2021 Mid-American Conference Football Week 5 game preview: Miami RedHawks at Central Michigan Chippewas

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In the 2019 season, no one expected Miami or Central Michigan to be the two teams facing off at Ford Field for the conference title. Still, they did, with Miami’s 7-5 team pulling off the surprise in “neutral” territory to win their first MAC title since 2010.

The two teams meet for the first time since that fateful day in Detroit, and while the stakes are drastically reduced heading into this game, there is still a lot to play in one of the MAC’s most competitive interdivisional rivalries.


PLAY NOTES

  • Time and date: Saturday, October 2, 2021 at 3:30 p.m. EST
  • Network: ESPN + (A valid subscription is required for viewing.)
  • Site: Yager Stadium in Oxford, Ohio
  • Time: 76 degrees and cloudy, with the likelihood of precipitation increasing dramatically as the game progresses; winds at 6 MPH, for Météo.com.
  • Difference / Total: Central is favored by 1.5 points, over / under fixed at 56.5, by DraftKings Sportsbook.
  • All-time series: Miami retains the all-time lead at 15-13-1, with a three-game winning streak dating back to 2016.

Getting to know the Miami RedHawks

The RedHawks, who have only appeared three games in 2020, are still on a somewhat rusty start in 2021, going 1-3 in the non-conference season.

They struggled to stay healthy in offensive skill positions, especially quarterback and running back, rotating contributors throughout September. 2019 MAC Freshman Brett Gabbert has struggled with a handful of injuries all season leading to a pitch count situation with QB replacement AJ Meyer coming in for spells. Tire Shelton and Jaylon Bester, the running duo who helped Miami win a MAC title in 2019, are unavailable for Miami due to injury, forcing the RedHawks to try and find younger talent to fill in. the roles. (Even in their win over LIU, no Miami RB had more than nine runs.)

They really paid the price, their offense being one of the worst units in the conference, averaging 23 points and 343.5 yards per game. They hurt particularly badly in the running game the offense relies on, shooting just 132.5 yards per game (ninth in MAC, 91st nationally.) Keyon Mozee (40 carries, 136 yards, one touchdown) and David Afari (22 carries, 128 yards) has carried most of the blame in the last four games.

The passing game also took a bit of time to figure out, as even in good health, Brett Gabbert didn’t quite look like himself, completing just 50 percent of his passes for 565 yards and five touchdowns, with two interceptions. AJ Meyer (20 of 41 for 279 yards, a touchdown, an interception) did not do better in relief. Either way, wide receiver Jack Sorenson is the target man on offense, nearly double the number of receptions for the second-place man, with 15 receptions for 263 yards and two touchdowns. Penn State transfer Mac Hickenhammer has nine receptions for 148 yards and one score as a free receiver.

Defensively, Miami has looked solid so far despite being 1-3. Their flagship performance was against Minnesota, preventing the Gophers from getting more than two points in the second half as the RedHawks tried to come back offensively. The unit is currently fourth in the MAC in total defense (66th overall) with 357.2 yards allowed, while allowing for 27.5 points per game.

Miami has a deep defensive backfield, with Sterling Weatherford, Mike Brown and Jack Salopek contributing to the nation’s sixth best passing defense, allowing 146 yards in the air per game. (However, it’s worth noting that the Army didn’t make any assists in last week’s game.) Linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. paces the defense with 34 total tackles, while defensive end Kameron Butler stands up. presents as the team’s main threat from the line, recording 24 tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss and one sack.


Getting to know the Chippewas of central Michigan

Central Michigan is also a team trying to find a suitable base, but for different reasons than Miami.

CMU is still going through an injury problem that dates back to the fall camps, when two expected WR contributors Drayton Law and RB Kobe Lewis both fell from late season injuries. Since the start of the season, RB substitute Darius Bracy and starting goaltender Danny Motowski have also succumbed to a long-term injury in attack, while starting corner Dishon McNary and defensive lineman LaQuan Johnson are also in uncertain territory. in their recoveries.

