Miami RedHawks vs. Ball State Cardinals: Game Preview

Brett Deering

The Cardinals are playing for position in the MAC's pecking order of bowl-eligible teams. The RedHawks are trying to avoid a big goose-egg in the wins column for the 2013 season. Which team will come away the victor in Muncie on Friday afternoon?

Miami (OH) RedHawks (0-11, 0-7 MAC) at Ball St. Cardinals (9-2, 6-1 MAC)
Scheumann Stadium -- Muncie, Ind.
Friday, Nov. 29, 2013 -- 1:00 p.m. ET
Television: ESPN3 (streaming)

The Miami RedHawks and Ball State Cardinals close out the 2013 regular season on Friday afternoon in a game that does not promise to be competitive. Perhaps the most notable item about Friday's contest is that it will be quarterback Keith Wenning's final game at Scheumann Stadium.

Ball State would earn a 10-win regular season with a victory and is almost certainly headed to a bowl game. They could end up anywhere from Detroit to Mobile or San Diego, but they'll want to put up some style points to impress bowl executives. A healthy crowd wouldn't hurt in that regard, either.

Miami merely seeks to win its first (and only) game of the season. Nothing could really rescue this team from the disaster that 2013 has become, but a win in their final game would be a good way to go into the offseason. The RedHawks could use whatever momentum they possibly can muster. If nothing else, a win would help on the recruiting trail.

Unfortunately, on paper, a win seems to be exceedingly unlikely for Miami. The Cardinals are second in the league in total offense and scoring offense, and Wenning has led to the top spot in the league for passing. BSU generates nearly 70 more yards per game through the air than anyone else in the MAC. Miami's offense simply cannot compete with that. The RedHawks average just 9.4 points per game and have only 12 touchdowns in 11 games. They have fewer than half the total yards (2,444) that Ball State does (5,251) and average just 3.7 yards per play. Miami is last in the MAC in both rushing and passing offfense.

On defense, the difference is not as stark, but it's still significant. While the Cardinals give up a lot of yards per game (433.5), they're very adept at the "bend-but-don't-break" philosophy. They're fourth in the MAC with just 25.8 points allowed per game despite ranking 11th in total yards allowed. In other words, Miami might be able to move the ball between the 20 yard lines, but don't expect many points. On the other side, Miami's defense is almost (but not quite) as bad as its offense. It allows 33.9 points and 475.1 yards per game, both in the bottom three of the MAC. While three other teams are worse against the pass, Miami does give up 244.2 yards per game in that area, and only one MAC team has given up more than the 23 touchdown passes the RedHawks have allowed.

One would expect the Wenning-to-Willie Snead combo to work their magic in this game. Snead has 86 catches, 1,296 yards and 13 touchdowns this season. However, Miami would be sorely mistaken if they think that it would be okay to ignore Jahwan Edwards, who has 13 touchdowns of his own among his 174 carries. Edwards is one of the top rushers in the MAC with 905 total yards. On defense, Jeffery Garrett will be looking to expose the passing weaknesses of Miami's young quarterbacks and could increase his team-leading total of five interceptions. Jonathan Newsome, who leads the Cardinals with eight sacks, will be trying to force those mistakes that Garrett could turn into turnovers.

Miami's best hope to have success on offense probably lies in trying to run the ball and avoid obvious passing situations as much as possible. Whether Austin Gearing or Drew Kummer turn into good passers remains to be seen, but for now, neither are getting the job done. Combined, the two have just 317 passing yards in 74 attempts and are completing just 40 percent of their passes. Gearing, who leads the team with 431 rushing yards, does present something else for the Ball State defense to worry about. The best hope to stop Wenning and Ball State rests with Dayonne Nunley. He has just one interception this year but also has 13 passes defensed and 12 broken up. If he can shut down one of Wenning's options on every play, Miami might be able to slow the Cardinals down.

The bottom line here is that a Miami victory here would be a monumental upset. It's probably not even realistic for them to keep this game close after what transpired in home games against Bowling Green and Buffalo. Then again, with a post-holiday game that means relatively little to the home team, you never know what could happen if Miami comes out properly motivated and Ball State comes out flat. After all, as the cliche goes, that's why they play the game.

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