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2019 Week 3 MAC Football Preview: Miami RedHawks at Cincinnati Bearcats

Can Miami snap the 13-game losing streak against a depleted Cincinnati squad Saturday?

Cincinnati v Miami Ohio Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

There will be few games that are as important to the Miami RedHawks’ 2019 as this one. The game against the Cincinnati Bearcats is the 124th edition of the Battle for the Victory Bell, a series that started in 1888 and is college football oldest rivalry west of the Alleghenies. This year’s contest is particularly important for both squads: Miami wants to get over the hump as a program and Cincinnati wants to prove that last week’s blowout loss at Ohio State wasn’t representative of what the team is.

Before we can get into who will be on the field Saturday, we need to know who can potentially be off of it. Miami’s Jaylon Bester, Jack Sorenson, Andrew Homer, and Ryan McWood are questionable for Saturday per The Miami Student, which could make things challenging for the RedHawks on the offensive end. The injury bug has nipped UC as well as starting safety James Wiggins suffered a season-ending knee injury before the season started while injuries to Charles McClelland and Gerrid Doaks have depleted the Bearcat backfield.

For Miami to have some success on offense, it has to get the job done on the ground against UC. The injury to Bester hurts in this regard as that’s one less offensive weapon, but Tyre Shelton emerged as a dynamic runner last week with 65 rushing yards on 11 carries.

If the RedHawks are able to at least establish the running game, they’ll have a chance to open up the offense with play-action passes and RPOs. Doing so will be a tall order against Cincinnati’s defense as it held run-oriented UCLA 1.7 yards per rush in the lone UC win.

When it gets to crunch time, Brett Gabbert needs to make excellent decisions and take care of the football this week. The receiving corps is depleted due to injury (although Dominique Robinson and Jalen Walker could have impactful games) and the defense he is going up against is still tough (UC held the Bruins to 8-26 passing for 156 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions), so Gabbert has to be decisive and take care of the ball. This is a big moment for a true freshman to be in, and Miami can’t afford to give UC multiple opportunities to win.

Despite the injuries to the Bearcat offense, UC wants to utilize Michael Warren in the running game so stopping him will be a priority for Miami. Warren grinded out 99 yards and a score against UCLA, and the ‘Hawks could only muster one TFL against Iowa on defense.

Meanwhile, Desmond Ridder is a tough field general for the Bearcats as he passed for 242 yards and two touchdowns while adding 34 yards on the ground against the Bruins. The matchup to watch will be the UC receivers against the Miami DBs as the former has been able to get separation against Power Five defenses while the latter has struggled with sticking with their assignments in the early part of the season. Special teams is a wash between the two teams, so any sort of mistake in the third phase can be a difference maker.

With both teams having unusable film for scouting purposes (nobody is really going to learn much from UC’s debacle in Columbus or Miami’s glorified practice against Tennessee Tech), expect both teams to throw wonky things at each other to get an edge Saturday. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if UC tried running different coverages on defense to force Gabbert into a bad throw or if Miami tried some gimmicky plays on offense to generate a splash play. With the stakes being what they are, it’s safe to expect anything out of this edition of the Battle for the Victory Bell.