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Short and sweet: RedHawks look to roll through abbreviated schedule

<p>The RedHawks will open the season against Ball State on Nov. 4.</p>

The RedHawks will open the season against Ball State on Nov. 4.

We thought we weren’t going to have a season. Everything looked set for a spring season for the RedHawks, with a long few months of no Miami sports for us to wait through. Instead, we’re back and better than ever for this shortened, six-game season.

Wednesday Nov. 4 – vs. Ball State

The RedHawks start their campaign at Yager Stadium in the Red Bird rivalry, and the Cardinals would definitely like to repeat their 41-27 victory over Miami last year. Ball State trudged through injuries and some close losses that saw it miss out on a seemingly guaranteed bowl game. And because it returns most of its offense, including redshirt senior quarterback Drew Plitt, this won’t be an easy game to start the season.

Tuesday Nov. 10 - @ Buffalo

Buffalo was a team with a lot of upside last season, finishing 8-5 with a 5-3 conference record, leaving the Bulls tied for second in the MAC East, and they look to continue that upside into 2020. After having to rely on the run in 2019 after quarterback Tyree Jackson graduated, the Bulls will be shifting their offense – in part due to losing two starters on the offensive line, and in part due to the return of quarterback Matt Myers, who will certainly be looking to get a win over the RedHawks after missing the latter half of last season due to an injury in the RedHawks’ 34-20 win. Look for a potentially high-scoring game if both offenses find their feet.

Tuesday Nov. 17 – vs. Ohio

This is the big one. The Battle of the Bricks may not occur in front of any fans this year, but that’s not likely to take any heat out of this extremely exciting matchup. The RedHawks won last year, 24-21, after a 53-yard field goal from Sam Sloman – but having gone to the Los Angeles Rams of the NFL, he won’t be around to provide the same reliable scoring. Frank Solich’s Bobcats are always in the mix for the MAC East title, and this season should be no different. They’ve been the best team in the MAC in SP+ in the last two years, but that streak is on shaky ground after the loss of quarterback Nathan Rourke, with four relatively inexperienced options vying to be his replacement. Their defense doesn’t share the same problem, though, with a who’s-who of returning seniors on that side of the ball. Solich wants a MAC title, and he’ll have a tough game in Oxford on the road to getting it.

Saturday Nov. 28 - @ Akron

It’s hard playing football sometimes. It’s especially hard when you can’t find a win anywhere. The Zips went 0-12 last season, continuing a now 17-game losing streak that feels it may never end – especially after seeing their opponents for this season. Playing Western Michigan, Ohio and Kent State before hosting the RedHawks, it’s entirely possible they could enter this game 0-3. Quarterback Kato Nelson returns as one of the few bright spots for the Zips’ offense (the least efficient in the country last season, scoring just 43 points in their last seven games), although the loss of key pieces on defense may make their season a little harder. Miami squeaked by at home last season, 20-17, and this is a game I’d bet on winning again.

Saturday Dec. 5 – vs. Kent State

The third and final game at Yager Stadium sees the Golden Flashes come to town. The Flashes were one of the feel-good stories of last season, thanks to their end-of-season rally and subsequent Tropical Smoothie Café Frisco Bowl win (with accompanying smoothie bath for head coach Sean Lewis). Quarterback Dustin Crum returns with wide receiver Isaiah McCoy as bright spots in a passing attack that otherwise seems uncertain, with little experience outside of McCoy in the receiving corps. A few top players return on the defensive side, but their rush defense might be shaky to start due to the loss of starters on the defensive line. The RedHawks eked out a tight win, 23-16, in a rain-soaked Kent, and with players like Jaylon Bester and Tyre Shelton returning for Miami, the RedHawks are in good position for this matchup.

Saturday Dec. 12 - @ Bowling Green

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The Falcons didn’t exactly have a brilliant season last year, finishing 3-9 including a 44-3 shellacking at Yager Stadium. And there isn’t a boatload of positivity to go around this season. The loss of quarterbacks Grant Loy and Darius Wade leave the Falcons offense with no real leadership, and with experienced offensive lineman and tight ends, Bowling Green seems set to become a run-first offense, which has potential in the cold conditions of the delayed-start MAC season. The defense does return some seniors, but little room for improvement leaves the Falcons in a place for real struggle as they continue to rebuild. Look for the RedHawks to finish their season strong and potentially secure another MAC East title here.

Recap

After the season of youth last year, it’s “growth” time for the RedHawks. With key pieces including young star quarterback Brett Gabbert, redshirt senior wide receiver Jack Sorenson and sophomore pass rusher Ivan Pace Jr. returning, Chuck Martin will see a team with the potential to go from strength to strength this season. It’s going to be a tough ask to repeat a division title, especially in a conference like the MAC – but I think the RedHawks have the upside and pieces in place to go 6-0 and book a place at Ford Field on Dec. 18.

@VesteyTMS

vesteymj@miamioh.edu

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