The "Battle of the Bricks" will write its latest chapter on Tuesday night as Ohio travels to Oxford to face longtime rival Miami at Yager Stadium. This will be the 98th meeting between the in-state MAC division rivals separated by less than 200 miles. The RedHawks lead the series 54-41-2 but the Bobcats won last year's encounter 35-33 on their home turf.
Ohio (6-3, 4-1 MAC) enters this game tied with Buffalo and Bowling Green for first place in the East Division. The Bobcats are already bowl eligible for the first time since the 2019 season, but they have bigger goals in mind.
Meanwhile, Miami (4-5, 2-3) could use a victory to boost its own postseason chances. The RedHawks ended September with a road upset of Big Ten member Northwestern (17-14) but haven't been able to close the deal lately. All three of their MAC losses have come by less than six points, including ones to Buffalo (24-20) and Bowling Green (17-13).
Ohio at Miami (Ohio)
When Ohio Has the Ball
The Bobcats' offense flows through redshirt junior quarterback Kurtis Rourke, who is making a strong case to take home MAC Offensive Player of the Year honors. A dual threat, Rourke leads the conference with 2,725 passing yards and 21 touchdowns. He's completing 68.5 percent of his passes and has tossed just four interceptions. On the ground, he's averaging 3.8 yards per carry and has scored four times.
Rourke has plenty of help though. Among his favorite targets is wide receiver Sam Wiglusz, a former walk-on at Ohio State. He leads the conference with nine touchdown catches and also is in the top four in both receptions (55) and receiving yards (710).
Even though Wiglusz is now a Bobcat, Ohio State wide receivers coach Brian Hartline has nothing but positive things to say about his former pupil. "We gave him [Wiglusz] raving reviews when he was trying to figure out his next steps and what we can get done here," Hartline said. "And unfortunately it didn't work out here, but we always knew what he was and what he was capable of. And I'm just glad he's having a blast. Obviously we talk probably every couple weeks or so, but social media gives you that platform where you feel like you talk like every day..."
As potent as Ohio's offense is (431.9 ypg, first in the MAC and 38th in all of FBS), the Bobcats will need on alert against an opportunistic Miami defense. In their last game versus Akron, the RedHawks forced three turnovers, including a pick-six that helped fuel the 27-9 victory.
When Miami (Ohio) Has the Ball
Brett Gabbert, a former MAC Freshman of the Year who led the conference with 26 touchdown passes last season, has only played in three games in 2022. He was hurt in the season opener against Kentucky and wasn't able to return until a couple of weeks ago. For the season, he's thrown for 572 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. Gabbert had a huge game last year against Ohio, finishing with 492 passing yards, five touchdowns and an interception, albeit in a losing effort.
Mac Hippenhammer caught two of Gabbert's TD tosses in last year's Battle of the Bricks and he's the RedHawks' leading receiver this season. The former Penn State transfer enters this game with 33 catches for 444 yards and four touchdowns. Miami's passing game has missed Gabbert. Backup Aveon Smith, a freshman, is averaging 105 passing yards per game while completing just 52 percent of his passes with seven touchdowns and four picks.
Because of Gabbert's absence, the RedHawks have had to lean on their running game more. They are averaging 150.1 rushing yards per game Keyon Mozee the top ground gainer (428 yds.). Six different players have logged at least 30 carries, including both Gabbert and Smith, who have combined for four rushing touchdowns.
Scoring points has been an issue for Miami, who is second to last in the MAC at 19.4 points per game while Ohio is averaging more than 33. The Bobcats' offense has been generous, especially through the air (324.2 ypg, 21 TDs), but it remains to be seen if the RedHawks have the personnel to take advantage.
There's a pretty big gap between Ohio and Miami not only in the MAC standings but also on the stat sheet. Consider that the RedHawks' best win in conference play came last week when they beat Akron 27-9. Not only are the Zips winless against FBS competition (0-8), they actually outgained Miami 396 to 268. The difference came in the three turnovers the RedHawks forced, turning one of those into a defensive TD. The Bobcats are a far better team than Akron and come into this game having won four straight conference games, and by an average of 17 points per. Miami may be able to keep this close at home and because of the rivalry factor, but look for Ohio to eventually pull away to get one step closer to a division title.
Prediction: Ohio 35, Miami (Ohio) 24
*Price as of publication.