The MAC returns Wednesday night and one of the closer games projected for the opening slate is the Ball State at Miami Ohio pick. It’s your classic #1 offense in the conference last season Ball State, facing the MAC’s #3 defense from a season ago in Miami.
The Cardinals won this game 41-27 a season ago in Muncie as -3 point home favorites. Oddsmakers have Ball State a slight -1 point favorite on the road at Yager Stadium on Wednesday night (7:00 PM EST, CBSSN) with a betting total of 55.5. Does Miami’s defense prevail in the season opener after such a long and awkward offseason, or is Ball State just the better team?
Talented Offense Returns for Ball State
It was a successful 2019 campaign for the Ball State offense as they ranked #1 in the MAC in total yards and scoring, while coming in 3rd in both rush yards and pass yards per game. Most of the big names return for Mike Neu’s team as well, led by QB Drew Plitt who threw for 2,918 yards a year ago to go with 24 TD to 7 INT.
Plitt has a challenge in the Ball State at Miami pick however, as the RedHawks had the 3rd best passing defense in the MAC a year ago. That being said, Plitt torched Miami going 26/40 for 317 yards with 3 TD and 0 INT in Ball State’s 41-27 win in the regular season finale. Plitt really wasn’t even the star of the offense in that game, as Caleb Huntley ran for 134 yards and 3 TD.
Huntley amassed 1,275 yards last year and has NFL aspirations next year. The Miami – Ohio defense was also solid in the run game, ranking 3rd in the MAC last season. That success wasn’t apparent in the late-November matchup between these two, as Ball State totaled 261 yards on 54 carries.
Can Miami-Ohio’s Defense Be the Difference Maker
It’s possible the Ball State offense comes out rusty after the long layoff, which would bode well for the RedHawks defense. Chuck Martin fielded an impressive unit a season ago, en route to winning the MAC Easts with a 6-2 record. Leading tackler Ryan McWood returns for Miami and the secondary is experienced as all four starters are at least redshirt Juniors.
Miami-Ohio couldn’t stop Ball State last year, which is a concern. The RedHawks also couldn’t do much against the Cardinals 2nd worst pass offense and 5th worst conference defense overall. Miami managed just 168 pass yards and 107 on the ground in last year’s head to head meeting.
Injuries are also a concern for the RedHawks coming into the Ball State at Miami Ohio pick. Jaylon Bester and Tyre Shelton were both set to return after combining for over 1,300 rush yards last season, but both are out indefinitely with injuries. That puts more pressure on Brett Gabbert, who had 2,400 + yards a year ago, but only completed 55% of his passes while throwing 11 TD to 8 INT.
Ball State at Miami Ohio Pick
The RedHawks opened as -3.5 favorites which is understandable at home, but that has been bet down to Miami -1. Bettors are split nearly 50/50, but there’s just too much talent returning for a very good Ball State offense. The Cardinals looked good in this meeting a year ago, and should match up well in the season opener.
Ball State 34 – Miami 21
Free Pick: Ball State +1