The 98th Battle of the Bricks kicks off with both squads coming off one of their best performances of the year. Ohio (6-3, 4-1 MAC East) dominated then first-place Buffalo last week for most of the game in a 45-24 win, while the RedHawks (4-5, 2-3 MAC East) neutralized a very good Akron passing game in route to a 27-9 victory.
The roles of the teams are just about reversed from last year where Miami came into the November contest with legitimate MAC East title aspirations while Ohio at 1-7 was in a spoiler role. This year, Ohio enters the match-up first in the division ad looking to secure their ticket to Detroit, while Miami is in a must-win situation if they hope to keep thier postseason and MAC divisional hopes alive.
- Time and Date: Tuesday, November 8, 2022 at 7:30 PM ET
- Networks: ESPN2
- Radio/Streaming: Both teams can be heard via the Varsity Network App.
- Location: Yager Stadium, Oxford, Ohio
- Weather at Kickoff: 55 degrees. Wind 5 MPH per Weather.com
- Spread/Total: Ohio are one-point favorites coming into the contest in most sportsbooks.
- Last Meeting: Ohio triumphed in a 35-33 result on Nov. 2, 2021, which ultimately impacted Miami’s MAC East title hopes.
Getting to Know Miami
With the exception of the 27-9 win versus Akron last week, the RedHawks have been in close battles in MAC play, beating Kent State by three while losing some tough games to Buffalo, BGSU, and Western Michigan by a combined 12 points.
The strength of the team so far clearly has been the defense. Starting with the 17-14 win over Northwestern, Miami has done a fantastic job of keeping opponents off the scoreboard by allowing a paltry 18.5 points per game in the last six weeks.
The RedHawks would like nothing more against Ohio than a repeat of last week’s performance versus Akron, where Miami used good field position and a stingy defense to keep a very good passing game in check. While the Zips rolled up 316 yards passing and a few explosive passes over 30 yards, the Zips were ultimately not able to finish drives for maximum points, scoring only three poimts versus Miami’s starters, notably below their 27.5 points per game average in MAC play.
The defense features a strong front seven lead by another great MAC East linebacker duo in Matthew Salopek and Ryan McWood who have made plays versus the run and pass this year with a combined 157 tackles, four sacks, two passes defensed and an interception.
The back end of Miami’s defense is also talented and came up big last week, led by Jacquez Warren’s 62-yard pick-six in the fourth quarter to help seal the deal.
The challenge for Miami in 2022 has been finding enough points to win games, averaging only 18 points per game in MAC play.
The RedHawks hope their star quarterback Brett Gabbert can return to the form that saw him selected as preseason a first-team All-MAC selection by publications like Pro Football Focus. After missing six weeks with an injury, Gabbert returned two weeks ago and last week showed signs of regaining that timing and rhythm on pass plays of 58 and 43 yards.
Miami has playmakers on the outside who can change the RedHawks’ fortunes on any given week, led by 2020 Penn State transfer MAC Hippenhammer, who has quality career production with 86 catches for 1,307 yards and nine touchdowns.
Although Miami has been more prolific through the air than the ground since Gabbert’s return, Miami will still make you stop the run whenever possibly, utilizing lead back Keyon Mozee (428 yards on the ground with two scores in 2022) an a rotation of others to matriculate downfield and kill clock.
Getting to Know the Bobcats
Ohio enters the contest as a team playing its best football of the year on both sides of the ball.
The Bobcats defense dominated a good Buffalo offense last week, holding the Bulls to 17 points. The Bulls struggled to move the ball on the ground, mustering just 22 net yards while the passing game fared little better, averaging just 4.9 yards per pass on 49 attempts.
Like Miami, since MAC play, the Bobcats defense has kept opponents off the scoreboard allowing the third lowest point total in the conference at 22.6 points per game.
Players like captain and defensive tackle Kai Caesar are routinely beating his MAC competition. Caesar has been an important part of the run defense while making a critical play or two each week, like last week versus Buffalo where his fourth-quarter strip sack deep in Bulls territory helped to secure the win.
Ohio features its own dynamic duo at linebacker, with Keye Thompson and Bryce Houston playing about as well as pair in the league. Thompson leads the squad with 75 tackles while Houston is the sack leader with 4.5 on the season.
Safety Alvin Floyd’s play over the past few weeks has helped solidify the back end of the defense. Over the last few weeks Floyd has recorded 16 tackles with three passes defensed, and a forced and recovered fumble. Floyd has shown up big in the red zone, with multiple plays keeping opponents out of the endzone including a pass break up last week against Buffalo to hold them to three.
Offensively, the ‘Cats rolled through Buffalo last week like a hot knife through warm butter with 474 yards and 45 points. The passing game has performed at a historical level throughout 2022, with quarterback Kurtis Rourke being the straw which stirs the drink. Rourke picked up 317 passing yards and 45 yards rushing last week to continue adding on to his season-long totals. Rourke is currently third in the FBS in 2022 with 2,725 passing yards.
The passing game is a team effort though, with everyone claiming a share of the success. The offensive line has allowed only six sacks in five MAC games this season. The receiving corps is as deep and good as any in the MAC. The wideouts are led by Sam Wiglusz, who leads the MAC with nine touchdown receptions and is third in receptions (55) and fourth in yards (710).
As they do every week, the ‘Cats will attempt to assert themselves on the ground but which combination of running backs may go is, as usual in 2022, a bit of a mystery due to a glut of injuries.
Starter Sieh Bangura did not play last week with an apparent shoulder injury. Backup Nolan McCormick started, but exited the contest against Buffalo and did not return. After missing several weeks with injury, veterans Julian Ross and Jake Netherton returned last week and may be see significant action versus Miami.
What to Expect
Unless Gabbert and company turn things around in a hurry in the passing game or Ohio loses the turnover battle in a big way, its tough to see how the RedHawks would score enough points to keep up with a Bobcat team averaging 36 points per game in MAC play.
The task offensively becomes more difficult for the RedHawks this week as they face a much better defense this week then they did versus the Zips and Miami only mustered 20 offensive points against Akron.
The RedHawks defense showed it is fully capable of neutralizing a good passing attack in the Akron game but slowing down Ohio’s offense will be more difficult as the Bobcats’ rushing attack and offensive line are better than the Zips.
Ohio 31, Miami 13