In the 100 days leading up to the kickoff of the college football season on Saturday, Aug. 26, HERO Sports is ranking the top 100 teams in the FBS. You can find all the rankings and previews here.
No. 80 Miami (Ohio)
Miami fans are still catching their breath after last season's miraculous turnaround. Hopefully they're ready to roll by Sept. 2 because their RedHawks — just four years removed from a winless season and two years removed from 13 victories over a five-year stretch — are ready to contend for a conference title.
2016 Record: 6-7 (6-2, MAC)
Miami won six games (and six conference games) and reached a bowl game for the first time since 2010 — all after starting 0-6, including 0-2 in the MAC. They edged Kent State, 18-14, on Oct. 15 and didn't lose again until a one-point loss to Mississippi State in the St. Petersburg Bowl.
“I honestly don’t know how we got here,” head coach Chuck said after beating Ball State in the season finale. “I certainly didn’t think we’d win six straight, but I thought we’d be good.”
It was the first time in the 12-game schedule era that a team had finished 6-0 after starting 0-6.
Head Coach: Chuck Martin (4th year, 11-26)
Miami lost to Akron, 35-13, on Oct. 8, giving Martin an overall record of 5-25 in two-plus seasons. If the RedHawks continued losing, it's not unreasonable to assume the former Notre Dame offensive coordinator would be with a new program right now.
Suddenly Martin is one of the hottest Group of Five coaches in the nation after leading the six-game winning streak and putting the RedHawks in a position to challenge for a MAC title in 2017.
Key Returning Offensive Players
QB Gus Ragland, RB Alonzo Smith, RB Kenny Young, WR James Gardner, WR Jared Murphy, TE Ryan Smith, TE Nate Becker, OT Jordan Rigg, G Jordan Diamond, G Sam McCollum, C Danny Godlevske
Ragland miraculously returned to the field last October just six months after tearing his ACL in spring ball. He completed 64 percent of his passes, didn't throw an interception until the bowl game and threw for at least three touchdowns and no interceptions three times, including a 380-yard, three-TD game against Ball State.
“In every sport you’re looking for the guy that makes those around him better,” Chuck Martin said in November. “Everybody talks about the Michael Jordans, and that’s Gus. His confidence breeds [success] through the whole team. … His belief is that things are going to go right all the time. He’s that kid, and they’re hard to find.”
Ragland is joined by seven other returning starters, including four on the offensive line, led by former Auburn transfer Jordan Diamond, who was granted a sixth season of eligibility. Their top two ball-carriers are back in Alonzo Smith and Kenny Young. Young averaged 6.3 yards per carry and provided relief in the passing game, catching 17 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns.
Tight end Nate Beck returns after missing all of 2016 with injury and forms a dangerous one-two punch with senior Ryan Smith. At receiver, James Gardner is back after a 45-catch, 750-yard season, as is senior Jared Murphy.
Key Returning Defensive Players
DT Ikeem Allen, DT Nate Trawick, LB Brad Koenig, LB Junior McMullen, LB De'Andre Montgomery, CB Heath Harding, CB Deondre Daniels, S Tony Reid, S Joshua Allen
Eight starters also return on a defense that ranked in the MAC's top four in rushing, passing, total defense, scoring and turnover margin. The unit is led by linebackers Junior McMullen and De'Andre Montgomery, two of their three all-conference selections.
The pair is flanked by former walk-on Brad Koenig. The 6-foot-1, 227-pounder had a huge sophomore season, recording 72 tackles, nine tackles for loss, three sacks and four passes defended.
Hard-hitting safety Tony Reid is also back after leading the team in tackles (98). He had three double-digit tackle games, including 10 in a one-score loss to Cincinnati.
All-MAC First-Team corner Heath Harding returns for his senior season. He led the team with 11 passes defended and will form the best corner tandem in the MAC alongside Deondre Daniels. And Ikeem Allen and Nate Trawick will once again plug the middle.
Notable Player Losses
WR Rokeem Williams, OT Collin Buchanan, DE J.T. Jones
Miami's defense will be terrific but they still could've used another season from defensive end J.T. Jones. The two-time All-MAC selection led the RedHawks in tackles for loss and sacks each of the last two years. He left Oxford with 35.5 tackles for loss and 22 career sacks.
Offensively, Rokeem Williams is gone after a 500-yard season. He had six catches for 145 yards and two touchdowns in the Ball State win and led the team with a 19.3 yards-per-catch average. And tackle Collin Buchanan leaves a hole on the right side of the line.
Notable Player Additions
WR Stori Emerson, WR DeAndre Huff, WR Mitchell Lewis, WR Jalen Walker, DE Joshua Maize
After bringing a ton of transfers with him in 2014, head coach Chuck Martin is concentrating on developing young talent. Not many fresh faces will see the field in 2017 but he does have some intriguing talent at receiver.
Storie Emerson and DeAndre Huff are redshirt freshmen while Mitchell Lewis and Jalen Walker are true freshmen. All four will take a back seat to Gardner and Murphy but don't be surprised if one or two earn playing time ahead of Sam Martin, Kyle Row and others.
One defender that could get a few snaps is three-star recruit Joshua Maize of Deerfield, Ill. The 6-foot-4, 235-pounder is currently buried on the depth chart but has the pass-rushing skills to turn heads during fall camp.
Miami's schedule sets up beautifully for a run at their first MAC title since 2010.
They avoid arguably the top three teams in the MAC West — Toledo, Western Michigan and Northern Illinois — and get Ohio and Bowling Green at home.
Notable non-conference games include a home matchup vs. Cincinnati and road game at Notre Dame.
|Saturday, Sept. 2||at Marshall|
|Saturday, Sept. 9||vs. Austin Peay|
|Saturday, Sept. 16||vs. Cincinnati|
|Saturday, Sept. 23||at Central Michigan|
|Saturday, Sept. 30||at Notre Dame|
|Saturday, Oct. 7||vs. Bowling Green|
|Saturday, Oct. 14||at Kent State|
|Saturday, Oct. 21||vs. Buffalo|
|Tuesday, Oct. 31||at Ohio|
|Tuesday, Nov. 7||vs. Akron|
|Wednesday, Nov. 15||vs. Eastern Michigan|
|Tuesday, Nov. 21||at Ball State|