kiel a couple times last week, the RedHawks do not.
The Miami defense is the experienced unit for the RedHawks and they will play tough, but the Cincinnati offensive line should do fine protecting Kiel. The RedHawks' secondary simply doesn't have enough top-end talent to matchup with the UC receivers and, while the linebackers may be the best defensive unit for Miami, the Cincinnati run game should be able to rack up respectable yardage. Keep an eye out Miami's Kent Kern. If anyone can make a play, it will likely be him.
This game, at it's core, is a mismatch and that isn't any more apparent than when you look at this phase of the game for the Bearcats. I expect Kiel and the Bearcats to come out firing and throwing the ball, looking for a quick score to silence the home crowd before settling into a methodical run-first approach with the passing attack branching off of that. In theory, the UC offense should put up 50+, but that's assuming they can get into the rhythm that we have yet to really see this season.
As a bonus, I'm calling Chris Moore's first deep bomb for a touchdown.
Andrew Gantz missed a 53-yard field goal last week, but that's a heck of a kick even for a NFL kicker, so there isn't anything to worry about there. The real worry comes in with the kickoff unit. Kickoff returns aren't a frequent occurrence and the RedHawks don't have anyone like Jahad Thomas, but we really need to see a clean game from the special teams unit after the kickoff return last week and the blocked punt in Week 1.
The RedHawks have Kaleb Patterson at kicker who has missed his only field goal attempt of the season and is 2-for-3 on extra points. Kenny Young has done a good job for Miami (OH) as a kick returner.
Score: Cincinnati 42, Miami (OH) 10
This score is hard to predict for me. Having just written what I did, I can't foresee another close contest like the last two seasons, but I do believe the RedHawks have a remote opportunity to make this game closer than expected. Martin is a good coach who is changing the culture around Oxford, he just doesn't have the players yet. The RedHawks will be fired up and the crowd will be in the game early, which sets up for a potentially rocky start. Not to mention, Tommy Tuberville has developed a bit of a reputation for keeping things a little vanilla for the RedHawks.
With that in mind, I think Cincinnati will try to start fast through the air and then will establish the run. I could see this being a one-score game at halftime before Cincinnati pulls away and the adrenaline wears off for the RedHawks. I expect to see the Cincinnati offense open things up a bit considering their early season struggles with consistency and a rough stretch coming up in the next couple weeks. Miami (OH) just doesn't have the talent to keep up.