On a Redhawk's wing and a prayer.
This fall is a season of firsts. Urban Meyer begins his maiden voyage as the skipper of the Ohio State football team and with it comes a slew of inaugural occurrences. So too do a handful of features on a still young (though seasoned in Internet years) vehicle such as this one. With that, I give you Five Minutes In The Holy Land, a regular series where we chat with some of the best and the brightest writing about college athletics today.
Helping to usher in a new era is a man that needs little introduction. Matt Sussman's written all over the internet ranging from Deadspin to MLive. He now is video eye candy for SBN's Detroit Tigers blog, Bless You Boys, but more notably steers the ship over at the All-MACtion everything venue, Hustle Belt. When he's not shamelessly referencing Goldeneye, Matt's the definitive authority on all things midwest middleweights. Follow him on twitter at @suss2hyphens and @HustleBelt.
What does Miami (Ohio) bring to the table in terms of a defensive front seven? Do they have any hope of curtailing Ohio State's balanced spread attack?
It's a base 4-3 with an experienced D-line and a mixed bag of linebackers. Austin Brown and Jason Semmes combined for 18 tackles for loss and those are two good anchors to have. They might cause some problems for the first couple quarters but like any good MAC team, depth will wear thin in the second half. The linebacker group, though, is a set of question marks for all 60 minutes. They have some experience with Jaytee Swanson and Evan Harris, but beyond that? Eh ... that might be a problem.
Urban Meyer said glowingly of the Redhawks that quarterback Zac Dysert and wide receiver Nick Harwell "can play anywhere in the country". How can Ohio State slow the duo down and/or force their efficient passing attack to be more one dimensional?
Make 'em run. Because he's right about Dysert and Harwell. Put that QB/WR pair up against any other team's tandem and you'll be hard-pressed to find one more talented and accomplished. But you also need an O-line and a running game. Both units are huge question marks (Miami gave up the second most sacks last year, one more than OSU) and stand as the reasons this team is not more attractive as a MAC favorite. OSU will push up front and they'll withstand 300 pass yards from Dysert, 100 or so to Harwell.
SB Nation's own Bill Connelly's gone on record as being "all-in for Miami in the MAC East." Do you envision this same kind of success for the Redhawks and are the biggest obstacles between Don Treadwell's bunch and a ticket to Detroit?
I LIKE THE BOLD PICK. (As much as a BG man can like a Miami pick.) The thing is, they'll need to beat OHIO for that to happen. They drew a favorite schedule otherwise and they get their hated rivals in Oxford, so that's a plus. However they haven't beaten OHIO since 2005. Bowling Green and Kent State are also in the crowded bunch of reasonable contenders, but the division's likely coming down to that October 27 rivalry game.
From a broader sense, Miami not that long ago felt like one of those programs who could've become what Boise State or TCU was these last several years back when they had Ben Roethlisberger under center and Terry Hoeppner steering the ship. Can the Redhawks prospectively return to that rarefied air or is there potentially too much parity in the MAC now to prevent that from happening?
Everybody wants to be the next Boise State. Personally, that's an unreachable star. Miami has always been perceived as a sleeping beast going all the way back to the 50s. They are what they've been since the age of talkies: a team that shows up as a champion every five years or so that produces coaches for other schools. Every few years they'll have their chance, but powerhouses in the MAC are usually houses of cards. Exhibit A: Central Michigan, 2006-2009. Exhibit B: Miami 2003. Exhibit C: Ball State 2008. The common thread through all of these: they can't keep the coaches, by which I mean not only the head coach but the entire arsenal of assistants.
MACtion's become all the rage in college football hardcorers' in-circles. What's it going to take for a MAC team to qualify for one of the BCS' at-large spots?
By my estimation, roughly 40 more bowl bans.
Honestly, though, I've written about this at length. I'm not going to lose much sleep if they never make a BCS game. They have never finished inside the top 10 prior to a bowl game, ever, and even though the respect for the conference might be at its tippy-top in years, unless a team with a loaded nonconference schedule (like UMass's this year) goes 12-0, it's not happening.
One final question: how much do Miami fans hate when their school is called Miami (Ohio) or Miami of Ohio?