After sustaining a 29-24 loss Thursday night against Buffalo in a game where mental and physical errors cost them, the Miami RedHawks have a long week to get ready for fellow cellar dweller Eastern Michigan, a team that lost 28-58 to Western Michigan and have lost their last seven games by multiple scores. Miami opened this week as a six-point favorite, but the Eagles had some success offensively last week against the Broncos as they gained 486 yards.
The 'Hawks has struggled this season in the game of field position as they have an average start of the 25-yard line on offense and are -12 in turnover margin. Billy Bahl hasn't been lighting things up for them since entering the starting lineup (41% completions, 924 yards, four touchdowns, 10 interceptions, 16 sacks), and that's partly due to the inexperienced roster with 30 freshmen receiving playing time so far this season.
A lone bright spot for Miami's defense has been safety Brison Burris, who after missing all of 2014 due to injury is now the second leading tackler on the team with 50.5 tackles and was named MAC East Defensive Player of the Week with seven tackles and a pick-six against the Bulls. Despite Burris' production, the team allows over 184 yards per game on the ground, which is 91st in the country.
Despite their record, the Eagles offense pose a significant threat to the Miami defense with Darius Jackson and Shaq Vann have combine for over 1,400 rushing yards, 17 touchdowns, and nearly six yards per carry. Sophomore quarterback Brogan Roback has had an up-and-down season with a 62.8 completion percentage, 1,779 passing yards, 12 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, but only gets sacked on 2.6% of his dropbacks.
The defensive line presents some issues for the RedHawks as Clay Dawson and Luke Maclean have accounted for eight of EMU's 13 sacks this season. However, the team's inability to force turnovers (one interception and six fumble recoveries) might be an Achille's heel with as many opportunities for turnovers as it can potentially have against Miami on Saturday.
One of the big keys to the game will be the the offensive line play, the pass protection specifically. Putting Eastern Michigan's pass rush against a Miami line that has allowed a Bahl sack on 9.2% of passes seems like a mismatch on paper, but the RedHawks might have an advantage in the running game against the worst run defense in the country (despite getting stuffed on 24.3% of their runs). Now, EMU has a clear advantage on offense as Roback rarely gets sacked and the 'Hawks rarely get sacks as they have 14 on the year, and their front seven looks to be at a disadvantage against the rushing offense of the Eagles.
Miami has won the last seven match-ups with Eastern Michigan, but several key position battles seem to be in favor of the Eagles. However, if the RedHawks can hold on to the ball and turn over the Eagles, then they have a chance to pick up Chuck Martin's second MAC win since taking over Miami. But fellow second-year coach Chris Creighton is hoping for a stepping stone win, and a victory as a road underdog can be certainly that.