Akron at Miami of Ohio: Week 13 MAC Preview and Betting Lines

I’ve always compared the NFL – and its mostly-cosmetic “divisions and conferences” – to a great big super-talented FBS conference. In-conference college games tend to be about as unpredictable and subject-to-parity as NFL scrums often are.

2019 has thrown a wrench in that analysis. There are probably more genuine patsies per-division in the NFL than per-conference in the FBS. Right now, you’d have to give Vanderbilt a better chance to beat Alabama or Auburn than you would give the Cincinnati Bengals to beat the New England Patriots in a meaningful contest. After decades upon decades of advertising the “most competitive” pigskin, the National Football League is now an organization of haves and have-nots while the FBS has grown its flour-filled cupcakes into something a little more meaty. Even lowly Rutgers managed to move the ball (just a tad) vs Ohio State on Saturday.

Except for the Akron Zips. Akron is so bad in 2019 that it’s fascinating. Consider that when Akron scored a pair of 2nd-half touchdowns against a .500 Eastern Michigan team last Tuesday, it was the 1st time the Zips had crossed the goal line since September 28th. Holy smokes – that kind of production-level makes the 2019 Washington Redskins look like the Hogs of the Joe Gibbs era.

The Zips travel to play the Miami of Ohio RedHawks this Wednesday night. You know, that MAC team which momentarily confuses Google browsers looking for Miami Hurricanes content.

But looking at the point spread, the Miami RedHawks might as well be the Hurricanes of Magic City…Wednesday’s battle would be handicapped as a potential blow-out either way.

Who: Akron Zips at Miami of Ohio RedHawks

When: Wednesday, November 20th, 7:30 PM EST

Where: Fred C. Yager Stadium, Oxford, OH

Lines: Akron (+31) at Miami-OH (-31) / O/U Total: (45)

Handicapping the RedHawks and Zips on Wednesday Night

Miami has a nice winning streak going. The RedHawks ran-up a huge halftime lead in last week’s contest vs Bowling Green and then eased-off the gas pedal, as if head coach Chuck Martin was satisfied and already planning for what’s next.

Why wouldn’t he be? The MAC East front-runners are now bowl-eligible and Brett Gabbert has a shiny 125.0 quarterback rating on the season. There aren’t a whole lot of potential NFL rushing stars in a backfield-by-committee…but junior Jaylon Bester is an ace in the Red Zone with 9 touchdowns scored.

The defense isn’t a crusher in the pass-rush department but everyone runs to the ball consistently, and “ball hawks” Travion Banks and Mike Brown have combined for 7 interceptions on the year. That’s a big number in an era where QBs have by-and-large learned to throw less picks despite an increased # of pass attempts.

All due respect to Northern Illinois, but Miami’s most-impressive win of the 4-straight victories was probably a Battle of the Bricks triumph over Frank Solich’s Ohio Bobcats. Gabbert isn’t the most-prolific or most-accurate QB in the MAC but his offense avoided crucial turnovers while an opportunistic defense led the way:

The difference in the game came down Miami making plays on defense and getting off the field, which they did in a variety of ways Wednesday night. It started with a fumble recovery by Kameron Butler on the first drive as Ohio was moving the ball and threatening to score, while forcing a missed 50-yard field goal on the following possession. The biggest defensive play came in the fourth quarter, however, as Butler and Ryan McWood combined for a huge second down sack on the final drive of the Bobcats as the defense stood its ground for the win. The defense was constantly in the backfield of Ohio as it recorded eight TFLs on the night with Doug Costin leading the way with two. The defense didn’t exactly dominate as they got gashed by the ‘Cats at different points in the game on the ground, but it made enough plays to win and that’s what counts at this time of the year.

The field position battle was tilted in favor of Miami as it had two drives starting on Ohio’s side of the field and pinned the Bobcats inside their own 20-yard line twice. The most notable edge came in the kicking game as Sam Sloman drilled a 53-yard field goal to give the ‘Hawks the go-ahead score while Louie Zervos missed wide on his 50-yard attempt in the first half.

So it’s fair to consider the RedHawks a solid 3-unit squad with quality blocking and tackling, but not necessarily an explosive offense – save for last week’s big 1st half against flagging BGSU.

Akron’s defense deserves credit for posting any kind of respectable stats at all considering how poor QB Kato Nelson and the offense has been. The offensive line’s run-blocking effort falls somewhere between 5 bullfighters (Ole!) and a bunch of subway turnstiles.

The Zips tried Zach Gibson at QB against Buffalo and moved the rock between the 20s but failed to score a point despite another decent defensive day.

My Prediction and Best Wager

The O/U total has sat pat at (45) points when it should probably be headed down a little bit. This is a football game featuring 1 offense and 1 unit that will be lucky to set-up a couple of field goals. At the same time, Akron’s inevitable short gains on the ground will keep the clock running, and Miami showed last week that the program will go into shut-down mode as soon as the scoreboard displays a 30-point margin.

Take the Under for a winner on Wednesday.

Read More Like This