Middle Tennessee vs. Miami (OH)
Mobile, Ala., Ladd-Peebles Stadium
Thursday, January 6, 2011 8:00 PM ET ESPN
Laying the scene
From 1-11 to MAC Champions, the Miami of Ohio RedHawks have surprised a few people this season. They were expected to finish towards the bottom of their conference once again, but pulled off five straight wins to improve from 4-4 in October to 9-4 at the end of the season with a conference championship in their pocket. At 6-6, Middle Tennessee has had a so-so year in the Sun Belt Conference, but had to win their last three games to become bowl eligible and they were able to pull it off as they edged Florida International 28-27 in the season finale. The win also kept FIU from winning the conference outright. This will mark the first meeting between the two schools.
What Middle Tennessee has to do to win
Quarterback Dwight Dasher is largely considered the most exciting player on the field, but defensive lineman Jamari Lattimore had a good season himself, recording 11.5 quarterback sacks and 64 tackles (14 for loss). Lattimore will be looked upon to disrupt the RedHawks passing attack that will be led by Austin Boucher in the absence of starter Zac Dysert. Boucher has played well in Dysert's absence, tossing just one interception in the last three games. Lattimore and the Blue Raiders defense will look to disrupt Boucher behind the line of scrimmage to throw him off of his game so he isn't able to find Armand Robinson and Nick Harwell.
What Miami (OH) has to do to win
Containing Dasher will be an important part of grabbing the victory Thursday night. Dasher missed the first four games of the season due to suspension, but managed 453 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. Not exactly Earth-shattering numbers, but Dasher is capable of big things, best evidenced by his big performance in last year's New Orleans Bowl in which he passed for 162 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 201 yards and two touchdowns. He's yet to rush for more than 100 yards in a game this season, although he's had three games in which he's rushed for two touchdowns.
Middle Tennessee will look to contain running back Thomas Merriweather to force Boucher to come up with a big game through the air. The RedHawks rank 114th in rushing offense, but have relied more upon Merriweather since Dysert went down. Merriweather rushed for 141 yards and a touchdown against Akron, 182 yards and a touchdown against Temple and 85 yards and two touchdowns against Northern Illinois since Dysert's injury. The key to establishing a running game and keeping Boucher's jersey clean will be protection and exceptional play along the line of scrimmage. Do that, and they'll be on their way to victory.
Miami (OH). The RedHawks are on a roll and riding high following their first conference championship since 2003. Before that, they hadn't won the MAC since 1986. Seasons like this don't come often in Oxford; expect the RedHawks to take full advantage of the opportunity to end their season right with a win in a January bowl game on national television. - Danny Hobrock
Danny is a sports journalist primarily covering college football and professional baseball. His work for Xtra Point Football has garnered national attention and is critically acclaimed. Danny is the former editor of a political and current events website and the editor of our college football content.
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