We have some hot and steamy #MACtion on tap Saturday as the Western Michigan Broncos (2-2) head south to take on the Miami RedHawks (1-3, 1-0 MAC). The Broncos are riding high off of big wins over Delaware State and Georgia State while the ‘Hawks got out of their rut for a week with a convincing win at Bowling Green (the Hail Mary with the backup QB notwithstanding).
It’s hard to gauge how good WMU really is since it hasn’t played teams that are representative of what it sees in the MAC as it also opened the season against good Syracuse and Michigan teams prior to their last two wins. That being said, the Broncos will be a handful as they lead MAC teams with 225 rushing yards per game with LeVante Bellamy and Jamauri Bogan leading the way with 629 yards and six touchdowns between them.
Meanwhile, Jon Wassink has been highly productive at quarterback this season with 984 passing yards (second-best in the MAC), eight scores, and three interceptions. The passing game has been lifted by freshman Jayden Reed with his 19 receptions for 260 yards and two scores while D’Wayne Eskridge also has 260 yards and a pair of scores on ten catches.
For Miami, things have not gone smoothly on offense as the RedHawks are tenth in the league in total offense with 312.2 yards per game. Gus Ragland has not been able to get the aerial attack going this season with 180.8 passing yards per game while the running game was nonexistent until last week’s performance against a porous run defense in BG. The emergence of Jack Sorenson has been a pleasant surprise with 13 catches for 204 yards and a pair of scores, and will need to continue to step up with the loss of James Gardner.
The defenses in this game will be pretty stout as WMU has held teams to 32% on third down while Miami is third in the MAC in total defense with 339 yards allowed per game. Drake Spears leads the Broncos in tackles with 28, while DeAndre Montgomery has made tackles in various positions for the ‘Hawks as his 38 tackles is good enough for seventh-most in the league. However, both teams have had problems with giving up red zone touchdowns as Western Michigan has given up 10 and Miami has allowed 12.
Special teams heavily favors the Red and White as Miami holds the edge with kickoff return (21.9 yard average), punting (38.2 net average), and kickoff (44.3 net average, best in the league). However, the Broncos lead the MAC with a 31.4 average yards on punt return with two scores so this can be an area that can swing the game one way or another.
Expect a feeling out period in the beginning of the game for both offenses. The Broncos are probably going to test Miami’s run defense early with the plan of taking shots later in the game if they can’t get Bellamy and Bogan going. Miami will try to lean on the run to protect Ragland a bit and hope it can get Alonzo Smith and Maurice Thomas going against a defense that has allowed over 200 rushing yards per game this season. The game will boil down to who has the more efficient quarterback and who’s defense/special teams consistently puts their offense in good spots. For that reason, I think Miami has a real chance at the upset and can slowly turn its season around. 27-20 Miami in the best game of the day.