RedHawks set to open MAC play with rematch of 2019 title game

OXFORD -- Miami was scheduled to play at Central Michigan last Oct. 24 in a rematch of a thrilling 2019 Mid-American Conference championship game the RedHawks won, 26-21, at Detroit’s Ford Field.

That 2020 game fell victim to pandemic protocols, one of nine Miami games that were cancelled.

The RedHawks (1-3) and Chippewas will get another shot at a rematch on Saturday when they meet at 3:30 p.m. at Miami’s Yager Stadium in the MAC opener for both teams.

ExploreMiami looking for offensive improvement after loss at Army

“They’re as good as anybody in our league,” eighth-year Miami coach Chuck Martin said during his weekly media session. “We’ve got a lot of kids back from that ‘19 championship game. They’ve got a lot of kids back, too. You watch them on film and you’re like, ‘Oh, yeah, I remember that kid.’ We’re seeing a lot of familiar faces on film.”

Central Michigan, led by third-year coach Jim McElwain, went 2-2 during its non-conference schedule behind a two-headed quarterback system that helped produce conference-leading averages of 468.3 total offense yards and 288.5 passing yards per game. Sophomore Jacob Simon and redshirt freshman Daniel Richardson share the duties while redshirt freshman running back Lew Nichols III, last season’s MAC Freshman of the Year, ranks second in the MAC with an average of 96.0 rushing yards per game.

“I would compare them to Cincinnati,” fifth-year junior safety Sterling Weatherford said. “Minnesota was a heavy run team, and Army is a different animal. Central Michigan likes to attack downfield and try to pick apart the defense.”

Defensively, the Chippewas allow the fewest rushing yards per game with an average of 97.8 yards allowed per game.

“Central Michigan is a really good football team,” Martin said. “They’re explosive offensively. They’re really talented and well-coached. They’re good enough to win every game on their schedule. Defensively, their front seven is twitchy.”

While the Chippewas lead the MAC in passing, the RedHawks have allowed the fewest average passing yards (146.3 per game), in part because Army and its triple-option offense produced zero passing yards in a 23-10 Black Knights win last week at West Point.

Central Michigan’s record includes a 10-point loss at Missouri in its opener, one of many intriguing outcomes involving MAC teams already this season. They include Northern Illinois’ 21-20 win at Georgia Tech, Toledo losing by only three at Notre Dame against a Fighting Irish team currently ranked ninth in the Associated Press poll, Western Michigan’s 44-41 win at Pittsburgh, Buffalo’s three-point loss to a Coastal Carolina team currently ranked 16th by the AP and Bowling Green’s improbabe 14-10 win at Minnesota.

Western Michigan and Eastern Michigan both were 3-1 going into the week. Five teams were 2-2, four were 1-3 and Ohio, under new coach Tim Albin, was 0-4.

“I’ve been kind of keeping up with the other teams,” Weatherford said. “It’s exciting to see the success the conference is having. Unfortunately, we didn’t have as much success as we would have liked. It just shows us that you have to pay attention to detail. You don’t step out on the field thinking you’re going to blow out anybody.”

The RedHawks have won their last three games against Central Michigan, but Martin pointed out that previous results mean little in the balanced MAC. Five of Miami’s nine MAC games during the championship 2019 season were one-score outcomes.

“Top to bottom, every year, there’s not a lot of separation in the conference,” he said. “Most of the games usually hinge on a couple of plays in the fourth quarter. It’s always tough. We have eight games – four at home, four on the road.”

Martin was hoping to see a crowded student section on Saturday at Yager.

“I hear there’s been double the student tickets sold,” he said. “We need all the support we can get this week. This should be a great football game – knock-down, drag-out – between two good MAC teams.”

SATURDAY’S GAME

Central Michigan at Miami, 3:30 p.m., ESPN+, 980, 1450

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