Opponent preview: How much of a difference will special teams make for Miami (Ohio)?

There is a decidedly different atmosphere surrounding the Miami (Ohio) game than there was surrounding the Oregon game. The Ducks coming to town was electric. The RedHawks coming to town is dfisojuer ... /fell asleep on keyboard.

Still, that's no reason not to gameplan the Miamians. Coach Pete would have you think that they are just like any other opponent, and he's right. For the most part. Though the RedHawks are doing nothing particularly well on offense or defense, their special teams could come into play on Saturday. How much will it matter? Can it keep the game close? Let's talk about it.

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Miami (OH) vs. No. 12 Boise State

Kickoff: 6:00pm MT, Bronco Stadium
Coverage
: TV: KTVB channel 7, Radio: 580 KIDO
Forecast
: 92 degrees, sunny
Spread
: Broncos by 37

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Yes, you read that spread correctly.

Last Week for Miami (Ohio)

Warning: horrendous video quality, also quality of play by Miami (OH)

The RedHawks gave it the old college try for about 15 minutes against Kentucky before falling under the inordinate weight of averageness and being shut out by the final score of 42-0.

Miami suffered its most lopsided season-opening loss since a 61-0 drubbing at Pittsburgh in 1931.

Ah, the 30s.

What did the RedHawks do well? They didn't pass well, throwing for just 126 yards with two INTs. They didn't run very well, either, averaging just 2.8 yards per rush. Defense wasn't particularly good, allowing 488 total yards including 245 on the ground. As far as head coaching debuts go, Mike Haywood's inaugural sideline stinker was downright Kotite-esque.

Perhaps the only tidbit of note was that the RedHawks already are playing like a team with nothing to lose. They converted a fake punt and attempted a flea-flicker (arguably the turning point in the game when it was picked by the Wildcats). Up next: The backward forward pass!

 

Box Score: ESPN.com

Starting Offense

  • LT Brandon Brooks
  • LG Sean Redwine
  • C Brad Bednar: True freshman
  • RG Nate Williams
  • RT Matt Kennedy
  • QB Daniel Raudabaugh: 13-for-34, 126 yards, 2 INTs vs. Kentucky
  • WR Chris Givens
  • WR Eugene Harris
  • WR Dustin  Woods
  • WR Jamal Rogers: leading receiver versus Kentucky
  • RB Andre Bratton: Led all Miami players in rushing vs. Kentucky with 37 yards

You might remember Miami head coach Mike Haywood from his stint as Notre Dame's offensive coordinator. Or you might not. Haywood had play-calling duties revoked/eaten by Charlie Weis midway through the season.

All that to tell you that Haywood's specialty is offense and that he is known to think outside the box when it comes to offensive sets. Expect the RedHawks to show a lot of multiple receiver looks and unique formations. Raudabaugh is not a runner, or at least not a particularly skilled one, but he does have some weapons at his disposal, including all four of his top returning receivers from last season.

Starting Defense

  • LE Morris Council: 2.5 sacks last season
  • LT Austin Brown: true freshman
  • RT Martin Channels
  • RE Matt Kajmowicz
  • OLB Wes Williams: true freshman
  • MLB Jerrell Wedge: career-high 15 tackles versus Kentucky
  • OLB Evan Harris: true freshman
  • LB Caleb Bostic
  • CB Brandon Stephens
  • SS Jordan Gafford
  • FS Anthony Kokal
  • CB Jeff Thompson

Bostic is Miami's best defensive player, mostly by default. The RedHawks lost their four leading tacklers from a season ago and looked defeated after falling behind to Kentucky in the second quarter.

Special Teams

The special teams magic in Miami's 42-0 loss

You might not be able to tell from the final score, but Miami (Ohio) did have a half-decent day on special teams. There was that fake punt conversion. Dustin Woods had a 13 yard average on punt returns. No one died.

In fact, special teams was the only non-unmitigated disaster that the RedHawks put on the field. Give that special teams coach a raise!

The special teams magic of Boise State in their 19-8 win over Oregon

Well, to be fair, not all of it was magic, unless you consider the strange disappearance of Kyle Brotzman's accuracy to be magic (and when I put it that way, who wouldn't?). Brotzman delivered a punt to the four, which resulted in a safety. Michael Choate ran in a two-point conversion. No one died. Give that special teams coach a raise!

