Well, here we are at the first football game of the season, and it's time to do a bit of a preview of the Miami vs. Kentucky game. Since we have no real meaningful stats to pull out, we'll just look at the Redhawks' season last year:
2008 Record: (2-10, 1-7)
2008 Bowl: none
Coach: Michael Haywood (First year at Miami, 0-0 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Peter Vaas
Defensive Coordinator: Carl Reese
- Rushing: Thomas Merriweather, RB, 547 yards
- Passing: Daniel Raudabaugh, QB, 1,960 yards
- Receiving: Chris Givens, WR, 513 yards
- Tackles: Caleb Bostic, LB, 40
- Sacks: Morris Council, DE, 2.5
- Interceptions: Ben Bennett, S, 1
- Returning starters: 12
Senior quarterback Daniel Raudabaugh returns to Miami, as does junior running back Thomas Merriweather. Raudabaugh did not have a great year last year, throwing only 8 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. Four receivers return from last year, though, and the Miami offense should be somewhat improved, assuming that the line, which returns only two starters from last year, can open holes for Merriweather or protect Raudabagh long enough for him to get off some good throws. Sophomores Jay Taylor and Wisconsin transfer Quincy Landingham could make an impact from the running back spot, as well.
The defense loses its top four tacklers from last year and returns only five starters. Both starters at defensive end graduated, as well as all three linebackers. Three starters do return to the secondary, and this group held Vanderbilt to 91 yards and Michigan to 103 yards through the air the first two games of last year, though both were in losing efforts.
Kentucky will have an opportunity to exploit a young offensive line, and they must do so in order to have an effective game on defense. The Redhawks have some fairly decent skill players, and allowing them to get loose in the secondary would not be something Steve Brown wants to see. UK must find ways to get pressure on Raudabaugh to keep him from finding his targets. Miami was most effective through the air last year, although they managed 300+ yards only once. But with the additional years for the QB and receivers, you can expect the Redhawks to throw it early and often.
The Redhawk running game was not exactly a strength last year, with Miami managing only one game in which it gained over 200 yards on the ground. But the infusion of the two sophomores, Taylor and Landingham, could make them a bit more potent if the line can hold their own against Kentucky.
Kentucky has one of the most mature offensive lines in the SEC, and they must exploit the young d-line and linebacking corps of Miami. Look for Smith, Allen, and Locke to have big days, and don't be surprised if you see quite a bit of CoShick Williams. An effective ground game will open up the passing game, and Miami doesn't have the size in the secondary to handle Chris Matthews. If Matthews is as good as advertised, he could run wild, eventually forcing double-teams that leave the dangerous Randall Cobb in single coverage all day.
Bottom line -- the Redhawks will be significantly better this year than last, but as bad as they were last year, that isn't saying too much. Kentucky should have their way with Miami in almost all phases of the game. The biggest thing UK has to watch out for are the small, speedy running backs -- they could give our young defensive ends some trouble at the edges, and with Micah Johnson questionable, I do worry a bit about our young d-line. UK should be vastly superior on the lines, but the defensive line has too many question marks for me to dismiss an issue there. The secondary should be fine as long as UK can get some semblance of a pass rush.
I see Kentucky winning this game, 28-7.