SEC Football: Miami (OH) vs. Kentucky Preview

By Zach Virnig
Mark Stoops, SEC Football
Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops made a comment which received a lot of attention concerning the SEC.

The elder statesman spoke out against the SEC, suggesting that the gap between the nation’s toughest conference and other conferences like his Big 12 conference isn’t as wide, especially from the bottom up.

The Sooners coach may have taken a direct shot at his brother Mark and his Kentucky program. Kentucky was at the bottom of the league last season, going winless in league competition and finishing with two overall wins for the first time since 2004.

After Western Kentucky‘s 35-26 win against the Wildcats, it’s not clear what the destiny is for this new staff and its players.

For the second straight season, Kentucky lost to in-state rival Western Kentucky and started the season 0-1. Every loss is always considered bad, but this was a very bad loss, and a crucial one at that for UK. Now, the team must salvage last week heading into the Commonwealth to take on Miami (Ohio) Saturday.

Miami had major offensive woes in their first outing at Marshall. The teams entered halftime deadlocked at 14-14, but that quickly changed thanks to a 38-point run in the second half by the Herd, resulting in a 52-14 loss for the Redhawks.

The Redhawks just don’t have the pieces on offense to hang with Kentucky’s crazy defensive depth at multiple positions, including the Cats’ front four. Kentucky has all the tools in the toolbox on the defensive line such as Bud Dupree to collapse the pocket on fifth-year senior quarterback Austin Boucher.

Boucher went 1-for-10 against Marshall in passing in the second half. The Redhawks no longer field quarterback Zac Dysert and his favorite target from last season, wide receiver Nick Harwell. Both kept Miami in tight games, though the team had only won four games in each of  head coach Don Treadwell’s first two seasons.

Miami finished 2012 ranked 75th in total offense, this year’s offense yielded only 239 yards of total offense at Marshall. Miami had nine players make their first career start last Saturday, five coming on offense.

Kentucky obtained one of the hardest schedules in the country, playing  five teams in the preseason AP top 10, featuring Louisville, South Carolina, Alabama and Florida all in consecutive weeks after this weekend. Playing a lower tier MAC opponent, Miami (OH) would make anybody grin from ear to ear, especially one SEC team that’s severely needing a victory.

Kentucky’s offense ranked 119th in total offense in 2012, and it’s still premature to say whether or not their new offensive style will solve their major talent flaws this season.

The quarterback play for Kentucky is the biggest area dampening the offense. Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown went with Maxwell Smith at quarterback for one quarter after Jalen Whitlow looked very unorganized and ineffective in this pass-heavy offensive scheme.

Whitlow’s offseason didn’t transpire into great quarterback play immediately as seen in his three quarters at LP Field. Kentucky inefficiency slinging the ball thankfully won’t be exposed here, neither will the run packages. Miami gave up 304  rushing yards to Marshall, which leads anybody to assume that Wildcat running back Raymond Sanders will find paydirt at some point starting Saturday afternoon.

Sanders scored four times in league play last season, and is really the only dependable asset for this air-raid offense. Sanders went over 1,000 yards with his 98 yards against Nick Holt’s Western Kentucky defense. Big Blue saw the emergence of receiver Demarco Robinson, who ended Saturday with five catches for 69 yards and a touchdown. The 5-foot-10, 160-pound Robinson totaled 28 catches last season.

Penalties and turnovers cost the Wildcats a victory last Saturday, and cleaning that up should provide answers to Kentucky’s burning questions on offense. UK  has won the last two meetings.

Kentucky 35 — Miami 17.

Zach Virnig is a SEC Writer for Follow him on Twitter @ZacharyVirnig, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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