2005 Opponent: Miami (Ohio)

In the first of a 13-part series, we take a look at Ohio State's opponents for the 2005 season as well as the Big Ten Conference. Today, we start the series with a look at Miami (Ohio), OSU's opponent in the opener one month away on Sept. 3. The RedHawks are led by senior quarterback Josh Betts, who threw for 3,495 yards and 23 touchdowns last year.

Here is the first in a Bucknuts.com series on Ohio State's 2005 football opponents as well as a preview, as the days wear on, for the Big Ten in 2005. We begin with the opener with Miami (Ohio), which is coincidentally one month from today on Sept. 3.

Miami (Ohio)

* Date, Time: Sat., Sept. 3, noon (ABC regional).

* Location: Ohio Stadium.

* Last Year, Bowl: 8-5, lost to Iowa State in Independence Bowl. MAC East: 7-1/first.

* Coach: Shane Montgomery (first year at Miami).

* Returning Starters: 19. Offense (8): WR R.J. Corbin, LT Mark Kracium, C Todd Londot, RG Nate Bunce, RT Charlie Norden, TE Dan Tyler, WR Ryne Robinson, QB Josh Betts. Defense (9): DE Marcus Johnson, DT John Glavin, DT Jarrod Rich, OLB John Busing, MLB Derek Rehage, OLB Terna Nande, CB Frank Wiwo, SS Joey Card, CB Darrell Hunter. Specialists (2): K Todd Soderquist, P Jacob Richardson.

* Last League Championship: 2003 (won MAC East Division last year, but lost MAC title game to Toledo).

* Last Time Didn't Go To Bowl: 2002.

* Series Vs. Ohio State: This will mark the fourth meeting ever between OSU and Miami. OSU has won the three previous match-ups, including a 27-16 decision in 2000. OSU also won 80-0 in 1904 and 3-0 in 1911.

* Schedule: Sept. 3, at Ohio State; Sept. 10, Central Michigan; Sept. 17, at Kent State; Sept. 28, Cincinnati; Oct. 5, at Northern Illinois; Oct. 15, Akron; Oct. 22, at Eastern Michigan; Oct. 29, at Temple; Nov. 5, Buffalo; Nov. 15, Bowling Green; Nov. 21, at Ohio.

* Outlook: Montgomery, an N.C. State grad and architect of Miami's offensive success in recent years, replaces Indiana-bound Terry Hoeppner as the head coach at the Cradle of Coaches.

"We're fortunate to have a veteran team that has been in the tough battles before and look forward to the challenges of the upcoming season," Montgomery said of his team that welcomes back 14 senior starters and six players who earned All-MAC honors over the last two years. Miami was picked second behind Bowling Green in the MAC East Division in a preseason media poll.

Montgomery will pin much of his hope on Betts, who stepped in for Ben Roethlisberger and threw for 3,510 yards and 23 touchdowns a year ago. Senior WR Martin Nance returns after missing the last eight games last year. He set a school record with 1,498 receiving yards (on 90 catches) in 2003. Robinson had 64 catches last year. Sophomore Brandon Murphy takes over at TB.

Busing (93 tackles), Johnson (7-1/2 sacks), Nande and Hunter will key what could be the best defense in the MAC.

The RedHawks are a veteran team that has played at Iowa and at Michigan in recent years, so a game at OSU should not faze them too much. Miami overcame a 2-3 start by ripping off six straight wins in MAC play. MU then dropped the MAC title game to Toledo 35-27 and fell to Iowa State 17-13 in the Independence Bowl.

* Jerry Rudzinski Says: I think Ohio State is going to have its hands full, completely full, with this season opener. But I also think they'll win the game. If you look at that program, Terry Hoeppner really built that program up. It actually started with Randy Walker before him, when they really started building that thing up.

It wasn't really like they were doing it with scraps and leftovers, either. They had guys who maybe, if they had waited a while longer, would have gotten scholarship offers from some Big Ten schools. Some of them like Roethlisberger did have offers like that and chose Miami instead. These players were saying, `I can't wait. I can go in and get some playing time at Miami.' They had a nice blend there where many of their front line guys could have been players at some Big Ten schools.

Ohio State needs to take this game very seriously or they could suffer that first loss in the Horseshoe to an MAC opponent. They have to be careful that doesn't happen. Miami believes they can win this game, and that is frightening. There are some teams you play where they say, `If the ball bounces our way, we could come out on top.'

Miami is saying, `No, even if the ball doesn't bounce our way, we can go into the ‘Shoe and beat the Buckeyes.' When a team comes in with that mind-set, you better be ready to play some football.

It's a big deal to Coach Montgomery, I'm sure, and he will control the things he can control. He can't control Ted Ginn Jr.'s speed, but he can control a game plan and have his team ready and fresh. This quarterback, Josh Betts, is a good one and they have a good system. He has a good receiver in Ryne Robinson.

Don't expect Miami to just go three-and-out and for OSU to score quickly every time. But over the course of the game, OSU should create enough breaks and come out on top.

I think Ohio State will put off the Texas film – at least for the players – until after they play this game. There may be some cases, like if they were playing a Kent State, where they'd say, `Let's sneak in some Texas tape.' They won't be doing that here. The best thing they can do to prepare for Texas is to prepare and play a good game against Miami.

* Steve Helwagen Says: I saw Shane Montgomery at OSU's summer camp in June. I said to him, `That season opener should be exciting, huh?'

His reply, coupled with a sheepish grin, kind of said it all: `Yeah, it's going to be great.' He understands coming into the Horseshoe will be a tall order for any MAC team – even one with so many veteran players.

Just as a year ago with Cincinnati's Mark Dantonio, OSU's opening game opponent will have a coach making his head coaching debut. Montgomery, 38, has only been a college assistant for four years. But that time coincided with the Roethlisberger years, putting Miami and Oxford on the college football map.

This will be OSU's 10th game against an MAC opponent since 1992. OSU has won the first nine of those games by an average of just over 20 points. But the last two have been a little too close for comfort as they beat Bowling Green 24-17 in 2003 and got by Marshall 24-21 on Mike Nugent's final play field goal last year.

I certainly do not expect this game to get out of hand, like OSU's 44-13 win over BGSU in 1997, the 49-0 romp of Toledo in 1998 and the 51-17 triumph over Kent State did in 2002.

But I look for OSU to prevail comfortably, probably pulling away way. OSU would extend its winning streak in home openers to 27 in a row. (That streaks dates to the 1978 loss to Penn State.)

In terms of OSU, everybody knows Justin Zwick will get the start at quarterback as Troy Smith serves the second of his two-game suspension for receiving illegal extra benefits. However, Jim Tressel has all but said that Todd Boeckman will make his college debut as well at some point in this game. Zwick knows he must produce to continue receiving snaps once Smith gets fully back in the picture.

At the same time, I expect OSU to try and establish Antonio Pittman as a 20- to 25-carry per game back. And I would expect OSU's stingy defense to make its first big stand of the new year.

This should be a fun game, certainly a celebration of Ohio football with so many players on both teams hailing from the Buckeye state.

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