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Ohio State vs. Miami (OH): 2019 game preview and prediction

After hitting the road last week for the first time this year, Ohio State returns home to close out their non-conference schedule on Saturday afternoon, hosting Miami (OH).

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: AUG 31 Miami OH at Iowa Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Ohio State opened up their Big Ten schedule with a dominant 51-10 win over Indiana in Bloomington last week. Before taking on the rest of their conference schedule, the Buckeyes have one last non-conference game left in the regular season. Ohio State will try and stay perfect on the year when they host Miami (OH).

Continued Ohio dominance

A couple of weeks ago, Ohio State extended their winning streak against Ohio opponents to 42 games with a 42-0 win over Cincinnati. Now the Buckeyes will be looking to add another victory to that streak with a win over the RedHawks. Ohio State has never lost to Miami, winning all five of their previous meetings. The most recent contest between the schools came in the 2012 season opener, with the Buckeyes earning an easy 56-10 victory.

With their victory over Cincinnati two weeks ago, Ohio State improved their record over in-state opponents to 184-48-15. The last loss Ohio State suffered to another team from the Buckeye State came nearly 100 years ago when they fell to Oberlin 7-6 in 1921.

Fields of gold

Even though Ohio State has a new quarterback this year, the Buckeye offense is still rolling along. So far through three starts, Justin Fields has shown why he was one of the most sought after quarterbacks coming out of high school. Fields joined J.T. Barrett and Dwayne Haskins as the only Ohio State quarterbacks with at least four touchdowns in three straight games.

Even though he has only seen limited duty in the second half of the last two games because Ohio State has jumped out to such big leads, Fields still leads the nation with 78 points responsible for, which translates to 26 points responsible for per game. Just as important, Fields has yet to thrown an interception in his 74 pass attempts this year.

Dobby and the Master

What has given Ohio State’s offense an added element this year has been the play of running back J.K. Dobbins. After a slow start against Florida Atlantic where he rushed just 91 yards, Dobbins has averaged over eight yards per carry in each of the past two games. Against Cincinnati, Dobbins rushed for 141 yards and touchdowns, and followed that up with a huge performance against Indiana. Against the Hoosiers, Dobbins not only rushed for 193 yards and a touchdown, but he also was on the receiving end of a touchdown pass from Fields early in the game.

Not only is Dobbins fourth in the country with 425 rushing yards this year, but he is 119 yards away from 3,000 rushing yards for his career, which would make him the 11th Buckeye to hit that mark. Dobbins is working his way up the Ohio State career rushing list. Dobbins is 65 yards away from passing Antonio Pittman, 71 yards away from Michael Wiley and 119 away from moving ahead of Carlos Snow.

Dobbins hasn’t had to do it alone though, as Master Teague has been able to find holes on the ground as well. The running back duo are just one of two in the FBS to have at least 25 carries and average at least seven yards per carry. Last week against Indiana, Teague rushed for 106 yards, making him and Dobbins the first pair of Ohio State running backs to each go over 100 yards rushing in a game since Dobbins and Mike Weber each rushed for 100 yards in 2017 against Michigan State.

Top targets

It’s obvious the Ohio State wide receivers have been growing in confidence each week as they have become more comfortable with Justin Fields’ style of play. A couple of Fields’ favorite targets so far this year might surprise you. Chris Olave and Binjimen Victor have been two of Fields’ most trusted wide receivers through the first three games of the season.

After finishing 2018 strong, Olave hasn’t missed a beat so far in 2019, catching 10 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns. Olave also had a punt block against the Hoosiers, and now has a receiving touchdown and punt block in each of Ohio State’s last two regular season Big Ten games.

Victor has shown tons of improvement this year, hauling in 11 passes for 200 yards and a touchdown. Victor is close to becoming the latest Ohio State wide receiver to reach 1,000 yards in his career, as he is just 33 yards away from hitting the milestone. As long as he continues to provide Fields with a reliable target, expect the big wide receiver from Florida to continue seeing passes thrown his way.

Defensive improvements

Unlike last year, where 10 of Ohio State’s opponents put up at least 21 points, the Buckeye defense has tightened up in 2019. New co-defensive coordinators Greg Mattison and Jeff Hafley playing at a high level. The Buckeyes have allowed just 10.1 points per game this season, which is 10th best in the country.

