The Miami (Ohio) Redhawks will try to become bowl eligible and earn a spot in the MAC Championship Game when they host the Ball State Cardinals in Tuesday night MACtion. Game time is set for 7:00 EST on Tuesday, November 20, at Yager Stadium in Oxford, Ohio. Fans can watch the game on ESPN+.
Oddsmakers list the Redhawks as 17-point favorites at home. Be sure to check out a full list of this week’s college football betting odds.
This will be the biggest game the Redhawks have played since they lost the 2016 MAC Championship Game. With a win, Miami can keep their conference title hopes alive. But they also need another win to become bowl eligible for just the second time in Chuck Martin’s five-year tenure. Just a few weeks ago, the Redhawks were 3-6 and on the verge of another losing season. But with back-to-back wins over Ohio and Northern Illinois, Miami still has a shot at reaching a bowl game.
On top of that, the Redhawks still have a chance to win the MAC East division. If Miami beats Ball State, they could potentially reach the title game if there’s a three-way tie atop the division. In addition to beating Ball State, the Redhawks would need Buffalo to lose and Ohio to win, so they would need to get plenty of help. But as long as the Redhawks win on Tuesday, they’ll give themselves a chance.
Ball State, on the other hand, has already been eliminated from bowl contention. The Cardinals struggled early in the year during their non-conference schedule and also endured a three-game losing streak the second half of the season. They now sit at 4-7, taking them out of the bowl picture.
However, Ball State didn’t look like a team that had nothing to play for last week when they beat Western Michigan 42-41 in overtime. That would suggest that the Cardinals will be willing to put forth a strong effort his week, especially knowing that they have a chance to play spoiler against Miami. The Cardinals may also be interested in avenging last year’s 28-7 home loss at the hands of the Redhawks.
As mentioned, Ball State gave a strong performance last week despite having nothing on the line, so I don’t expect them to roll over and get blown out this week. The Redhawks, meanwhile, have the pressure of knowing they need to win to keep their bowl and conference title hopes alive. I also have some concerns about Miami being able to run up the score enough to cover the spread, so I’ll take my chances with Ball State.
For Miami, the key to covering the spread will be on the defensive side of the ball. That unit has been up and down all season, so there’s little certainty regarding how they’ll play Tuesday night. The Redhawks only gave up seven points against a poor offensive team last week in their win over Northern Illinois. However, against some of the better offensive teams in the MAC, they’ve struggled and been forced to play a classic MAC shootout.
Offensively, Ball State is far from one of the best in the conference. But they are far from hopeless on that side of the ball. Backup quarterback Drew Plitt has started to come along since taking over for the injured Riley Neal. Plitt has struggled with turnovers but he has better arm strength than Neal. He’s capable of pushing the ball downfield through the air and also showed impressive accuracy last week against Western Michigan. The Cardinals have lost some of their running game without Neal, but having Plitt gives them a stronger passing attack, at least if they can limit turnovers.
On the flip side, I’ve not sold on Miami having enough offensive firepower to cover the spread. The Redhawks are averaging just under 30 points per game. Scoring anywhere around that total against Ball State would require a top-notch defensive effort in order to cover a 17-point spread.
Much like Ball State, the Redhawks are also lacking a consistent rushing attack, which can be problematic while playing outdoors in late November. Quarterback Gus Ragland is experienced and serviceable but is rarely going to post big numbers or carry the offense with his arm. He can play well enough to lead Miami to a win, but again, having to cover a 17-point spread changes the equation.
To be fair, the Ball State defense has been vulnerable for much of the season. However, it’s worth noting that they’ve played a tough schedule. Including Miami, the Cardinals will have played six of the top seven teams in the MAC this season. To some extent, that explains their problems this year on the defensive side of the ball.
All things considered, I like Ball State’s chances of keeping this game close. Even if their defense has some problems, I think the Cardinals can score enough to prevent Miami from blowing them out. I’m not convinced the Redhawks are good enough on either side of the ball to win by such a wide margin, especially with so much pressure on them to win. With a spread this large, I like my chances with Ball State and the points.