It’s time for a thinktank. What would a 2018 season where Miami ends up going to the MAC Championship actually look like?
Right now, the RedHawks are off to a 2-1 start in conference play after going 0-3 to start the year. Wins came over an objectively really bad Bowling Green squad and embarrassed Akron 41-17 on their own Homecoming on Saturday. These wins were both and the road and after All-MAC receiver James Gardner exited the season on an injury. And it’s not like Miami was playing particularly well with another one-score loss to Marshall to open the year, then blanked by Minnesota and Cincinnati right after that. Not exactly the way to open up year No. 5 under Chuck Martin, who signed a two-year contract extension over the winter.
Buffalo’s still in the driver’s seat for to win the division (and the favorite to win the league title, depending on who you ask) with a 2-0 start in MAC play, 5-1 overall. These two teams will meet up for some Tuesday Night #MACtion on October 30, which means Miami’s going to have to do some scoreboard-watching until then. Buffalo’s game before this is a road trip to Toledo, which has looked like a big game on the MAC calendar ever since the schedules came out. Toledo beating Buffalo would be a huge help for Miami, obviously.
That’s not to say Miami can’t come into that game with a 2-2 MAC record, either. This year’s Kent State team is much better than last year’s Kent State team (even though it still might finish at the bottom of the league), and last year’s Kent State team still beat Miami 17-14. Sure, this year’s game will get to be at home, but Miami’s also the only team in the MAC that’s winless at home.
Miami’s final quarter of the year includes a home game against Ohio, a road trip to Northern Illinois, then a home game against Ball State. Two of those teams were picked to go to the MAC title game before the season began and that could still be the reality of the season. Good luck with that, but if enough dominos somehow fall in the right direction for Miami, then finishing the year at home to Ball State is a good target to have in a must-win situation.
The odds of Miami actually coming out on top of this MAC East race are still there but perhaps unlikely, says SB Nation’s Bill Connelly’s updated S&P+ projections and rankings. Connelly’s numbers say that Miami should be able to beat Kent State and Ball State each by two scores, and is giving Miami a 62 percent chance at beating Ohio with games against Army and NIU being near toss-ups.
Projections can be wonky and you don’t have to trust them all the time, but the easiest detail of this page that we can all get on board with is this: Connelly’s numbers say Miami has a 31 percent chance of winning five games and a 31 percent chance of winning six games (and probably winning the East, too). It’s very possible for Miami to right its wrongs and come away with enough wins to finally have a banner year. It’s also very possible that Miami doesn’t even make a bowl game. So what’s it gonna be?