Seriously though, the Bronco special teams looked pretty amateur between its regular bouts of greatness. Remember:

  • Michael Choate's fumbled two-point conversion and fumbled field goal that turned into the most intentional intentional grounding penalty the world has ever seen
  • Brotzman doffing two field goals
  • Oregon kick returns that gave you that queasy feeling in your stomach

There is room for improvement with the special teams unit, as there should be after one week of the season. It will be interesting to see how those improvements are made against the RedHawks.

Key matchups

Kyle Wilson vs. Bad decisions by the punter

Boise State's All-American burner was largely held in check by some stellar punting from Oregon. Can Miami punter Chris DiCesare possibly do the same? Will the RedHawks even bother kicking to Wilson?

DiCesare averaged a pedestrian 37 yards per kick against Kentucky. He will have to do better or have five-plus seconds of hangtime to neutralize Wilson.

Boise State's punt coverage vs. Miami's punt return

Woods provided a bright spot for the RedHawks in the return game, although extrapolating any kind of meaningful stat from his Kentucky performance is pointless considering he only had two returns. Still, the potential is there, and Boise State will need to make sure that they keep Woods in mind on the off chance that the Broncos will even have to punt on Saturday.

Also, if punting does figure prominently in the Broncos' game plan, Brotzman showed that he can still hang them up there with the best of them and that he can do so without rolling out. His coffin corner was deadly, and his rugby kicks make grown men weep. Even if Boise State does resort to not converting third downs, they're in good hands.

Kyle Brotzman vs. Kyle Brotzman

Whatever is going on in Kyle Brotzman's head needs to be replaced by whatever is going on in Boise-State-fan-with-a-chair's head, which is obviously nothing, and which will obviously help Brotzman when it comes to making makeable field goals.

Blocking things vs. Returning things

Both schools will have an interesting decision to make whether to go after the other team's kicks or sit back and hope for a solid return. Obviously this debate is always at play in no matter what game you watch, but it might be even more important in Saturday's game. Turnovers are a big equalizer when you're working with 37-point spreads, and special teams turnovers can be especially important. If Miami steals a couple off the foot of Brotzman, Boise State will have a much harder time pulling away from the RedHawks. If the Broncos are the ones holding the block party, then this will be over faster than anyone could have expected.

What are we really talking about here?

Few people outside of Graham Watson think that Miami (Ohio) has a chance on Saturday. This special teams debate is not so much a debate over the ultimate breaking point in the matchup between the Broncos and the RedHawks. If anything, it is probably the one area that Miami and Boise State are most similar.

Still, that last statement needs some hedging. The only reason that special teams appears similar is because of the gap between every other comparison between the two schools.

  • Boise State's offense is better than Miami's defense by leaps and bounds. If Kentucky can roll up 42 points on the RedHawks, then Boise State can muster somewhere in the 50's. Of course, this is all dependent on little things like center-QB exchanges going well and players showing up to play. But you get my drift.
  • Boise State's defense is better than Miami's offense by so much it is not even funny unless you find really sad comparisons to be funny. If the same unit that played against Oregon faces the same unit that played against Kentucky, the RedHawks will still be searching for their first points of the season come Saturday night. In fact, if there were a way for a team to put fewer points on the board than zero, Miami would probably find a way on Saturday. Again, this is dependent on things remaining the status quo.

Special teams simply presents Miami's best chance to make something happen. Whether that something will affect the scoreboard or the win column is anybody's guess.

Conclusions

I believe I already know the answer to this question, but I'm going to ask it anyway. How much will Miami's special teams affect the game on Satuday?

  • None. Boise State will kill the RedHawks no matter how many yards Dustin Woods gets on the return.
  • Some. A good showing by the RedHawks on special teams could hamper Boise State's offense, set up the RedHawks' O in good position, and possibly lead to some easy points.
  • Tons. This game will be decided on the foot of Miami's Trevor Cook. Sincerely, Trevor Cook's parents.

It's not much of a discussion for many of you, but then again, this game isn't much of a game as far as many Bronco fans are concerned.

That's too bad for reasons I probably did not make clear in this post. I'm really looking forward to this game. I think Miami will pose an interesting opponent for the Broncos thanks to the varied offensive looks and throw-caution-to-the-wind game management. I'm particularly interested in special teams, both to see how Boise State bounces back and to see if Miami can swing some points in its favor through the kicking game.

What factors are you most looking forward to when it comes to Miami? Something? Anything? Curious how Boise State will handle red zone opportunities? Wonder if Miami will score any points?

Let's talk it out in the comments.

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