The Ohio State Buckeyes (3-0) will welcome the Miami Redhawks (1-2) into Ohio Stadium on Saturday to wrap up their non-conference slate.
Miami opened its season with a 38-14 loss at Iowa, and the Redhawks’ lone win came against FCS opponent Tennessee Tech in week two. They are coming off a 35-13 beatdown at Cincinnati last week in which they led 10-0 after the first quarter before being outscored 35-3 the rest of the way.
Head Coach Chuck Martin is in his sixth season leading the Miami program, posting a 23-41 record over that span. Last season, the Redhawks posted just their second non-losing record in the regular season since 2010, going 6-6 but missing out on a bowl game for the second consecutive year.
Martin did little to downplay the obvious talent disparity earlier this week when he was quoted as saying of the two teams, “It’s kind of like going to recess and they have the first 85 picks.”
The two schools have met five times dating back to their first meeting in 1904. Ohio State is 5-0 in those games, with its most recent victory coming in 2009.
Ohio State has won 42 consecutive games against in-state opponents dating back to 1921, and as massive favorites this weekend, that streak is almost certain to be extended to 43 games Saturday.
Here is a look at the personnel Miami will field as it attempts to do the unthinkable in knocking off the sixth-ranked Buckeyes.
Miami’s offense has totaled more than 300 yards offense just once this season, gaining 349 yards in their lone win over Tennessee Tech. Against Cincinnati last week, the Redhawks were held to just 207 total yards, their lowest output of the season to date.
Freshman quarterback Brett Gabbert, the younger brother of former Missouri quarterback and first-round NFL draft pick Blaine Gabbert, has started all three games for the Redhawks. Over the past two weeks, the 6-foot quarterback has combined for just 20 completions on 35 attempts for 295 yards and zero touchdowns.
Gabbert’s best performance to date came in Miami’s season-opening 38-14 loss at Iowa in which he completed 17 of his 27 attempts for 186 yards and two touchdowns. He also threw his only interception of the season in that game.
As inexperienced as Miami is at quarterback, the team is not lacking experience when it comes to Gabbert’s targets.
Miami returns its top pass-catcher from a year ago in 6-foot junior Jack Sorenson, who caught 53 passes for 742 yards and two touchdowns last season. He has seven catches for 54 yards and a touchdown this season.
Dominique Robinson has provides a big body for Gabbert at 6-foot-4, 235 pounds. Robinson was tied for the team lead in touchdown receptions last season with four but has yet to find the endzone this season. Luke Mayock brings even more size to the outside at 6-foot-5, but he hasn’t caught a pass since his three-catch performance in week one.
Junior tight end Andrew Homer, who stands 6-foot-6, caught three touchdown passes a year ago and caught a 20-yard touchdown pass in the week one loss to Iowa.
While the passing game has been pedestrian at best, Miami’s running game has been considerably worse in its two games against FBS opponents. The Redhawks were held to just 59 and 64 yards, respectively, in their losses to Iowa and Cincinnati.
Miami has used a host of running backs throughout in the early season, led by freshman Tyre Shelton, sophomore Davion Johnson, and senior Maurice Thomas. Johnson and Shelton were featured last week against Cincinnati, receiving 11 carries each.
Martin’s offense often utilizes multiple running backs on the field, and they will be used in a variety of different ways, including in the passing game; Johnson and Thomas have combined for 12 catches this season.
Junior Jaylin Bester was expected to play a significant role this season but has been sidelined the past two weeks.
The offensive line lost two starters from a year ago, both on the left side, but still return solid experience in 2019. The unit combined for 67 career starts heading into the season, led by center Danny Godlevske, who was a third-team All-MAC performer last season and has started 27 games in his career.
That experience will be tested, however, against a relentless Ohio State defensive line that is coming off a five-sack performance last week in Bloomington. Miami has already given up six sacks on the season, including five by Cincinnati last week.
Losses from last year’s defense have been felt early on by the Redhawks, none more so than that of linebacker Brad Koenig, who impacted the stat sheet in every way last season. Koenig finished his final season at Miami with 102 total tackles, 13 tackles for loss, five sacks, four forced fumbles, and three interceptions.
Miami has given up more than 400 yards of total offense twice already this season, allowing 465 yards to Iowa and 420 yards to Cincinnati. Both teams went for over 200 yards rushing against Miami, and an Ohio State running game that is beginning to fire on all cylinders shouldn’t be any different.
In addition to Koenig, linebacker Junior McMullen also graduated following last season. Senior Myles Reid returns after finishing fifth on the team in tackles a season ago with 43 total stops. He is the leader in the linebacker group for the Redhawks and has 16 total tackles this season.
Middle linebacker Ryan McWood anchors the defense and had 10 total stops in the week one loss to Iowa.
Along the defensive line, the Redhawks are a bit undersized but have players who can be disruptive in the backfield. Sophomore Kameron Butler had two of Miami’s four sacks against Cincinnati last week. Doug Costin has 11 career sacks to his name, although he is yet to record his first of the 2019 season.
Perhaps the strength of the Miami defense is in its secondary, despite losing several key contributors from a season ago.
Junior Mike Brown started nine games at safety last season and played in all 12 games, finishing second on the team with 58 total tackles and also recording an interception.
At the other safety position, Sterling Weatherford currently leads the team in tackles with 20 stops. He had six solo tackles last week against Cincinnati, and he also has an interception on the season.
Cornerback Emmanuel Rugamba transferred to Miami from Iowa, where he played extensively, following the 2017 season that included a start in the upset of Ohio State in Kinnick Stadium. After sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules, Rugamba is back on the field and won’t be intimidated by the players he lines up against.
At the other corner position, senior Zedrick Raymond also brings experience after starting all 12 games last season.
Senior Bart Baratti serves as the nickleback for the Redhawks. He recorded 40 tackles and an interception last season, and he has an interception that he returned for a touchdown this season as well.
Miami should be sound if not spectacular in the kicking game as they return the same placekicker and punter for the third straight season.
Placekicker Sam Sloman doesn’t have the strongest leg, but he was solid last season inside of 50 yards, going 10 of 11 on his attempts. In 2017, he was 12 of 15 inside 50 yards. For his career, Sloman is 0-4 in attempts from 50 yards or more.
Kyle Kramer is averaging 44 yards on 16 punts this season, including a long of 59 yards. In both 2017 and 2018, Kramer’s season-best punts were 64 yards.
Thomas can be a dangerous threat in the kick return game, averaging more than 26 yards per return last season and also returning one for a touchdown.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.