Throughout the 2016 season, The Pants will pinpoint one player each week from the opposing team who is worth keeping an eye on (that is...when you’re not following The Pants during the game).
But before we dive in to this week’s opponent (and believe me when I say I had to dive very, very deep for this one), I need to send my thoughts and prayers to the King of the Norsemen, the G.U.M.P. man, the most lovable human in the NFL—Teddy Bridgewater.
In 2010, I thought my Vikes and the Hawks had a chance to both build off their previous year successes. In 2009, the Vikings went 12-4 and lost in the NFC Championship, while Iowa went 11-2 and won the Orange Bowl. Then, Brett Favre and Bret Bielema happened. The Vikings went 6-10 and the Hawkeyes finished the regular season 7-5 (4-4 in the B1G).
As this season approached, I felt the same way. Then Teddy Bridgewater somehow dislocated his knee and tore his ACL without even being touched in practice.
I’m sure this isn’t going to be 2010 all over again right? Right??
Will somebody please please PLEASE put C.J. Beathard in bubble-wrap until January 2017???
Get well soon, Teddy.
With that, it’s time to turn our attention to this week’s opponent.
First up: Miami Redhawks
I’ve got to be honest—it wasn’t easy to find a player worth watching from a team that posted a 3-9 record in 2015, including a 2-6 record in the MAC Conference. Don’t get me wrong—I’m sure plenty of the players on the Redhawk roster are good people. They just weren’t very good college football players in 2015.
Miami lost 58-0 at Wisconsin last season. Nothing against the Badgers (actually, I have everything against them), but they weren’t exactly the end-all, be-all of college football in 2015 (or in any other year, for that matter). Yet Miami didn’t put up a single point against them. The Redhawks struggled to find a glimmer of hope throughout the entirety of the 2015 season, losing eight of their first nine games largely due to a lackluster defense and poor quarterback play.
Miami expects its starting quarterback, sophomore Billy Bahl, to take a step forward after a freshman season that included only 8 touchdowns to 13 interceptions, a 44.5% completion percentage, and just over 1,400 passing yards. Bahl also tossed not 1, not 2, not 3….but 9 (NINE!!!!) interceptions in his first 63 passing attempts. For those of you scoring at home, that’s 1 interception every 7 attempts. That is miserable. If you strictly enjoy watching Desmond King break the single-season interception record in Week 1 (don’t count this out), then your player to watch is Billy Bahl. If you think that’s unrealistic and prefer to watch quality football, then the player to watch is J.T. Jones.
Name: J’Terius Jones
Position: Defensive End (#91)
Jones proved to be one of the lone bright spots for the Redhawks last season, despite getting off to a slow start by failing to record a tackle in the blowout loss to Wisconsin and only recording eight total tackles in the first four games. However, he showed significant improvement by season’s end, with 6.5 of his 10 sacks coming in the final three games. At season’s end, Jones had recorded 10 total sacks, 14.5 tackles for loss, 52 total tackles, and a forced fumble. This performance earned him recognition as a 2nd-team All-MAC selection.
Miami squared off with Eastern Michigan (Week 10) and Massachusetts (Week 12) in two of those final three games and Jones proved to be hitting his stride. Take a look at his stats from those contests:
Eastern Michigan: 7 total tackles, 4 TFL, 4 sacks
Massachusetts: 4 total tackles, 3 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble
Those were undoubtedly Jones’ best two games in the 2015 season. Miami earned victories in both of them. It’s simple: When Jones gets pressure on the quarterback and disrupts the backfield, Miami has a chance to win. When he doesn’t, they don’t.
I’m not suggesting that Miami’s chances of coming into Kinnick and taking down the Hawkeyes rest on the shoulders of a 2nd-team All-Mac defensive lineman. I’m also not suggesting that Miami has a chance to beat Iowa.
But I do think that nobody in the stadium on Saturday will be looking to put a bigger lick on Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard than J.T. Jones. He’s a senior. His team was embarrassed after giving up 58 points to a B1G opponent last season. It’s one of the largest crowds he will ever play in front of, if not the largest. What better way to start your senior year than wreaking havoc on a team that came within inches of the College Football Playoff a year ago and has a legitimate chance to win the B1G this year?
This week is largely about the home team and focusing on the potential weapons Iowa possesses for this season, but if there is one opposing player to watch this week, it’s J.T. Jones.