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2018 Week 13 MAC Preview: Ball State Cardinals @ Miami (OH) RedHawks

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Bowl eligibility is on the line for one of the teams in this battle of red birds.

Ball State v Toledo Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

Miami (OH) stood at 3-6. With offensive juggernaut Ohio and defensive heavyweight Northern Illinois looming on the schedule, this could have been a throwaway season for Chuck Martin’s team.

Instead, the RedHawks have produced two-consecutive upsets and remain a home win away from reaching bowl season for the second time since Martin took over in 2014. Miami knows a thing or two about finishing strong in the regular season. Just two seasons ago, led by a similar offensive corps of Gus Ragland, Alonzo Smith, and Kenny Young, Miami became the first team in college football history to qualify for bowl eligibility after an 0-6 start.

This year, Miami fell to an 0-3 start after looking lifeless in non-conference play. Now, the similarities to the 2016 team can already be established. When the RedHawks needed offense versus Ohio, they delivered. When the offense struggled and the defense was called upon to obstruct NIU from the end zone, the unit delivered as well. Now, Miami is staring down a 6-2 conference record and a 6-6 regular season finish to become the seventh bowl eligible team from the MAC.

Ball State is not included in those seven, but the Cardinals provided their fans a much-needed victory in one of the greater games at Scheumann Stadium in recent history. Drew Plitt, who had a career day at quarterback, traded offensive blow for offensive blow against the visiting Western Michigan Broncos. The game came down to overtime, and Ball State’s defense recorded a massive stop on the Broncos’ two-point attempt to seal a victory on senior night. The win marks the Cardinals’ first November victory since 2014 and a fourth conference win under head coach Mike Neu — third of 2018.

After receiving MAC Offensive Player of the Week honors, Plitt will have a final go at the QB position in 2018, continuing to fill in for the injured Riley Neal. Plitt connected with a bevy of Cardinals receivers in the upset victory last Tuesday, including Justin Hall (117 yards), Riley Miller (94), and Corey Lacanaria (62) — with the latter of the two serving as Plitt’s touchdown recipients. He’ll be facing Joshua Allen and the talented RedHawks’ secondary, which sits in the upper third of passing defenses in the FBS.

Miami’s secondary made the game-winning play in DeKalb last week, as cornerback Ja’don Rucker-Furlow returned a Northern Illinois pass 28 yards to the end zone to secure a 13-7 lead, which would stand as the contest’s final score. The RedHawks consistently win the turnover battle, sitting at a (+5) on the year, while Ball State remains on the other side of the wall with a (-3) total.

Game Notes

  • Time and date: Tuesday, November 20 — 7 p.m. ET
  • Venue: Yager Stadium — Oxford, OH
  • Network: ESPN+
  • Spread: Miami (-17.5)
  • ESPN FPI Predictor: Miami (OH) has 81.8% chance to win
  • All-time series: Miami (OH) leads, 18-12-1

Miami has won each of the last two meetings, including last year’s 28-7 result. Ball State has not beaten the RedHawks since the Cardinals unleashed a 55-14 beatdown during the promising 2013 campaign under Keith Wenning.

Prediction

Get out the pins, put on your alley shoes, because Miami (OH) is going bowling. The RedHawks will not squander this game in Oxford as heavy favorites, especially with something this magnificent on the line.

Ball State typically struggles in late-season games but got a slumping Western Michigan team to visit Muncie at the perfect time. It will be difficult for the Cardinals to execute as well as they did offensively against a much stronger defense in the Brad Koenig and the RedHawks.

Gus Ragland will play his final game at Yager Stadium, and it should be a prolific one for the great Miami quarterback. The senior has thrown 55 touchdown passes and just 12 interceptions while suiting up in the red and white. With receivers Jack Sorenson, Luke Mayock, and Dominique Robinson by his side, expect that first number to increase before Ragland exits the tunnel Tuesday night.

Prediction: Miami (OH) 38, Ball State 20