Though I doubt most of its student body realizes that Miami was on a bye last week, the 2-8 (2-4 MAC) RedHawks are back in action and heading north to face Central Michigan.
The Chippewas (6-4, 4-2 MAC) are also returning from an off-week, and are riding high after a 38-7 pounding of their perennial, Eastern rivals. In its finest performance of the season (and a game that punched a post-season bowl ticket), CMU compiled 501 yards of total offense and held Eastern Michigan to a paltry 97. Considering that the Maroon and Yellow did all of this without leading rusher Thomas Rawls (knee), who should be healthy given the extra week, the Chips could quite easily double down on a Miami defense that is missing defensive back Jarrell Jones and linebacker Kent Kern for the rest of the season. The two injured players, who both exited from the Kent State game on Oct. 25, are first and third in tackles, respectively, with 75 and 69 stops.
That means it's up to workhorse quarterback Andrew Hendrix to carry the load for now. Though the senior transfer has cooled off a bit in recent weeks, his torrid start can still be felt in his overall stat line. In 10 games, Hendrix is 183-for-379 through the air for 2,693 yards and 20 touchdowns. With two games remaining, he's poised to finish sixth-best in program history in passing yards and fifth-best in touchdowns.
Once again, it will be up to the Miami defense to determine if the RedHawks will hang around in this contest. In their most recent defeat and worst margin of loss this season, the Red and White surrendered 21 points in as many minutes to Western Michigan,. The Broncos snagged a cool 282 rushing yards in the 41-10 dismantling of Miami, which doesn't bode well considering that Central Michigan backup tailbacks Devon Spalding and Saylor Lavallii combined for 259 yards and four touchdowns just two weeks ago against Eastern.
The Chippewas always seem to be competitive in recent memory, and Miami is still slogging its way through a program rebuild, so this one shouldn't be a tough one - at least on paper. For the most part, Miami has been unremarkable this year, which is a major upgrade from its notorious 0-12 season last year in which many media outlets crowned it as the worst program in Division-I football. The RedHawks have made big strides under first-year head coach Chuck Martin, and five of Miami's eight losses have come by 10 points or fewer this year. For these reasons, and a bye week to cool off a scalding Central squad, Miami might find a way to sneak out with its first road victory since a 56-49 barn-burner at Kent State in September of 2012.
Miami will try to end its two-game skid against the Chips at 1 p.m. Saturday, in the first of both teams' last two #MACtion performances. The contest can be found on ESPN3.