The Ohio Bobcats and the Miami (Ohio) RedHawks will meet up on Wednesday night in a key MAC East battle. Ohio (6-3, 4-1 MAC) comes into this meeting riding a three-game winning streak, while Miami (3-6, 3-2) is licking its wounds after back-to-back losses to Army and Buffalo.
With only one loss in conference play, Frank Solich's Bobcats control their destiny in the divisional race. A win on Wednesday sets up a de facto MAC East title game with the aforementioned Bulls next Wednesday, especially should Buffalo lose to Kent State on Tuesday night. For the RedHawks, not only would they love to play spoiler to Ohio's plans, they also need a win to keep their bowl hopes alive.
The Bobcats lead the all-time series against their in-state rivals 52-40-2. Ohio has won its last five meetings with Miami, a game that's also known as the Battle of the Bricks.
Ohio at Miami (Ohio)
Kickoff: Wednesday, Nov. 7 at 7 p.m. ET
Spread: Ohio -3.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Can Miami slow down Nathan Rourke?
Ohio's dual-threat quarterback has been on a tear as of late, accounting for 13 total touchdowns (eight passing, five rushing) during the Bobcats' three-game winning streak. He's one of the few quarterbacks in the nation who actually deserve the "dual-threat" moniker, as for the season he's third in the MAC in touchdown passes (17) and rushing yards (637). All told, he has accounted for 25 total touchdowns and while he doesn't put up a ton of yards through the air (196.6 ypg) he has completed 63 percent of his passes and is the conference's top-rated passer thanks in part to throwing just five interceptions.
Rourke is playing some of his best football of the season so the RedHawks' defense figures to have its hands full. Miami is fourth in the MAC in yards allowed per game (367.0 ypg), but gave up 505 as well as 51 points in last week's loss to Buffalo. If the RedHawks can't get to Rourke early on and disrupt his timing and confidence, it could be a long night for the home team.
2. Can Miami shorten the game?
Ohio is second in the MAC in scoring at 40.6 points per game but has upped that to 160 during its three-game winning streak. Miami averages 28 points per game but is coming off of a season-high 42 in the loss to Buffalo. The RedHawks can't put themselves in a situation where they will have to match the Bobcats score for score. Instead, they need to try and limit the amount of possessions Ohio's offense gets.
One way to do that is to control the clock and sustain drives. The running game is always key when it comes to moving the chains. For Miami that starts with running back Alonzo Smith. He leads the team with 405 rushing yards but that's just a little more than 50 per game. He hasn't topped 19 carries in a game this season. That needs to change Wednesday night although the going may be tough against a Bobcat defense that is second in the conference against the run (142.4 ypg).
3. Turnover battle
The spread indicates the expectation that this could be close game. If that is to be the case, one turnover could be enough to change momentum and ultimately, the outcome. Neither team's starting quarterback gives it away easily (combined 32 TD passes vs. eight INTs) so it'll be up to both defenses to try force the opposing signal-caller into a tough situation or create a turnover some other way. Ohio is second in the MAC with a plus-nine turnover margin while Miami is on the right side of the equation (+3) as well. The Bobcats have forced a conference-high 23 takeaways (13 fumbles) while the RedHawks have coughed it up a league-low eight times. Miami will definitely need to maintain its ball security if it wants to stay in this game, especially given how explosive Ohio's offense has been lately coupled with an opportunistic, ball-hawking defense.
It's up to Miami's defense to keep the RedHawks in this game, especially given the roll Ohio's offense has been on. Eventually, the Bobcats' depth and explosiveness is likely going to wear down Miami. Ohio head coach Frank Solich has had the RedHawks' number, winning 11 of the past 12 matchups in the Battle of the Bricks against four different Miami head coaches. Look for another outstanding performance from quarterback Nathan Rourke along with some help from running back A.J. Ouellette as the Bobcats win their sixth in a row against their in-state rivals to set up next week's huge MAC East showdown with Buffalo.
Prediction: Ohio 41, Miami (Ohio) 27
— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. His work has appeared on SI.com, FoxSports.com, Yahoo! SBNation and Bleacher Report. He is a three-time FWAA writing contest award winner. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.
(Top photo by Lauren Bacho, courtesy of Ohio Athletics)