The 117th Battle for the Victory Bell: Three Matchups to Watch

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As we wind down the week and finalize our preparations for Miami (OH) I just wanted to speak about a few matchups to look out for in the game. These teams know each other extremely well having played each other almost every year since horse and carriage was the primary means of transportation. So both should be prepared for what’s going to hit them tomorrow night. But even with an edge talent-wise, I’d say the Bearcats also maintain an edge in having a better understanding of the opponent.

For the most part the Redhawks return their key cogs from last season. Cincinnati is somewhat of an unknown with new starters at quarterback, defensive tackle, and runningback. But that’s where the Bearcats have the advantage. Butch Jones and his staff have tons of gamefilm from this season and 2011 to review because of the lack of change on the opposing sideline. Don Treadwell and his staff, however, really don’t know what to expect on Saturday because of the turnover at UC and especially how the Bearcats are implementing a new set of schemes to accommodate their new playmakers this year.

As such there are a three primary matchups to keep an eye on tomorrow night that are slightly different than in the past. They are listed after the jump.

1) Munchie Legaux vs. the Redhawk Linebackers

Miami’s secondary is very experienced and I don’t think Coach Bajakian will try to attack them as frequently as he did against Virginia Tech. As such, he will go after the front 7 and specifically the linebackers who can be easily exploited by Ralph David Abernathy and Anthony McClung. It will just be up to Legaux to hit them in stride on short passes across the field. Given the talent disparity between Abernathy/McClung and Miami’s linebackers, I expect this to be a go-to play tomorrow. But Legaux should also be able to take advantage of them on the ground. As I mentioned yesterday, the Redhawks are about as porous on run defense as porous run defenses come. Part of that is them getting beat up front but it’s also the linebackers not making smart decisions in gap control and run support. Munchie should force them to pause in their attack with the read-option then eat up (see what I did there) quick yards with his legs hopefully for big gains. He alone could cross the century mark running tomorrow night.

2) Chris Williams vs. Dawan Scott

This is the primary one-on-one matchup I would keep an eye on for Saturday. Nick Harwell and Andy Cruse are Zac Dysert’s favorite receivers but sophomore Dawan Scott has proven he’s an explosive receiver out of the slot. And most importantly he’s earning a ton of respect from the Redhawks’ senior quarterback as well. Given his positioning on the field, nickelback Chris Williams will be tasked at keeping Scott in check. He definitely has big-play abilities leading the Redhawks with 441 receiving yards and four touchdowns. He also averages a little over 16 yards per reception. The key is Scott gets off the line quickly and attacks the safeties with his speed and creates separation with his quick feet. He’s only a sophomore but will definitely test the veteran Williams. Expect him to bump, jab, do anything at the line of scrimmage to get the young Redhawk receiver out of a rhythm.

3) The Hoard at Nippert Stadium vs. Miami’s Concentration

The Redhawks are a veteran group and it shows in their ability to stay poised under duress. On the season Miami is averaging just 4.4 penalties per game (19th best) giving up just 29.6 yards per game (6th best) because of said penalties. Oddly enough they seem to give up less penalties on the road (3.3) than they do at home (6.0). But the Redhawks haven’t faced an environment like Nippert Stadium this season. This is not only a sell out but the stands will be overflowing with a sea of white on Saturday. Plus it’s a night game which always gets the best out of the crowd. If the 35,000-or-so Bearcat faithful can force a few Redhawk penalties, they’ll certainly be doing their part in leading Cincinnati to victory.