The words Miami of Ohio probably aren't the first words that come to mind when you think about college football's most prolific passing combination. However, the Redhawks quarterback Zac Dysert to junior wide-receiver Nick Harwell is exactly that.
Dysert's 8,530 career passing yards ranks third in the FBS amongst returning quarterbacks. Harwell's 2,296 receiving yards rank third amongst receivers.
Former Michigan State offensive coordinator Don Treadwell is in his second year as head coach for the Redhawks. The second year is usually a year for vast improvement within a new system, and Treadwell has plenty of experience and motivation.
This is his first head coaching job, but he paid his dues as an assistant for nearly three decades. I think we'll see a more polished product on the field in Oxford this season
The Redhawks win/loss record from 2011 may not blow anyone away, but a closer look shows that they tend to play well in the openers as huge underdogs, and against Ohio State.
At the end of the third quarter of the Redhawks 2011 opener, they trailed No. 21 Missouri 10-6. Only a year before, they trailed Florida 21-12 with 13:30 left in regulation.
In 2000, the last time Ohio State and Miami faced each other on the gridiron, the score was 20-16 after three quarters. Ohio State tacked on a late touchdown to win 27-16. I was sitting in the second row biting my fingernails into the quick.
It wasn't the first time Ohio State had a nail-biter against an underdog, in-state foe. Bowling Green State University nearly pulled-off upsets versus Ohio State in 2003 (24-17), and 1992 (17-6).
Ohio State has everything to lose and very little to gain in these in-state match-ups versus MAC teams. In most cases, these teams are full of players who were passed over in the Buckeyes recruiting process. For these young men, there is no bigger stage than to upstage Ohio State in Ohio Stadium in front of their friends and family.
Coach Urban Meyer reinvigorated the program. He has brought the program back from the depths of despair following NCAA sanctions, and the first losing season in 25 years. All this, and he still hasn't coached a game for Ohio State.
ESPN All-Access provided an inside look at Urban's first training camp as the Buckeyes new head coach. It immediately became clear that Urban and his new staff provided energy, efficiency and an urgency that hasn't been in Columbus since the days of Woody Hayes. The 2012 Ohio State team will not just go quietly into the night.
Strength coach Mickey Marotti has made sure of that.
Since January, the team has risen out of bed in the wee hours of the morning for workouts. During two-a-days, the team spends their break in-between practices sleeping on inflatable mattresses strategically placed throughout the Woody Hayes Athletic Facility. Why? Because Urban doesn't think they should leave.
Urban has committed to his family to come home on time, and to "be there" when they need him. The result? He's even more obsessed with effort and efficiency during practice. This is the time he has, and you better not waste it.
So forget about the letdowns associated with post-season bans. This Ohio State team's goal is to go undefeated, and beat-down that team up north in what now becomes this team's Superbowl, their National Championship.
The Game: Miami, Ohio vs. Ohio State Saturday, September 1, 2012
Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes have been trying to polish up one of the worst passing games in the country last season (114th). He says they've made huge strides in the passing game since the spring. The problem for Ohio State in this game is that passing the ball will be playing to Miami's defensive strength, their secondary.
The Redhawks finished 24th in FBS pass defense last season, and they return both corners, as well as one of their safeties. The other safety was moved to linebacker because of all the talent and depth Miami has in the defensive backfield.
The Ohio State wide-receivers are still trying to prove their worth, and Ohio State's receivers versus Miami's DB's is probably the only positional edge that Miami holds in this game.
This means we will see more carries for Carlos Hyde and Braxton Miller.
Ohio State will have a gigantic size advantage up front on offense. Those expecting to see Urban throw the ball all over the place may be disappointed, but they won't be disappointed with the result.
The difference in the game will be the turnover margin.
Ohio State is in for another in-state battle if the Redhawks snatch the ball like prey out of mid-air. If Braxton chooses his timing and targets wisely, it will occupy the defensive backfield and make Miami even more susceptible to the run. I think that is what happens. The only question is when does it start.
Miami should have some success throwing the ball, but as good as Miami's defensive backfield is, Ohio State's is even better. Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby should be an important factor in the game.
Ohio State 31