After entering last week’s game as 15 point underdogs (a number most people thought would be higher) in SEC country, Miami comes into week two as 33.5 point favorites against Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) opponent Robert Morris.
I’m reading between the lines here, but that’s two straight weeks of the betting markets showing Miami football some serious respect. Even without its starting quarterback, Vegas thinks Miami is better than RMU by nearly five scores.
The quarterback issue is front of mind for RedHawk fans, after star junior signal caller Brett Gabbert went down with an injury late in last week’s game. Gabbert got off the field under his own power, but the prognosis from Head Coach Chuck Martin isn’t promising.
“[Gabbert is] going to be out for a while,” Martin said. “We don’t have a timetable yet but he’s not going to play for a while.”
It’ll redshirt first-year Aveon Smith under center for the RedHawks for the foreseeable future. All eyes will be on the 6-1 203 lb Smith this week. If he can’t get in a groove for the RedHawks this year, their season could be over before it even starts.
The good news for Smith: Robert Morris is a great opponent to see in your first collegiate start. Robert Morris is an FCS team, and a bad one at that. The Colonials were predicted to finish dead last in the Big South by a panel of Big South head coaches and media this preseason. They were the only squad in the conference to not receive a single first-place vote.
No one on Robert Morris’s roster really stands out. If there’s one good thing you can say about the Colonials, it’s that they’re pretty disciplined. Or at least they didn’t take a lot of penalties last season.
Their rush defense on the other hand leaves much to be desired. Look for the RedHawks to keep the ball on the ground this Saturday, because last year, Robert Morris allowed 170.5 rushing yards and 2.1 rushing touchdowns per game.
Other than Smith, there are a few RedHawks worth keeping a special eye on this Saturday.
Redshirt first-year Eli Blakely went off against Kentucky and finished with nine tackles and an interception. He stepped up against Miami’s best opponent in years last week and looked like a potential star.
Redshirt senior receiver Mac Hippenhammer also showed out against Kentucky, finishing with seven catches for 85 yards. His connection looked strong with Gabbert, so it will be interesting to see whether he can establish that with his new battery-mate Smith quickly.
Finally, watch out to see which running backs Martin leans on Saturday. At the end of last year, and again against Kentucky last week, it was a five-man rotation in the backfield for Miami. Eventually, (you would hope) one or a couple of those backs will start creating separation from the pack and become the featured rushers. This week’s game could offer a peek at where the hierarchy stands in Martin’s head.
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Miami will look to defend its 14-game home win streak this Saturday at 6 p.m at Yager Stadium.