While the Ohio State pass defense is greatly improved this year, the rush defense is playing even better. The Buckeyes have allowed just 171 yards this year on the ground, which is their best total through three games since 2003. Dating back to 1950, only three Ohio State teams have allowed less than 171 yards rushing through three games. The 2003 team allowed just 56 rushing yards through three games, the 1950 team allowed 86 rushing yards during that span, and the 1968 team allowed 169 rushing yards.

Chase and the crew

The star of the defense so far this year have been Chase Young, who is looking he’ll be an early first round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, if Young decides to declare for the draft. Young already has five sacks this year, and looks primed to join Mike Vrabel as the only Buckeyes to record double digit sacks in multiple seasons.

With his five sacks this year, Young has raised his career total to 19 sacks, which ranks fifth among active FBS players. While Vrabel’s school record of 36 career sacks is likely out of reach unless Young returns for his senior season, the defensive end from Maryland could possibly move up to second in school history by the end of the season if he continues to get to the quarterback at anywhere close to his current pace. Young’s 19 career sacks are already 10th in school history, and he would need nine more sacks this year to pass Jason Simmons for second place.

Young isn’t the only Buckeye to find his way to the quarterback this year. Overall, Ohio State has 15 sacks through three games this year. Malik Harrison sits behind Young with 2.5 sacks this season. Seven other Buckeyes have one sack this year, including true freshman Zach Harrison, who recorded his first career sack last week against Indiana.

Dashing Damon

The Buckeyes have gotten strong play all-around this year on defense, but another defender who has stood out is cornerback Damon Arnette. After being picked on by opponents last year, Arnette is only allowing completions on 50% of the passes he is targeted on, down from 67.4% last year according to Pro Football Focus.

The highlight play of the year for Arnette came at the end of the third quarter last week, when he intercepted a Peyton Ramsey pass and returned in 96 yards for a touchdown, which was the fourth-longest interception return in school history. With Arnette, Jeff Okudah, Shaun Wade, and the rest of the secondary, Ohio State is proving to be a lot tougher to crack in the passing game than they were last season.

Miami (OH) comes into this week’s game already having played a couple of tough opponents. Last week the RedHawks took on Cincinnati, who was coming off a 42-0 loss to Ohio State the week before. Miami was dominant early on, jumping out to a 10-0 lead on the Bearcats, but the momentum didn’t last long, as Cincinnati regrouped and defeated the RedHawks 35-13. Miami was outgained by the Bearcats 420-207.

Chuck’s in the cradle

The RedHawks are coached by Chuck Martin, who is in his sixth season as head coach in Oxford. Martin made a name for himself as head coach for Grand Valley State, leading the Lakers to NCAA Division II National Championships in 2005 and 2006. Martin moved up to the FBS level in 2010, taking a job as a Notre Dame assistant coach. After two years on the staff, Martin was elevated to offensive coordinator for the 2012 season, and left for Miami following the 2013 season. Martin has a 97-48 career record as a head coach, with a 23-41 record at Miami.

Miami (OH) is known as the “Cradle of Coaches” because of their history of successful head coaches either graduating from the university, or coaching at the school. One of the most famous members of the Cradle of Coaches is Woody Hayes, who amassed a 14-5 record in two seasons with the RedHawks before leaving for Ohio State. Other notable members of the Cradle of Coaches are Paul Brown, Walter Alston, Bo Schembechler, and Ara Parseghan.

After a tough start to his career in Oxford, Martin has started to turn things around with the football program. Martin was just 5-19 in his first two seasons at the school, but his teams have won at least five games in each of the last three seasons. The RedHawks even went to a bowl game in 2016 for the first time since the 2010 season, losing to Mississippi State in the St. Petersburg Bowl.

Yo gabba Gabbert

The RedHawks have a ton of youth at quarterback, but Miami looks to have found a quarterback they can build around. True freshman Brett Gabbert has thrown all but one pass for Miami this season. The young Miami quarterback is the younger brother of Blaine Gabbert, who was a standout quarterback at Missouri, and has bounced around the NFL. Gabbert has thrown for 481 and two touchdowns this season.

