For most Miami fans, the game against Kentucky this weekend is all about junior quarterback Brett Gabbert.
Gabbert has been named to multiple prestigious award watch lists going into this season, and for good reason (more on why below). It’ll be extremely interesting to see what Gabbert can make happen against a Southeastern Conference defense; last year, he was a step above the Mid-American Conference.
The RedHawks travel to Lexington, Ky. this Saturday, Sept. 3, to play the No. 20 Kentucky Wildcats.
This is a “prove -it” game for Gabbert, especially considering he has another year of eligibility after this one (transfer portal anyone?) and likely NFL aspirations (his brother is a backup QB for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers).
For most of the conference schedule last season, Gabbert played absolutely out of his mind.
First, he tossed a near-perfect game against Ball State (20-24, 207 yards, 2 TD), before an incredibly gutsy performance against Ohio University the next week where he threw for 492 yards and five touchdowns while trying to claw the RedHawks back from a 28-0 third-quarter deficit.
They missed a last minute two-point conversion attempt that would’ve tied the game, but Gabbert’s performance was still an instant classic. He finished up the season strong after that, four touchdowns in a drubbing of Buffalo, and four more in the last game of the year against Kent State.
Gabbert is extremely mobile and slippery. He doesn’t have Josh Allen’s size, but he has that type of escapability. When the ball leaves his hand sometimes, it doesn’t even look real because he’s smaller but has such a cannon.
His intermediate and short game needs some work, but look for him to try to go bombs away against one of the best defenses he’s ever faced this weekend.
It could be a long day for Miami’s defense against senior Kentucky quarterback Will Levis, who threw for over 2800 yards with 24 touchdowns last season.
Miami head coach Chuck Martin was pretty blunt last week in assessing where his team stands.
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“Early on our offense will have to carry us,” Martin said. “We'll have some growing pains on defense."
Kentucky lost its top two receivers after last year, but it was active on the transfer portal this offseason. Miami’s defensive backs will have their hands full with transfer Javon Baker from Alabama. Kentucky’s inexperienced offensive line ensures that this game will be a test for both that unit and Miami’s revamped pass rush.
Miami returns nine starters on offense this season (most importantly Gabbert), but is a lot more inexperienced on defense. Last year the RedHawks had 38 sacks on the season, but 22 of them transferred to bigger schools this offseason. It’s still not certain whether Miami will find its groove on D this year, but it seems like pretty safe money to say it won't happen this week in SEC country.
That said, this offense should be fun to watch.
The game starts at 7 p.m. on Saturday and you can watch it on ESPN plus.