Odds are that you don't know anything about the Miami Redhawks. Sure, you know that historically they've been one of the better programs in the MAC and Ben Roethlisberger went there. So did Joe Novak. But how did head coach Mike Haywood turn around the 1-11 Miami Redhawks to the 8-4 MAC East Champions this year? Let's take a look.
Miami finished 7-1 in the MAC East with their only loss being to Ohio. Temple, the preseason favorite finished 5-3 with losses to NIU and turnover-fueled late season collapses to Ohio and Miami themselves. Ohio finished 6-2 and their only losses were an early season stint to Toledo and a "last hurrah" against a lame duck Kent State team.
Miami has the 104th scoring offense and 85th total offense in the country (10th & 5th in the MAC). How in the heck were they able to string together enough wins to take the East? Close victories is the answer, as the Redhawks have won five conference games by a touchdown or less this season.
A strong defense is another answer, ranking around the Huskies at 27th in the nation and 4th in the conference. But the real reason behind the success of this side of the ball has been turnover margin. Even though the Redhawks haven't held on to the ball that well (22 lost), the're right up there with the top of the nation in gained turnovers with 29 on the season. Overall, they're +7 on the season, or 3rd in the conference. In comparison, NIU has forced only 24 turnovers, but has also turned the ball over only 13 times (+11) on the season.
Miami won't have their starting quarterback for the Championship that they had for the majority of the season. Zac Dysert lacerated his spleen against Bowling Green and backup Austin Boucher has started the last two games. Boucher had a late offer from Ohio State in high school, but has limited playing time as a redshirt freshman.
In the long run, turnovers is not what makes you a good team. They certainly help a lot, the way you move the ball in terms of yardage gained is a much better gage of success on the football field. Let's take a look at how the Redhawks have fared this season and how turnovers has helped them along the way.
Miami made an early appearance on the national radar by playing strong defense against the Florida Gators to start the season. As the season went on, we learned that it was more to do with Florida's offensive ineptitude but to stand toe-to-toe with an SEC team after being nearly winless the year before is impressive. The Redhawks were even with FL in yardage (212), but lost the turnover battle (4-3) and the game 12-34.
Against a now 3-9 Colorado State, MU won handily 31-10. The Rams were close in the yardage department, but a 4-turnover day with a pick-6 turned them in. Miami wouldn't turn the ball over at all.
After that the Redhawks traveled to both Missouri (51-13) and Cincinnati (45-3) and lost both games to a combined score of 26-96. The rivalry game against Cincinnati was the bigger blowout of the two and the Bearcats pierced the Redhawks rushing defense for 384 yds on the ground.
In MU's second game of the season (their non-conf was mixed in like ABAABA to start the season), Miami beat Eastern Michigan 28-21. Yes, this is the same EMU team that NIU beat 71-3. Just from that I'm feeling pretty good about the game and Miami won this game with a +2 turnover ratio as well.
Against CMU, MU won 27-20, but was helped out with 4 CMU turnovers, three of which were Radcliff INTs. They did outgain the Chips 470-401, so this one shouldn't have been that close of a game.
They won 21-9 over Buffalo, who has been horrid all season long. On the road against 1-11 Akron, they barely escaped with a 19-14 victory. Again, the Redhawks barely outgained in yardage (398-318), but also won the turnover margin +2. This in no way should have been a close game.
And finally in a monsoon, the Miami Hawks were able to give themselves a chance to win the East with a 23-3 victory over Temple at home. And guess what? They were outgained in yardage and benefited from 4 Owl turnovers.
So do I think Miami has a chance at winning the game on Friday?
Yes, if the Huskies give them the game by turning the ball over. Which I don't think will happen.