Despite its tenth straight loss to Cincinnati last weekend, Miami showed some promise against the Bearcats as they were able to gain 228 yards on the ground and forced four turnovers on defense. The 'Hawks will need that kind of production on Saturday as they hit the road to take on a Western Kentucky squad that beat Vanderbilt in its opener and nearly knocked off Indiana last weekend.
WKU is led by quarterback Brandon Doughty, who is third in the country in passing yards with 1,134 to go with his 71.9 completion percentage and is generating some buzz among NFL scouts. The receiving corps for the Hilltoppers is also talented as Tyler Higbee and Taywan Taylor have combined for 39 catches for 632 yards and four touchdowns as the 6'6" Higbee provides some match-up problems at tight end.
The running game for Western Kentucky looks to be an area of concern as they lost leading rusher Leon Allen for the season in their second game. The injury puts the pressure on redshirt freshman D'Andre Ferby, who has rushed for 111 yards and three scores in three games played. WKU is 120th in the nation with 269 yards on the ground and it will be interesting to see how the lack of balance on offense affects the team moving forward.
The defense for the Toppers have struggled mightily this season, allowing the eighth most yards in the country with 1,604 total yards as well as 29.3 points per game. It is a "bend but don't break" defense as it has forced six turnovers and has held teams to seven touchdowns in 16 trips inside the red zone.
The defense of the RedHawks, meanwhile, will have their work cut out for them as they have allowed 208.3 rushing yards per game, but managed to get five sacks and four interceptions so far this season. Despite injuries to Bryson Albright and Heath Harding, the Miami defense was able to give the offense plenty of chances against a talented Bearcats team and we'll see if they can put up a similar effort at WKU.
The offense for the 'Hawks, on the other hand, showed a lot of promise last weekend against UC by putting 23 points on the board in the first. All three of the quarterbacks were able to make some plays in Miami's no-huddle attack as Drew Kummer threw three touchdowns, Gus Ragland had a couple of crucial first down runs, and true freshman Billy Bahl threw for his first score of his career. The team also had success on the ground with 220 yards on the ground, despite Kenny Young leaving the game due to injury.
However, the offense is far from perfect as it went through seven drives without a first down against Cincinnati and is well under 50% in terms of third down conversions (13/46) and time of possession (average TOP of 24:12). Points off turnovers is also an issue as the team got three points off of four turnovers against UC.
For the 20.5-point underdog Miami to pull off the road upset, it needs to have a lot of success running the ball and be efficient at managing the offense and scoring points so that it can limit WKU's offensive possessions. On defense, the RedHawks need to keep everything in front of them and make the Hilltoppers sustain long drives and let the Toppers make the first mistake. The 'Hawks may be able to have success on special teams as WKU averages less than 30 yards on net punts, which can give them the advantage in field position.