Steven Baybutt

Miami University’s football team (8-4, 7-1 Mid-American Conference (MAC)) capped off the best turn-around in all of Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) football this season.

The 23-3 win over Temple University gave the team seven more wins than last year.

I had the privilege of watching this game on TV after arriving home Tuesday, and let me be the first to tell you that Miami dominated. There weren’t many in attendance, clearly demonstrated by ESPN’s consistent coverage of the same 26 fans, perhaps the only 26 fans, while cutting to commercials. But that’s what happens when you schedule a home game the last day of classes before break. However, even with the lack of support, the ‘Hawks cruised to victory and had to wait on the outcome of Friday’s Ohio University vs. Kent State University game. Lucky for the RedHawks, Kent State was victorious, giving Ohio two conference loses. Miami only had one loss in MAC conference play, and will therefore go to the MAC championship game in Detroit, where the team will face No. 25 Northern Illinois University (NIU) (10-2, 8-0 MAC), the MAC West Champion.

Miami started the season with a somewhat difficult non-conference schedule, including games against the University of Florida and the University of Missouri. The RedHawks lost both games, but gained highly valuable experience against high-quality opponents. They used this experience to go 7-1 in the MAC, including four straight wins after opening the season 4-4.

A large part of the success lately is due to the fact that backup quarterback Austin Boucher has filled in well for the injured Zac Dysert. The defense has also played well during the four-game stretch, holding opponents to less than 12 points a game. However, NIU is the first ranked team Miami has faced since Florida in the first game of the season.

NIU features a potent rushing attack led by senior running back Chad Spann, who has rushed for 1,239 yards and 20 touchdowns. He is not the only capable back on the roster, as the seven leading rushers all average more than 5.5 yards per carry. The rushing attack of NIU is ranked seventh in the country, at almost 280 yards a game. Miami’s defense will certainly have its hands full. However, win or lose in the MAC championship, in all likelihood the RedHawks will be going to a bowl game this year.

The MAC will most likely put four or five teams into bowl games: NIU, Miami, University of Toledo, Temple University and possibly Ohio University. Miami will probably play in the Bowl against Troy University out of the Sun Belt Conference. If the ‘Hawks beat NIU, they could face a Big Ten or Conference USA opponent in the Little Caesars Bowl.

The fact that Miami is even bowl eligible this year is tremendous. This Miami team has pulled out close wins and has competed hard week in and week out. Head Coach Michael Haywood has turned the program around, and hopefully this is a sign of positive things to come.