Iowa Football

Iowa football look ahead: Miami (Ohio) needs a QB, but it should have a defense

Hawkeyes will open against a MAC school and that's OK, because they do play 10 Power 5 games

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz talks with Miami (Ohio) head coach Chuck Martin before a game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz talks with Miami (Ohio) head coach Chuck Martin before a game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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When the conversation is non-conference college football schedules, that always brings some fogginess.

 

The Hawkeyes begin their 2019 season on Aug. 31 against Miami (Ohio). No, they don’t do this every year. C’mon. Iowa has opened against the RedHawks three times in Kirk Ferentz’s 20 seasons.

Still, you’re Hawkeye fans and the Mid-American Conference teams can kind of just run together if you’re not locked in. (Miami is the red one with an “M” on the helmet. Northern Illinois wears black and red. Bowling Green, oddly enough, is the brown and orange one.)

Let’s try to fill in a few blanks on the RedHawks.

Miami (Ohio) coach

It might be an election year for Chuck Martin.

Martin has more than proven his mettle as a “builder.” When he arrived in Oxford, Ohio, in 2014, the program was unplugged. In his first two seasons, Martin went 5-19. Then, it was 6-7 with a loss in the St. Petersburg Bowl in 2016. The last two seasons have been treading water at 11-13.

Martin has had some recruiting successes, but there’s always the “how much is enough” in college football. Of course, Miami wants Martin pushing the RedHawks toward a MAC title. What will the reality be in 2019? The RedHawks finished 2018 with solid victories over Ohio, Northern Illinois and Ball State.

Martin probably didn’t do himself any favors after last season’s 30-28 victory over Ohio. The RedHawks trailed 28-7 at halftime and were booed by the home crowd. That rankled Martin, who then called out the MAC for being too cheap to provide a trophy for the rivalry series.

Why break into PR jail?

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Miami (Ohio) skill players

The RedHawks lost quarterback Gus Ragland to graduation. He threw 17 TD passes to just five picks last year.

Miami will begin 2019 with a QB who hasn’t completed a pass in a college football game. A lot hangs on this, obviously. Jackson Williamson and A.J. Mayer were the front-runners in spring, but 6-0, 185-pound incoming freshman Brett Gabbert might have a say.

The top two running backs from 2018 also have graduated. It’s probably going to be running back by committee with Maurice Thomas (233 yards, 3.8 yards per carry in ’18), Jaylon Bester (5.4 ypc) and Davion Johnson (5.0 ypc) also competing.

Jack Sorenson (6-0, 194) was Miami’s leading receiving in 2018 with 53 receptions and 742 yards. The junior, who earned third-team all-MAC, returns, but the RedHawks lost two of their top five receivers from 2018.

Miami (Ohio) defense

This unit will have to rebound from the loss of linebacker Brad Koenig, who was do-it-all for the Redhawks last year.

Miami will have a defensive line it can work with. Nose tackle Doug Costin (6-2, 295) was a second-team all-MAC pick in 2018 with 10.5 tackles for loss and 6.0 sacks.

Overall, the defense has experience returning at each level and will probably pave the road for wherever the RedHawks go in 2019.

What did 2018 say about 2019 for Miami (Ohio)?

Martin is a believer in “defense wins championships.”

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Miami isn’t winning championships, but the defense is showing up every week. In the last three seasons, Martin’s defenses have ranked fifth, third and first in total defense in the MAC.

Kind of like the 2018 Hawkeyes, the better Miami ran the ball in games, the better chance it had to win. In five of its six losses, Miami failed to hit 100 rushing yards. Along with the “defense wins championships” thinking, Martin likes power football with the offensive line doing the work. The RedHawks will have to replace the left side of the O-line. So, a new QB will have a new left tackle blocking Iowa DE A.J. Epenesa. Setting the O/U for Epenesa sacks at 3.0.

Super hot, possibly relevant take on this game that’s 100-something days away: Iowa will win. How will the offense look dealing with a MAC program that values defense? Iowa’s defense should eat. The RedHawks don’t have a QB.

Hawkeyes Look Ahead

Aug. 31 vs. Miami (Ohio)

Week before: This is the season opener. While we’re here, in his first two seasons, Kirk Ferentz faced Nebraska and Kansas State in openers. Iowa lost both. Since then, the Hawkeyes’ openers break down this way: 10 vs. MAC schools (including four vs. Northern Illinois), one vs. the Mountain West (Wyoming) and seven against FCS schools (including four in a row — 2008 to 2011).

The Hawkeyes aren’t alone here. Every school likes easing into things.

Week after: Big Ten opener vs. Rutgers at Kinnick, Sept. 7

Yes, Big Ten opener! Already. It’s intriguing. It might be intriguing enough to get this matchup to a night kick on the Big Ten Network.

On the horizon: at Iowa State, Sept. 14

For Miami (Ohio)

Week before: This is the season opener.

On the horizon: Tennesee Tech at Yager Stadium (Oxford, Ohio)

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Miami (Ohio) RedHawks

Game: Aug. 31 vs. Miami (Ohio)

Coach: Chuck Martin (22-39, sixth season at Miami)

2018 record: 6-6, 6-2 in the MAC East Division

Scoring offense: 28.1 points per game (5th in MAC, T-75th nationally — tied with Utah)

Total offense: 372.0 yards per game (8th MAC, 94th nationally — Iowa was 92nd)

Scoring defense: 25.5 points allowed per game (4th MAC, T-50th nationally — Iowa State was 37th)

Total defense: 368.2 yards allowed per game (5th MAC, 44th nationally — Minnesota was 54th)

Series: Hawkeyes lead 4-0

Last meeting: The Hawkeyes beat the RedHawks 45-21 in 2016 opener. The only thing worth remembering is that former Iowa LB and Denver Bronco Josey Jewell was ejected after a crushing block on a punt return. FYI: If you think it’s targeting and you see the flag, 99 percent your guy is done for the day.

Super early, totally unofficial spread prediction: Iowa -18

l Comments: (319) 398-8256; marc.morehouse@thegazette.com

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