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2017 Hustle Belt Preseason Football Preview: Miami RedHawks

The regular season win streak is still alive

NCAA Football: St. Petersburg Bowl-Miami (Ohio) at Mississippi State Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports recently put out a list of 25 college quarterbacks to watch. Logan Woodside came in at 15, and I can’t say I was surprised. What shocked me a little was that Gus Ragland came in at 25. Not because of the season I expect him to have, but it’s nice that a national media outlet gave him the credit.

In hindsight, it really isn’t surprising. The 6 game winning streak that the RedHawks closed out the 2016 season with is one of the most amazing streaks I have witnessed. A 6 game winning streak alone isn’t what makes it so special, it’s that they did it after dropping 6 games in a row to start the season.

Sadly they lost their bowl game to Mississippi State, 17-16. However, the regular season winning streak is alive and well. I expect big things from the RedHawks. They open with a tough game against Marshall, then take on Austin Peay and Cincinnati. After a conference game with Central Michigan, they take on a Notre Dame squad that went 4-8 but is somehow ranked in the top 25 to start the season.

This is a particularly good non-conference slate. Every game is winnable, and if they do happen to run the table to 5-0, it will be duly noted by the national media that they are on an 11 game regular season winning streak. A national ranking would be likely, especially if Notre Dame comes into the game 4-0. An interesting feature of the schedule is that they take on Cincinnati a week after the Bearcats take on Michigan. Since Fickle has spent most of the last 20+ years at Ohio State as a player and coach before taking the head coaching gig at Cincinnati , I think it’s safe to say the team might be on a bit of a downer and the game could be a trap game for them.

The RedHawks’ conference schedule is also favorable, with most of the key division games at home. Potentially the most important game, Ohio, is on the road, however. 2016 was a special season in Oxford, and 2017 could shape up to be a magical season, too.

How the RedHawks Look on Offense.

The Redhawks return 9 starters on offense, none more important than Gus Ragland. He started the last 7 games and was a big reason why the RedHawks went on their winning streak. He completed 64% of his passes, and even more impressively threw 17 touchdowns to 1 interception.

The team is stacked everywhere else, too. 3 running backs that saw significant carries also return, including the leading rusher from last season, Alonzo Smith. 4 starters on the offensive line return, as does tight end Ryan Smith. Also returning at the position is Nate Becker, who was pegged to start before suffering a season ending injury.

I expect the offense to be even more balanced than it was last season, with the returning backs and linemen helping them do a better job establishing the run.

How the RedHawks Look on Defense

Last season, the defense gave up 20 or less points in 5 of the last 7 games. Miami returns a boat load on this side of the ball, too. 8 starters, including all three linebackers. The one place where there are questions is on the ends. They lost both starters and the replacements are unproven in any real capacity. I don’t think this is a big deal, since both tackles and the linebackers return.

Also, the secondary is great. Heath Harding is on several watch lists and is an outstanding cornerback. Safety Tony Reid led the team in tackles, with 98.

Miami should be one of the better defenses in the MAC, if not the nation.

Based on how they finished last season and the amount of talent that is returning, I fully expect the RedHawks to win at least 8 games. There is a very real possibility that they are the team that gets the most national attention out of the MAC, and not Toledo.

Since they don’t play the Rockets in the regular season, a huge season by each team could make the MAC Championship Game one of the most hyped and compelling ever.