What is Dispatches from Blogfrica? Pretty simple: I ask questions of a blogger for an opposing team; he (or she) answers. A truly revolutionary idea, no? Today: Jordan from Hustle Belt, SB Nation's fine blog for all things #MACtion.
1) Miami was incredibly young on offense last season and it looks like their leading passer, rusher, and receiver are all back from a year ago. What are you expecting from the offense against Iowa? Who are 2-3 players that Iowa fans should be aware of?
JORDAN: Chuck Martin wants Miami to be a physical program that runs the ball, so expect the offense to try to establish the inside run early with Alonzo Smith and work perimeter runs with Kenny Young and Maurice Smith before setting up play-action passes with Billy Bahl. All the aforementioned players were freshmen last season, so Saturday's game will definitely be a test for them to see where they're at in their development.
2) On the flipside, three of Miami's top five tacklers last year were seniors, so they'll need to be replaced. How is the defense looking as you head into 2016? Who are 2-3 players on that side of the ball that Iowa fans should know about?
JORDAN: The defense should be the strength of this team again this year by returning J.T. Jones and his nine sacks from a season ago while preseason All-MAC corner Heath Harding returns from a season-ending injury in 2015. The losses in the linebacker corps shouldn't be that big of an issue with Junior McMullen getting more playing time and giving the RedHawk defense more athleticism.
3) The bad news was that Miami only won three games last year. The good news is that that was an improvement on two wins in 2014. How is the upward trajectory of the program looking as you enter Year Three under Chuck Martin? Is there a feeling that the program is getting close to a breakthrough?
JORDAN: The general consensus is that Miami can get up to five or six wins this year. The offensive line is getting older and stronger, and the overall athleticism has improved thanks to Martin's efforts on the recruiting trail.Their schedule also gets a little easier this year, not having to play arguably the three best teams in the MAC this season (NIU, Toledo, WMU), so if Miami is going to have a big jump in wins, it'll have to be this year.
4) Related to that -- how secure is Martin's job status? Is he feeling the heat after going 4-19 during his first two years at Miami? Is there a win total he needs to hit this year to guarantee that he'll return next year?
JORDAN: Martin isn't really on the hot seat this year; this was never going to be a quick rebuild from 2013 where the team averaged 12 points per game on offense and gave up 36 points per game on defense. For him to keep his seat cool, however, he'll have to show signs of improvement either through more wins or wins against the rivals (Cincinnati and Ohio).
5) Vegas lists Iowa as a huge favorite in this game, but Iowa is just 3-2 against the MAC in their last five games against MAC opposition and the last win (over Ball State in 2013) was a nail-biter, so I'm not going to take anything for granted here. What are 2-3 things Miami needs to do in order to spring the upset on Iowa on Saturday?
JORDAN: Miami needs to contain Iowa's run game. If the Hawkeyes can run the ball at will, MU won't be able to keep up offensively. The RedHawks also need to be able to run the ball to keep the pressure off of Bahl in his first non-conference start. Lastly, Miami has to win the field position battle because Iowa isn't going to turn the football over and i's defense is really opportunistic (19 interceptions last season), so Miami needs to put itself in good positions in order to have a chance Saturday.
6) Finally, what's your prediction (and score) for the game on Saturday?
JORDAN: Iowa wins 35-17. Miami simply isn't as talented as the Hawkeyes at this juncture.
Thanks for being a good sport, Jordan, but I still hope your team gets mollywhopped on Saturday. You can check out Jordan and the rest of the HB crew at Hustle Belt. You can also follow HB on Twitter at @HustleBelt and Jordan on Twitter at @JordanRinard. The Iowa-Miami (OH) game is in Iowa City, IA on Saturday, September 3, and is scheduled to start at approximately 2:30 pm CT, with TV coverage from ESPNU.