First meeting between these two teams and Miami, Oh will be led by interim HC Lance Guidry after Haywood left to take the Pitt job before being fired last week. These teams came into this season on opposite ends of the spectrum. Last year Middle Tennessee knocked off Southern Miss 42-32 to finish 10-3 which led to them being the overwhelming pick to win the SBC TY. The Raiders had a disappointing season and needed to win their final 3 games just to be bowl eligible (2 of those wins were by 1 pt). Miami is 6-2 in bowl games but this is their first since losing 17-13 to Iowa St in the ‘04 Independence Bowl. Miami made the biggest turnaround in the FBS this year going from 1-11 to 9-4 and the RedHawks are flying high after winning the MAC Championship.
Middle Tenn QB Dasher was voted the Sun Belt preseason OPY, but was then suspended by the NCAA for the first 4 games. In his first four games back he had 13 TO’s. Backup QB’s Kilgore and Murphy started the first four but each was injured (applied for MedRS) forcing a WR to serve as Dasher’s backup. Dasher threw “just” 4 int in the final 4 games. In LY’s bowl, Dasher rushed for 201 with 2 TD’s while throwing for an additional 162 (2 TD) earning Bowl MVP. While Dasher and RB Kyles combined for more than 83% of MT’s rush yds LY, TY MT has 4 players with 348+ rush yds. Overall the offense has my #95 rating while the D, with just 1 underclassman and 8 Sr starters, comes in at #96. They are #2 in the Sun Belt in scoring and #4 in ttl def. MT has my #72 pass eff D as they are all’g 191 ypg (57%) with a 17-9 ratio. LY a big part of MT’s success was the D having 33 takeaways as MT finished +12 TO’s. TY the D has just 17 and MT is -16 TO’s. MT has my #31 spec tms unit as K Gendreau led the SBC in FG % (83%).
Miami lost starting QB Dysert (#3 in the MAC in passing ypg) to a lacerated spleen in the BG game. He suffered the injury in the 2Q but played the rest of the game. However, bkup Boucher did lead Miami to 3 straight wins including one over Temple to get to the MAC Championship. Boucher also threw for 333 vs NI. After Miami rushed for just 841 yds as a team LY, RB Merriweather had 821 by himself TY. Beside WM, which led the MAC in passing, Miami is the only MAC tm to have 2 WR’s in the top 10 in the MAC in both rec and rec yds. MU finished with my #96 off. Miami’s def (#62) improved as the season went on as they all’d 30 ppg in their first 8 games and just 14 ppg in the L/3 incl holding Temple to 3 and NI, the MAC’s top scoring offense (came in avg 39 ppg) to just 21. Miami is all’g just 121 ypg rush and 3.8 ypc thanks in part to their 32 sks. They have my #43 pass eff D all’g 214 ypg passing (57%) with a very good 14-17 ratio. They have just my #104 spec tms. They are a true Turnovers=Turnaround tm as LY they were -24 TO’s and TY are +7.
Both teams come in with some momentum as Middle Tennessee has won 3 str and Miami 5 str. However, Miami lost their HC Haywood and will be headed by an interim. While that worked out earlier TY for fellow MAC member Northern Illinois against Fresno it spelled doom for Miami, Fl against Notre Dame. Middle Tennessee has many players that could play for BCS teams and has more talent than Miami on both sides of the ball and with a more stable coaching situation get the win here.