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Way-Too-Early Predictions: A Red(Hawk) Tide is rising

The RedHawks showed off some seriously snazzy threads and some seriously inspired play on the field last season. Can they take the next step and get into contention in the MAC East?

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Admit it to yourself: You watched the 2014 RedHawks more than want to let on. I know I did. Although they came heartbreakingly short approximately a billion times in close games, they gave every team a run for their money, which is just what first year head coach Chuck Martin was hoping for when he came over from the Notre Dame staff. This year, Miami killed it in the recruiting race and will bringing in a couple transfers that look to make an immediate impact. With the MAC East looking like the NBA Eastern Conference, Miami has the opportunity to make some noise (that doesn't involve their uniforms.)

Let's take a look at the schedule:

Sept. 5th vs. Presbyterian (FCS)

NIU took care of the Blue Hose last season (as did Ole Miss,) so this should be an easy game for the RedHawks. However, nothing is guaranteed. Last season, Miami lost to FCS foe Eastern Kentucky Colonels, an embarassing display that saw the RedHawks fail to come back from a winnable deficit. I have a little more faith in them this season, as last year's loss should motivate them. 1-0

Sept. 12th at Wisconsin

Miami took B1G foe Michigan to the wire last season before ultimately losing that game to the Wolverines. Wisconsin narroly won over South Carolina in the Outback Bowl last season, after getting thumped 59-0 by eventual champion Ohio State in the B1G Championship Game. It's early enough in the season where the RedHawks could play spoiler again and will fight as usual; but I think this will go more the way of the BGSU vs. Wisconsin game of last season. RedHawks lose. 1-1

Sat, Sept. 19th vs. Cincinnati

A wonderful rivalry continues as the Bearcats and Redhawks meet again, for the Victory Bell this time in Oxford. Last year's game saw the upstart RedHawks take a 14-7 lead on hostile ground before Gunner Kiel singlehandedly started a Bearcat rally that ultimately proved insurmountable to beat. This time, I have a feeling the RedHawks are ready to take the next step and finally pull off a big upset, which would be a perfect way to end a relatively early Homecoming Weekend. 2-1

Sat., Sept. 26th at Western Kentucky

WKU made micnemeat out of BGSU in a MAC-C*USA matchup last season, and barely got away with a victory vs. Central Michigan in the bowl season, so they are very much a wild card to have to deal with. Brandon Doughty, the true gunslinger for the Hilltoppers, has been granted a 6th (!) season of elegibility, and will look to make noise for his pro stock. It will be interesting to see how the RedHawks pass defense, without Quinten Rollins adjusts tot he up-tempo pace of WKU. Miami loses on the road. 2-2

Sat., Oct. 3rd at Kent State

It's never easy to start the conference season on the road, but that's how the schedule falls for the RedHawks. Thankfully for them, they draw a rather weak Kent State squad that is looking to prove that they can build on their Wagon Wheel Rivalry win from last season. Miami has some pieces coming in on both sides of the ball that should more than put them over the hump for this one. 3-2 (1-0 MAC)

Sat., Oct 11th at Ohio

Remember how I said it's hard to start the conference season on the road? Miami has to start with two conference games on the road. This one is of high import though; they face the Ohio Bobcats in the Batlle of the Bricks. Ohio is facing the dreaded "two QB's, no QB's" question, but they do have AJ Ouelette and Terrell Basham to help change the game in their favor. Ohio wins at home. 3-3 (1-1 MAC)

Sat., Oct. 18th vs. Northern Illinois

Northern Illinois snuck out of the MAC West to win the conference championship last season, and this point of the season was when they started to put the pieces together. Miami fans will be hoping the RedHawks can emerge as well, but with the Huskies being the Huskies, don't be surprised if NIU unleashes the floodgates and ear through the defense, which is still coming into its own. The Huskies simply have too much talent. 3-4 (1-2 MAC)

Sat., Oct 24th at Western Michigan

PJ Fleck's squad came out of nowhere to surprise many MAC football pundits (ourselves included,) and proved that rowing the boat is a very successful venture if you try had enough at it. WMU returns Zac Terell, Jarvion Franklin, and Corey Davis, and will be looking to wreck havoc with offensive efficiency. Miami just won't be able to keep up. 3-5 (1-3 MAC)

Thu., Oct 29th vs. Buffalo

Weeknight #MACtion visits Oxford, as the RedHawks host the Bulls on Halloween Weekend. The Bulls are going though a coaching transition with Lance Leipold, so it will be difficult to determine exactly how the Bulls will be performing by week 9. It will probably be a close battle, as both of teams were very similar in performance last season, but a win here would be much needed for the RedHawks, who open a homestand with this game. 4-5 (2-3 MAC)

Sat., Nov. 7th vs. Eastern Michigan

EMU did not perform well on the road last season, and couldn't decide on a starting QB last year, and it looks to be more of the same this year, although Reginald Bell III looks to be the candidate as the stater. EMU has plenty of problems that they have to fix, and I have a lot more confidence in Miami to figure out their questions at this point in the season. With Miami most likely in the hunt for a bowl game, they will be taking this game very seriously. Miami wins. 5-5 (3-3 MAC)

Sat., Nov. 14th vs. Akron

Time will tell if Akron has their annual late-season meltdown, but if we're to go by last season, the Zips look to be in a better position than the RedHawks, as most of their pieces should be ready to go. Coach Martin still has a lot of work to do, and with such a tough schedule, it will be had to tell if his team will be motivated at this point, or exhausted. Akron wins close. 5-6 (3-4 MAC)

Sat., Nov 21st at UMass

UMass' farewell to the MAC ends with a potential revenge win at home vs. the RedHawks. Last year's match was one of the most memorable in the MAC season, as Miami narrowly pulled away for a one-point victory in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter at home. Massachusetts looks much improved, but like EMU and Buffalo will have work to be done before they can be very good. The Fighting Whipples end their stay in the MAC with a loss to Miami. 6-6 (4-4 MAC)

Overall: Miami finishes 6-6 (4-4 MAC,) no bowl bid.

It's a very difficult crossover schedule for the RedHawks, but the division slate looks kindly upon Miami. Miami showed that there is a lot of potential in this group last season, and the team performed like every game was their last, as shown in near upsets vs. Michigan and CMU, and in victories over UMass and Kent State. With new pieces coming in that should get significant playing time, the RedHawks will look to make noise in a weak MAC East division.