In the first-ever installment of #AskMACPro, my new mailbag-answering series on this blog, there are two questions that I’ve got to get to — one from Mike and another from Frank.
If you want to be as cool as Mike and Frank, shoot me with some questions via Twitter (@MACProspectus) or via email (email@example.com) and I’ll answer your questions just like I will for my two friends below.
Mike, what’s up?
With remaining MAC games against NIU, Ohio, Ball State, and Buffalo, where do you see @MiamiOHFootball finishing at, currently at 3-1.
— Mike Leonard (@spanks004) October 16, 2018
If you would’ve told me that Miami is 3-1 in MAC play after the way the team performed in its first three non-conference games, I’d probably look at you funny. I wouldn’t call you any mean names, but I’d probably think them, because Miami was really bad. Now, a month later, Miami’s not that bad.
Miami’s defense is very reliable this year, which is neither a secret nor is it something new for the team, but it’s currently second in the MAC in total defense (350.1 yards per game) and fourth in scoring defense (24 points per game). Hopefully Junior McMullen and Deondre Daniels can see the field soon with their injury concerns, but the RedHawks are getting plenty of production out of Brad Koenig, Doug Costin (11.5 run stuffs!) and De’Andre Montgomery. Even first-year corner Zedrick Raymond has five pass breakups already. By Bill Connelly’s S&P+ rankings, Miami’s got a top-50 defense and nobody should be surprised to hear that.
Offense was a question, but the wheels are finally starting in turn in MAC play. The crazy part is that they’re doing it without James Gardner, the best receiver on the team the last two years and had some NFL-potential buzz around him leading into the season. You’d think that losing him, on top of not having a very promising run game, would hinder Gus Ragland’s performance, but that’s just not the case for whatever reason. In the first three games, Ragland was completing only 52 percent of his passes at 5.64 yards per attempt, had three touchdowns and two picks. In the four games after that, he’s made 67 percent of his throws at 8.03 yards per attempt with seven scores and one interception.
So, can Miami keep things going the rest of the way?
This week, Miami has Army which isn’t a conference game, but Miami’s going to win for a better shot at a bowl game. Then the rest of the way, Miami’s at Buffalo (3-0), home against Ohio (1-1), at NIU (4-0) and home against Ball State (2-1).
Of the remaining MAC games, Ohio seems like it’s one that I’d circle as a must-have game. One, Ohio’s very mortal. Two, it’s a rivalry game in the fifth year of the Chuck Martin era. But playing Buffalo could be tricky, especially if Anthony Johnson finally get healthy and stay on the field by then. If I had to put my money on it, I’d guess that Miami, and I don’t feel too confident in saying this, could gas Ohio’s defense and might be able to slow down Nathan Rourke and Papi White enough to win there, but only after a loss to Buffalo.
At that point, Miami would be 4-2 in MAC play with a pretty good shot at finishing 5-3 with a loss to NIU and a win over Ball State. So, a winning record in MAC play is definitely in the cards, but bowl eligibility is up in the air, either steal another win in MAC play and/or beat Army this week. Don’t expect 6-6 to be good enough for a bowl berth, especially if the last win that gets you to six is Ball State.
Frank, your turn.
Who are the up-and-coming freshman across the league?
— Frank (@FrankAnderson4) October 16, 2018
It’s Jayden Reed and everybody else.
Okay, that’s not entirely true, but that’s also not a lie. Reed’s an excellent receiver, his speed helps him excel as punt returner. By every counting stat, Reed is easily the most productive receiver on the team (53 targets, 36 catches, 533 yards, 6 TD). The only freshman in the nation to have more receptions than Reed is Purdue’s Rondale Moore.
And here’s a list of everybody else that I’ve taken a liking to:
- Isaiah McKoy was a one-time Ball State commit, now he’s Kent State’s leading receiver and its a likable target at 6-foot-3. He has 32 catches on 59 targets for 342 yards and a pair of TDs.
- Central Michigan’s Devonni Reed is second on the team with 48 tackles, which is a lot.
- Kevin Marks & Jaret Patterson have emerged as reliable running backs for Buffalo and take a lot of pressure off Tyree Jackson’s shoulders. They’re averaging 5.5 and 5.6 yards per carry, respectively, and have a combined 920 yards on 167 carries for 12 TD.
- Linebacker James Patterson, Jaret’s twin brother, is second on Buffalo’s team in total tackles at 25.5 with four tackles for loss and a pair of forced fumbles.