That hasn’t stopped CMU from having a handful of decent performances this year, with a particularly striking performance against foe C-USA FIU to close the non-conference season, and an admirable effort against Mizzou on the road to start. the season in what was often a frustrating contest.

Miami will face yet another CMU offense on Saturday, with 2020 starter Daniel Richardson taking over the reins after a three touchdown performance against the CRF in the fourth quarter to complete a 17-point comeback. Richardson replaces Washington transfer Jacob Sirmon, who has struggled in his four starts to move the ball effectively.

Complimenting Richardson will be the running back quartet of Lew Nichols (73 runs, 384 yards, two touchdowns; 14 receptions, 104 yards, one touchdown), Marion Lukes (16 runs, 77 yards), De’Javion Stephney (13 runs, 109 yards) and Myles Bailey (15 carries, 65 yards.) It’s a rushed offense that ranks fourth in the conference, averaging 176 yards per game.

CMU uses the running threat to establish the play action pass and the play option pass, with three receivers based on yards after catch at JaCorey Sullivan, Kalil Pimpleton and Dallas Dixon, all averaging more of 12 yards per reception. Pimpleton is perhaps the biggest threat as he can play the slot machine and the wide receiver, as well as the running back and even the Wildcat QB when the situation arises.

Defensively, CMU are one of the best wreaking havoc units in the country, especially on the third down where they only allowed conversions 22.1% of the time, good enough for fourth place at FBS level.

This is accomplished in large part thanks to a fierce defensive line which collected 38 tackles for a loss and 11 sacks as a unit. Amir Siddiq leads the way with 12 tackles, including five loss tackles and a sack, with Valdosta State transfer Thomas Incoom producing virtually identical numbers. Co-MAC Defensive Player of the Year Troy Hairston II continues to dominate from the end, with four tackles for a loss and three sacks, while Austin Peay transfers John Wesley Whiteside, LaQuan Johnson and Jacques Bristol contribute to a scary deep line.

The revamped 4-2-5 defense places a lot of emphasis on the defensive secondary, which has produced mixed results.

Linebackers Troy Brown and George Douglas are now expected to occupy more of the mid-point spreads, with Brown picking up 20 tackles and two tackles for a loss in four games. That leaves a lot of the area bounded to safeties, and they cleaned up there, with three of the top five tackles all being safeties to Gage Kreski (22 tackles), Devonni Reed and Alonzo McCoy (16 tackles each) occupying. lots of land.

The outside corners, however, have been an adventure. Starter Dishon McNary, one of the few non-freshmen at the corner post, was injured in a celebration last week, putting the freshman duo of Donte Kent and DaeDae Hill in one-on-one coverage. The passing defense leaves a lot to be desired for the Chippewas, who rank 114th in FBS with 276 passing yards allowed on average per game. They have given up two receivers over 170 yards against the CRF and will have a lot of work to do to prove they fixed the situation, which has also affected them in 2020.


Prediction

Miami will be a team that forces you to try to throw the ball inside by limiting your ability to create big plays on the sideline or in the middle of the field, making sure you are forced to play ball control. .

Whether the offense will reach its level of ball control in 2019 and the gaming action races that led them to success remains to be seen, but perhaps the readjustment to play against the MAC’s peers will be a welcome relief. for Miami because they faced a tough non-conference scheduling.

CMU, meanwhile, will look to set the pace for the attack early on, using their inherent running threat to open up passing lanes for Richardson’s deep arm and score as many points as possible, perhaps even in making risky decisions in fourth place to do so. to arrive. In defense, they will damn the torpedoes to get to the quarterback in the passing game and occupy the lanes in run defense to force the third and long situations.

This match will be won by the team which obtains its “number” first. If CMU can reach his attacking number, he will be in an excellent position; if Miami can hit their possession time and defensive number, they’ll be in good shape.

Bettors have this game basically as a toss. I believe CMU can finally end the three-game losing streak against Miami, but the RedHawks have always been a thorny team to play for CMU, so they won’t go very quietly.


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