Miami (Ohio) (2-2 SU, 1-3 ATS) vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (3-1 SU, 3-1 ATS)
College Football Week 5
Date/Time: Saturday, September 30th, 5:00 PM
Where: Notre Dame Stadium
By Mike M., NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: MIA(OH) +21 / ND -21
Over/Under Total: 53.5
Miami Ohio and Notre Dame meet on Saturday in what will be the second game all time between the teams with the first being back in 1909, a game in which Notre Dame won 46-0 and eventually finished with an undefeated record after also taking down Michigan and Pittsburgh along with such legendary football powerhouses as Olivet, Rose Polytechnic, Michigan Agricultural and Wabash.
The Redhawks enter the weekend with a 2-2 record and are coming off a 31-14 road win against Central Michigan in their MAC opener. It was much a needed victory after they started off the season 1-2 despite being favored in their first three games with losses against Marshall 31-26 and Cincinnati 21-17 along with a non-cover win against Austin Peay 31-10. To add further salt in the wounds, both of their defeats were essentially self-inflicted, as they gave up two kickoff returns for touchdowns along with a pick six to the Thundering Herd and versus the Bearcats let up 18 points in the 4th quarter and were actually winning 17-6 with under three minutes left, but eventually were doomed thanks to another pick six with just 1:07 left that put Cincinnati up for good.
While those interceptions returned for touchdowns were disastrous for Miami Ohio, if it wasnt for quarterback Gus Ragland there is no way they would be enjoying whatever success they have recently found. Ragland took over the starting role last season after the Redhawks started with an 0-6 record, and from that point on led them to six straight wins and their first bowl berth since 2010 thanks in large part to an incredibly efficient 17/1 TD-INT ratio. Sans the two pick sixes, he has continued that success this season with eight touchdowns and no other interceptions while also contributing two scores on the ground.
Unfortunately the offense as a whole hasnt been driving on all cylinders, nationally ranking just 101st in yards per game, 95th in rushing and 88th in scoring. Along with struggling to open up holes for the running game, the offensive line has had difficulty with protection as well with the team coming in at 104th in sacks allowed. If they want to have any chance at competing on the road against a team like Notre Dame, they cannot afford to waste possessions with continuous three and outs, as eventually the talent level imbalance that they hope to avoid will come to the forefront.
Last weeks 38-18 win in East Lansing against Michigan State put the Irish record at 3-1 through the first third of the season, with the lone loss by a single point against Georgia 20-19 in week two. The most telling stat against the Spartans was Notre Dames ability to get points off of turnovers, scoring a total of 21 off of MSU mistakes. On the season the Irish have caused nine turnovers and impressively turned eight into touchdowns.
That sort of play never would have happened under previous disaster at defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder, and the Irish turnaround can be directly attributed to the hiring of former Wake Forest DC Mike Elko, who has turned around the Notre Dame squad into one that can actually tackle in open space and avoid letting up multiple big plays per game. The on the field leaders of the defense continue to be Nyles Morgan and Drue Tranquill, with another major contributors the sophomore cornerback tandem of Julian Love and Shaun Crawford along with nose tackle Jerry Tillery and linebackers TeVon Coney and Greer Martini.
On the offensive side of the ball, the clear strength of the Irish continues to be the rushing attack, which now ranks 7th in the country with an average 293.5 yards per game. Josh Adams is the clear feature back and has run for 499 yards and two touchdowns thus far, while his backup Dexter Williams has done especially well when subbing for Adams during the game, having run for 214 yards on just 20 carries this season while also scoring five touchdowns. Their abilities have been a welcome offset in attempting to keep the pressure off of quarterback Brandon Wimbush, who has ample ability on the ground with seven rushing touchdowns so far and thankfully took a turn in the right direction with his passing last week against the Spartans, completing 70% of his passes and avoiding both fumbling or throwing an interception for the first time all season.
The win against Michigan State was especially momentous for the Irish as it was the first time they have won back to back games since the 2015 season. This weeks game against Miami Ohio is their last one that could be considered a gimmee the rest of the way, with matchups against UNC, USC, NC State, Wake Forest, Miami, Navy and Stanford looming its clear that wins will be a premium all season long. The game being played in South Bend gives an advantage to Notre Dame for the multiple usual reasons, with the added benefit of their opponent Redhawks having great difficulty in recent years playing either on the road or against non-conference opponents, as Miami Ohio has gone just 6-33 in their last 39 road games and just 2-18 in their last 20 against non-conference opponents with their only pair of wins against the always fearsome Presbyterian Blue Hose and the Austin Peay Governors.
This weeks game was a tough one to pick, as Redhawks head coach Chuck Martin clearly has his team going in the right direction and with Gus Ragland at quarterback have a strong possibility of contending for a MAC title. I just think through a full four quarters the vast difference in talent will be too much for Miami Ohio to overcome and by games end Notre Dame will eventually come away with a win and cover at home in South Bend.
Mike M’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Notre Dame -21. - Not all sportsbooks are created equal! Many are fly by night, poorly run and your loot is actually at risk. End that problem today by signing up at one of the web’s oldest and most trusted sportsbooks! Online for over 15 years, your credit card will work and you’ll also receive a 50% bonus up to $250 FREE at Bovada Sportsbook!