Iowa starts out the 2016 season at home against Miami (OH)
The Miami (OH) Redhawks produced Ben Roethlisberger, although, their program is far from those heights now. They haven’t been in a bowl game since 2010 and are coming off five straight losing seasons, including going 0-12 in 2013.
Chuck Martin is set to enter his third season as head coach after going just 5-19 during his first two seasons. Miami (OH) was just 3-9 last season, and according to the MAC, they are projected to finish near the bottom of the conference once again.
Last season, the Redhawks did not do anything well. They ranked 83rd in the nation in passing yards per game, 112th in the nation in rushing yards per game, 118th in points per game and 95th in points allowed per game. The good news is they did return a good amount of their offense and they landed four three-star recruits.
Week 1: Iowa Hawkeyes vs Miami (OH) – September 3, 2:30PM CT, ESPNU
The Redhawks are returning their starting quarterback, running back and leading receiver from last season. Also, they added four-star receiver DeAndre Huff and four-star offensive tackle Trent Maynard. For a team that owned just two 500-yard receivers last season, Huff should be a nice addition when he gets a chance to play.
Last season, Miami (OH) had a balanced attack. They attempted 31.2 passes and 35.7 rushes per game. Redshirt freshman Alonzo Smith gained 498 yards and five touchdowns on four yards per carry. In the five games Smith saw at least 10 carries, he averaged at least 4.2 yards per carry in each game.
A more consistent ground attack would likely help him as a redshirt sophomore, although it probably won’t do much good against Iowa’s defensive line. The Hawkeyes held opponents to just 3.6 yards per carry last season, and that trend should continue in 2016.
With that being said, the Redhawks biggest struggle is passing the ball. They had four quarterbacks attempt a pass last season and two attempted more than 100. Billy Bahl, a freshman last season, is once again the expected starter. He didn’t take over as the starter until around week 5 last season, but he did attempt a pass in every game.
Although, he struggled, to put it nicely. On a team with not many weapons, the freshman had trouble completing passes and not turning the ball over. He completed just 44.5 percent of his passes and threw eight touchdowns and 13 interceptions on the season.
Returning his top two receivers from last season – Rokeem Williams and Sam Martin – should help, although with Desmond King, Brandon Snyder and Miles Taylor in the secondary, there isn’t much hope for their passing game against Iowa.
Iowa only had three wins of 20 points or more last season. Their ground attack isn’t a formula for blowing teams out, but I’d expect Kirk Ferentz to let C.J. Beathard air it out in week 1. For a team who averaged just 204.4 passing yards per game last season, the Hawkeyes should be licking their chops at the idea of facing a defense who gave up 235 yards per game through the air in the MAC.
It’s a great chance for Iowa’s younger receivers to get a little playing time and get their timing down with Beathard. Miami (OH) had two players who intercepted more than one pass last season but they’re both gone. Brison Burris graduated while Marshall Taylor transferred to Auburn.
That leaves a very inexperienced secondary against a senior quarterback and his leading receiver from last season, Matt VandeBerg. If Ferentz decides to air it out a little, Beathard should easily be in for a three-plus touchdown game.
This will also be Leshun Daniels Jr.‘s first game as the team’s starting running back heading into the season. He still had major role last season, although with Jordan Canzeri graduated, Daniels needs to step up this season. He rushed for 646 yards and eight touchdowns last season.
However, Miami (OH) is bringing back just two of their top five leading tacklers last season. Just like in their secondary, there will be a lot of inexperience up front, as well. That’s not a good sign for a team who gave up 171.4 rushing yards per game and 4.2 yards per carry.
Daniels and Akrum Wadley have a chance to start the season on the right foot.
Miami (OH) is returning a lot of starters on offense, however, their defense will be even worse than last season. They lost three of their five leading tacklers and the only two players to have multiple interceptions on their team last season. While defense was the stronger side of the ball for them, they’ll have a lot of question marks against a proven offense.
Not to mention that quarterback Billy Bahl has a bad tendency to throw a lot of interceptions. Going up against the Big Ten leader in picks last season, Desmond King, could end up being a nightmare for him.
Miami (OH) might not reach three wins again this season. Maybe Bahl will figure it out at some point this season and their defense could end up replacing their key players fine. Although, it won’t happen against Iowa in their home stadium. This could get ugly fast.
Prediction: Iowa 45 Miami (OH) 3
Projected Record: 1-0