Longtime rivals battle for first place in the MAC East
The Miami (Ohio) RedHawks are coming off a solid October that saw the RedHawks go 3-1. With a win over their rivals, the Ohio Bobcats, Miami would take over first place in the MAC East division. What more could you ask for when it comes to some Wednesday MACtion?
Miami (4-4, 3-1 MAC) took on a challenging non-conference slate, losing games at Iowa, Cincinnati, and Ohio State, which prepared head coach Chuck Martin's team for MAC games. He was especially proud of his team's 23-16 winning performance in the pouring rain on the road against Kent State on Oct. 26, stating, "As proud a group as I've been around, probably, in my whole coaching career, with just how they are, and how tough they are, and how much they prepare, and how much they care about each other and how they play through everything. Grinding out a close, tough victory was awesome."
Ohio (4-4, 3-1) also tested itself in non-conference competition, losing by just two points to Marshall and also falling to Pittsburgh and Louisiana, three teams that have already secured bowl berths. The Bobcats and RedHawks are tied atop the MAC East standings, and Ohio head coach Frank Solich is excited to see this longtime rivalry game gain some national exposure on ESPN2.
"It's going to be great for college football, and it's certainly great for both Miami and Ohio to be viewed on that day... There's going to be a lot of eyes on you, and that's not only good for the football program, but it's good for the university. We're excited about being a part of it."
Miami (Ohio) at Ohio
Kickoff: Wednesday, Nov. 6 at 8 p.m. ET
Spread: Ohio -7
When Miami (Ohio) Has the Ball
The formula for the RedHawks is pretty straight forward — when they run the ball effectively, it usually leads to good things. Take last week when Miami took full advantage of not-so-ideal conditions on the road at Kent State and gashed the Golden Flashes for 289 rushing yards on 49 carries. Tyre Shelton, the RedHawks' leading rusher, went for 148 with Jaylon Bester adding another 67 on the ground as well as what proved to be the game-winning touchdown. Miami will look for similar success against an Ohio defense that is giving up 205.0 rushing yards per game.
Part of the reason the RedHawks have had to rely on their running game so much is because true freshman Brett Gabbert has been at quarterback. He is completing 53.1 percent of his passes with as many interceptions (five) as touchdowns (five), as no player on Miami's roster has recorded more than 15 catches or 300 receiving yards this season. Meanwhile, the Bobcats have yielded 15 touchdown passes compared to two interceptions, so perhaps Gabbert can make some things happen with his arm on Wednesday night.
When Ohio Has the Ball
The Bobcats' offense is built around dual-threat quarterback Nathan Rourke. The only player to rank in the top 10 of the MAC in both passing and rushing, Rourke is averaging more yards of total offense per game (284.9) this season than when he led the conference (253.4) in 2018. This season, he's completing 59.2 percent of his passes with 10 touchdowns and just five interceptions, while also putting up 536 total rushing yards with eight more scores. He is coming off of a season-high 127 rushing yards with two touchdowns in a 34-21 win over Ball State.
Rourke gets support on the ground from running backs O'Shaan Allison (475 yards, 2 TDs) and De'Montre Tuggle (4.8 ypc, 7 TDs), but he leads the team in carries and will need to be the focus of Miami's defense. Ohio has one of the more balanced offenses in the MAC, while the RedHawks have done a decent job against both the run and pass, ranking sixth and fourth in the conference in those categories, respectively.
Miami won last year in Oxford, 30-28, to snap a five-game losing streak to Ohio. In that game, the RedHawks limited Bobcats quarterback Nathan Rourke to 179 total yards (only 16 rushing) and two touchdowns (both passing). Overall, Ohio has had the upper hand in this rivalry at home, as Miami's last victory in Athens came back in 2005. Considering the experience advantage Rourke, a senior, has over his counterpart, true freshman Brett Gabbert, it's tough to see the RedHawks coming out on top in this critical midweek MACtion matchup.
Prediction: Ohio 28, Miami 21
(Top photo courtesy of @OhioFootball)