Catching the rock

The Miami running game has struggled to find space this season, averaging just 3.0 yards per carry this year. While the rushing attack hasn’t worked for the RedHawks, Gabbert has a few weapons at wide receiver to work with. Jack Sorensen is the leading returning receiver for Miami. Last year Sorensen earned third team All-MAC honors last year after catching 53 passes for 742 yards and two touchdowns.

Joining Sorensen at wide receiver is Luke Mayock, who is the nephew of current general manager of the Oakland Raiders, Mike Mayock. Last year, Mayock caught 22 balls for 319 yards and three touchdowns, but he has had a slow start to this season, catching just three passes for 65 yards. Jalen Walker and Dom Robinson are a couple other Miami wide receiver to keep an eye on, as they are the only two RedHawks to go over 100 yards receiving so far this season.

Loads of experience

Even though Gabbert is short on experience, at least he has the luxury of working behind and offensive line that has 82 combined starts. Center Danny Godlevske is the elder statesman of the offensive line with 26 career starts. To the right of Godlevske on the offensive line is guard Jarrett LaRubbio, who has 22 career starts. Offensive tackles Tommy Doyle and Matt Skibinski also have started at least 10 games in their careers.

Green zone

The RedHawks might not be in the same class as Ohio State, but one thing Miami does really well is make the most of their opportunities. Dating back to last season, the RedHawks have scored on 53 of their 55 trips inside the red zone. The majority of those trips inside the opponents 20-yard line end up in touchdowns for the RedHawks, with Miami scoring 43 touchdowns on those 53 scoring drives.

Last line of defense

Miami has given up 30 points to both Iowa and Cincinnati so far this year, but the RedHawks do have some talented players on defense. The most notable name is cornerback Zedrick Raymond, who transferred to Miami from Independence Community College, which was featured on Netflix’s Last Chance U after Raymond left for Oxford. So far this year, Raymond has four pass breakups.

Joining Raymond in Miami’s defensive backfield is safety Sterling Weatherford. The redshirt sophomore is currently leading Miami with 20 tackles so far this season. Weatherford has one of Miami’s three interceptions on the season, with safety Travion Banks and nickelback Bart Baratti hauling in the other two.

Creating pressure

Ohio State’s offensive line has been giving Justin Fields plenty of time to throw the football so far this year, but Miami has a few defensive linemen who can create some pressure. Defensive tackle Doug Costin has 21.5 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks in his career, and in 2018 earned second team All-MAC honors. Sophomore defensive end Kameron Butler has two sacks this season, while Dean Lemon has added a sack and 2.5 tackles for loss.

Run it back

If we are being honest, Ohio State will probably score a bunch of points on Saturday, which should allow kick returner Maurice Thomas a chance to set a school record. Thomas has 1,917 career kick return yards in his career, which leaves him 54 yards shy of passing Jamal Rogers for most in school history. If Thomas gets two or three shots at bringing the ball out of the end zone against the Buckeyes, he should have no problem setting a new return mark for the RedHawks.

Summary

Ohio State is a massive favorite in this game, and if recent history is any indication, things could get ugly for the RedHawks. The Ohio State defense is starting to click, which likely will see Ryan Day wanting to push the tempo to get the Buckeyes ready for a trip to Nebraska next Saturday night.

The RedHawks are battled tested with games against Iowa and Cincinnati already under their belt, but taking on the Buckeyes is a whole different animal. Ohio State has top talent at every position on the football field, which is impossible for the RedHawks to match. Even though Chuck Martin’s squad will give maximum effort as they try and pull of the massive upset, they just don’t have the horses to hang with the Buckeyes.

Chase Young and the rest of the Ohio State defense will set the tone early, getting in Brett Gabbert’s face early and often, which could cause some turnovers. If the Buckeyes are able to force Miami into mistakes, it could lead to some short fields for Justin Fields and J.K. Dobbins to navigate. Ohio State has done a great job at putting points on the board early against their opponents this year, and more of the same should be on tap on Saturday.

Sportsbooks set Ohio State as a 40-point favorite for this game. The Buckeyes covering that number isn’t out of the question, especially after Ohio State just beating Indiana by 41 points in Bloomington last week. The only question is how early does Ryan Day pull his starters with a tough road test on tap for next week.

LGHL Prediction: Ohio State 54, Miami (OH) 10