Following a 3-9 season in 2015, the still-rebuilding RedHawks have a brutal season-opening game this season as they head to Iowa City on September 3 to take on a #17 Iowa team that was humiliated in the Rose Bowl the last time it saw the field. Up until that point, the Hawkeyes were having one of their best seasons in school history with a 12-1 record that included close loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten title game.
For Iowa, it brings back a lot of talent from 2015 that will make them a really tough match-up this season. Desmond King, arguably the best corner in college football, had eight interceptions and 13 pass break-ups last season for an opportunistic defense that had 19 picks. On offense, C.J. Beathard was good at managing the offense by with 3,250+ yards of total offense, 23 total touchdowns, and five interceptions, although the 29 sacks year is a concern. Special team might hurt the Hawkeyes in 2016 as they graduated both their starting kicker and punter.
Miami will have to play their best ball on Saturday against such a talented team like Iowa, but the physical discrepancies between the teams really aren’t that stark as the RedHawks have six offensive linemen over 300 lbs. It’ll be interesting to see what a year of experience can do for Billy Bahl, who really improved as the season went on in 2015 as he threw six scores and three picks in the last four games. The big question on defense for the ‘Hawks will be the inside linebackers as they lose both Kent Kern and Joe Donlan to graduation, and the inexperience at that position can be an issue against a physical team like Iowa. Miami also graduated its kicker and punter, which could be a factor in a game where it needs to win the field position battle.
I expect Miami to try to establish the run early on Saturday, whether it’s Alonzo Smith inside the tackles or Kenny Young and Maurice Thomas on perimeter runs. If the RedHawks can keep the defense honest and take some pressure off of Bahl in his first non-conference start, the offense potentially could keep this game interesting down the stretch. Defensively, the ‘Hawks need to get Iowa in obvious passing downs to manufacture pressure on Beathard and win the field position battle. If the Red and White can win the time of possession battle as well as field position, this could be an intriguing game to watch.