The 2011 football season kicks off for the Miami RedHawks Saturday afternoon when they travel to Columbia to face #21 Missouri. No doubt you recall how these teams met last year in an absolute demolishing of the ‘Hawks. An Armand Robinson fumble on the first play of the game was returned for a Missouri TD, and the just opened the floodgates in what ended up being a 51-13 slaughter at the hands of the Tigers.
So that means today’s question is: Can the RedHawks avoid a similar fate tomorrow? Not gonna lie, the odds are not stacked in Miami’s favor. But there’s always hope.
The sliver of hope comes from the fact that the Tigers are under new on-the-field leadership, after former QB Blaine Gabbert was selected 10th overall in the NFL Draft this spring by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Sophomore James Franklin takes over for Gabbert this year, and though he is expected to be just fine for the Tigers going forward, he’s pretty green today (he only attempted 14 passes in relief of Gabbert last year as a freshman). He will have a great supporting cast around him, as the Tigers are bringing back almost all of their other offensive playmakers, including top wideout T.J. Moe, who hauled in 92 catches last year for 1,045 yards and 6 TDs, and top rusher De’Vion Moore who ran for 517 yards and eight scores on the ground. In fact, the Tigers are returning with their top four receivers and their top three rushers. But remember how last year the RedHawks opened the season against Florida in the Gators’ first game without former star QB Tim Tebow? The Miami D kept the ‘Hawks in that game until it got out of hand in the end. Similarly, the Tiger offense should need some warming up before Franklin manages to really get a handle on his game. Throw in the fact that Missouri is without some key players due to injury (their starting center, two receivers and one tight end), and it becomes more and more unlikely that the Tigers repeat last year’s 51-point performance.
So that means if the Miami offense can strike quickly, they could actually stay in front. However, that will be difficult against a defense that was best in the offense-happy Big 12 conference (16.1 ppg in 2010) and is returning seven starters. Given Miami’s uncertain situation at running back, we already knew that the ‘Hawks would have to get it done through the air. But since the Tigers are youngest at safety and corner (two sophomore first-year starters amongst the four), then the recommendation will be for Zac Dysert to just keep airing the ball out and get it to one of his many talented receivers.
Ultimately, the RedHawks will have to get on the board quickly if they are going have a shot against the Tigers. They simply don’t have the depth to last them out in a shootout or even a defensive standoff. If the Miami D manages to keep James Franklin from getting comfortable in the pocket then the dangerous Tiger offense will come to life. This should be a great competition between Treadwell’s new-look program and Missouri’s chance to see just what their new QB can do.