DAY OF GAME: Saturday, October 3
VENUE: Yager Stadium, beautiful downtown Oxford
TIME THEY BOOT THE BALL: 1 p.m.
THE SERIES: Miami leads 59-47-7
LAST TILT: UC won at Nippert last year 45-20
It's Battle for the Victory Bell #114 if you're scoring at home. UC's won the last three,
so some of you may think this rivalry's one-sided. I recommend looking at the overall record if you feel that way and you'll notice the Bearcats are still 12 wins behind Miami.
In other words, until the Bearcats administer enough beatings to surpass the "Penny Loafers" the series should continue. While it's easy to have a short memory and think this is all boring, I believe it's better to remember the nationally-televised spanking they gave UC four years ago in a weeknight game in Oxford.
I do. I know Craig Carey does too. He was a freshman then on a very young Mark Dantonio team that got its behind handed to them.
The only thing good about that game that I can recall is I got to meet Heather Mitts who was ESPN's sideline reporter that night.
Erin Andrews? Forget about it.
I'll take "Hometown Heather" any day.
Oh yeah, I'm supposed to talk about football here....
Let's get serious here. At UC's current rate of success in football, this should be the proverbial "good ol' fashioned butt-whippin'". However, taking someone lightly creates bad habits and bad habits won't win you a Big East championship.
I think Brian Kelly should have Gino Guidugli come in and talk to the guys about how Ben Roethlisberger beat him three out of three times. Or, maybe someone from the '98 team that saw "Touchdown Travis" Prentice run through UC like you-know-what through a goose in a 41-0 win at Nippert. Perhaps even get a hold of Jon Bacon who blasted a 58-yard field goal (UC record) in '94, only to see Miami find enough time to set their guy up for a field goal that tied the game 17-17. (No overtime back then, a few years later UC pulled a couple out in OT.)
So, while the Victory Bell is still here (and will accompany the lads to Oxford...and back) each ring of it after a win is a ring for all of the guys that have sported UC colors and still take great pleasure in handing the former 'Skins an L.
UC's offense vs. Miami defense
Miami's defense has some young players and will be good in time. Just not this time. Sure, they'll make some plays, but I don't think they'll be able to keep up with the Bearcats fastbreak or keep it out of the endzone. Tony Pike is in a real good groove and picked a part some of these Redhawks last year in his first significant game at QB. Pike leads the upper echelon QBs in every passing category except TDs and he's second there. Miami coach Mike Haywood is cognizant of Mardy Gilyard, but if you key on Gilyard, Woods or Binns might nail you. If you key on the receivers, Ramsey or Pead sneaks open. If you forget Ben Guidugli or Kazzeem Alli, you're liable to give up six points. Miami in back to back weeks gave up 90 points between Kentucky and Boise State. I would have to think at worst, UC's offense rates between those two.
NOD: If you ring the bell for every Bearcat point, your wrist could get tired.
Miami offense vs. UC defense
After dumping passer Daniel Raudabaugh in favor of Zac Dysert, the Redhawks have at least added a wrinkle to their offense that's moving the chains. In addition to throwing for 337 yards against Kent State, Dysert also ran for 107 and has great escapability according to Brian Kelly. Dysert was actually in the mix to be a Bearcat at one point, so he could use that as motivation along with going down in Miami folklore should there be an upset. Mike Haywood would like to use the Fresno State game plan and chew up yards to limit UC's possessions. On the other hand, while Andre Bratton and Thomas Merriweather are decent backs, neither of them come close to Ryan Mathews of Fresno State. UC should have Dominique Battle back which should help against the Miami passing game. And, Dysert has been a little careless throwing the ball. One bad throw can turn a ballgame (ask Craig Carey).
NOD: I think Miami will be able to move the ball, but not with the efficiency that Fresno State did in trying to keep Tony Pike and company off the field. Dysert's scrambling should give the Bearcats a good preview of what some of the other Big East QBs might be like. Put the "Bell" back on the bus at the end.
Brian Kelly's not happy with his kickoff return team. That means extra work this week and don't be shocked if Gilyard and/or Darrin Williams breaks something in this game. In terms of field goals (remember those Bearcat fans?) I'd like to see Jake Rogers get a crack at more to get his confidence straight for the Big East run. On UC kickoffs, DB coach Kerry Coombs could be feeling squeamish as his son Brayden has been a constant for Miami as a returner. When you've been screaming at your defensive guys to play with reckless abandon, it's got to feel a little awkward to turn them loose on your own son. We like Brayden though, he did come to the Orange Bowl last January to watch the 'Cats. Chris DiCesare is the one Redhawk you hope to see a lot of Saturday. He's the punter.
NOD: Oh, let's be nice and since it's in Oxford call it even.
Throw It Out And See Where It Sticks
UC sold their allotment of tickets and I'm guessing you're going to see more Bearcat fans on hand than Miami would like. Dysert could give the Bearcats problems out of the backfield, but the Bearcats should get some good scout team work on him with Brendon Kay possibly simulating that role. There's some irony there as Kelly took Kay over Dysert a couple years ago. This is also the first time Kelly's faced Miami with his starting QB and full offense at his disposal. Two years ago he won at Oxford with Dustin Grutza subbing for Ben Mauk and winning Big East offensive player of the week honors for his game. Last year, it was Pike in for Grutza in Tony's first start and he looked like he'd been running Kelly's offense all of his life. Now, Pike is firmly the guy and arguably knows more of the diabolically diagrammed Kelly plays. That said, you can't overlook a MAC underdog on their own field and you can't toy around with them, otherwise you wind up with a game like last year's in Akron.