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Way Too Early Football Predictions: Will Miami have its breakthrough season?

The RedHawks haven't been bowl-eligible since their 2010 MAC title run. Does set them up to break that trend in 2016?

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

In what looks to be a wild season in the MAC East in 2016, Miami has put itself in a good position to have its first winning season under Chuck Martin, thanks to their recruiting success and its ability to develop that talent. Billy Bahl shown some promise and the skill players shown some flashes of how good they can be, while the line play on both sides of the ball could stand some improvement. With the schedule coming out last month, let's take a look at the RedHawks' prospects for 2016, shall we?

Saturday, September 3rd - at Iowa (12-2, finished #9 in final AP poll)

Oof.

Miami is going to have an uphill battle in its season opener, as it takes on a Hawkeye squad that got off to a 12-0 start in 2014 and returns its best player in the Thorpe Award-winning corner Desmond King. Iowa's talent up front on both sides of the line of scrimmage will cause problems for the young and developing lines of the Red and White. RedHawks lose.

Saturday, September 10th - vs. Eastern Illinois (7-5, finished #23/#25 in FCS polls)

The 'Hawks host the Panthers in the 2016 home opener in what will end up being a game where the hosts try to figure out what the identity of the team is for this season (as the Iowa game isn't going to be indicative of where Miami is at as a program). EIU should be competitive but overmatched (the team lost 41-0 to an average Northwestern team in 2015) as the RedHawks win.

Saturday, September 17th - vs. Western Kentucky (12-2, C-USA champions)

In a rematch of last season's debacle, Miami takes on a Hilltopper squad that will be without the talents of Brandon Doughty at quarterback while MU brings a more experienced team to the table. With WKU's question marks at quarterback (which will be exacerbated by opening the season with a league game vs. Rice and on the road at Alabama), this game presents an opportunity for Chuck Martin's first big non-conference win at Miami. RedHawks win a close one.

Saturday, September 24th - at Cincinnati (7-6)

After playing at Purdue and hosting Houston the previous two weeks, the Bearcats have to get back up for the Battle of the Victory Bell against Miami. The past two contests have been classics in the series, with UC taking both 31-24 and 37-33 in 2014 and 2015 respectively. The 2016 edition looks to be just as epic as Gunner Kiel looks to finish his career undefeated against the 'Hawks. RedHawks lose in a shootout.

Saturday, October 1st - vs. Ohio (8-5, 5-3 MAC)

The Bobcats, who crushed the 'Hawks 34-3 in 2015 and have taken nine of the last ten meetings against their rivals, will have to cope with the loss of Daz Patterson but bring back their best player in linebacker Quentin Poling. Ohio's defense will provide some challenges to Miami's offense, but it's hard to see the 'Cats scoring a bunch of points against an improved MU defense. The RedHawks win a low-scoring contest.

Saturday, October 8th - at Akron (8-5, 5-3 MAC)

Despite losing Jatavis Brown and Conor Hundley to graduation, the success of the Zips will have to come from the development of Tommy Woodson, who had 291 total yards and a score in last season's win against Miami. The 'Hawks struggle defensively against athletic quarterbacks on defense and their issues continue as the RedHawks lose in a nail-biter.

Saturday, October 15th - vs. Kent State (3-9, 2-6 MAC)

Last season's contest with the Golden Flashes saw Miami throw four interceptions in a 20-14 loss as Kent was able to rush for 184 yards. However, the 'Hawks boast a younger, more athletic defense and a quarterback in Bahl who didn't play in the previous meeting. RedHawks win another game where points are at a premium.

Saturday, October 22nd - at Bowling Green (10-4, 7-1 MAC, MAC champions)

Following the Battle of I-75, the Falcons return home to take on the Red and White for the first time in three years and will do so with a new head coach and a new quarterback. The gap in experience will make this game interesting, and the unknowns about BG make this game a hard pick. The RedHawks win a bar-burner.

Saturday, October 29th - at Eastern Michigan (1-11, 0-8 MAC)

Last season, Miami downed the Eagles 28-13 in a game that wasn't as close as the score suggests, as MU had 441 yards of total offense while EMU had 192. RedHawks win handily.

Friday, November 4th - vs. Central Michigan (7-6, 6-2 MAC)

The Chips bring back Cooper Rush on offense and Tony Annese on defense as the team potentially could be a major player in the MAC West race thanks to their experience at every level. RedHawks drop a close one.

Saturday, November 12th - at Buffalo (5-7, 3-5 MAC)

In last season match-up with the 'Hawks, the Bulls took advantage of Miami's inexperience as they threw for 289 yards and two scores while Bahl could only manage 6.2 yards per attempt and went 13/36 on the day. With the graduation of Joe Licata, Miami should have the advantage in the passing game. RedHawks win a tight game.

Tuesday, November 22nd - vs. Ball State (3-9, 2-6 MAC)

Some weeknight #MACtion in the last game of the season in one of the more intriguing quarterback match-ups with Bahl taking on fellow young gun Riley Neal. With all the turnover this offseason at Ball State, it's hard to see Miami not winning this game. RedHawks win by two scores.

***

Going 8-4 three years after being the worst team in college football would be a tremendous win for Miami's program, and would set the team up for even bigger success with better recruiting classes and a renewed interest in Miami football. The team is about a year away from being really special, but they can jump start that by improving in spring ball and taking advantage of a rather favorable conference schedule.