A good chunk of the teams in the Big Ten will begin their season with what is expected to be a tune up contest. The Iowa Hawkeyes are no different as they'll welcome in the Miami (OH) Redhawks this Saturday inside Kinnick Stadium. To get you tuned up for this weekend's contest, we'll give you five things that we know about the Redhawks.
Bad Last Season, Probably Bad This Season
Chuck Martin's task of turning this program around is a very difficult one. A few years ago, this team went 0-12, last season they were better, but not by much at 3-9 and 2-6 in the MAC. They are going through a major rebuild right now and this season isn't going to be the season where the Redhawks turn it around head to a bowl game.
To put last season in perspective, they lost to the Wisconsin Badgers early in the season 58-0 and this game against Iowa will likely yield similar results to that contest about a year ago.
This isn't to sell the job Martin has done short, it's just going to be a few more years before the Redhawks are back in contention for any MAC titles I think. And even then, I don't think they'd be able to keep up with this talented Hawkeye team.
Return Starting QB Billy Bahl
Bahl is coming off a season in which he played in eleven games, while starting seven for the Redhawks as a true freshman. The only catch is that Bahl wasn't exactly stellar. He completed just 45% of his passes and tossed eight touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Bahl is a big kid at 6'4" and 237 pounds and likely learned a lot in his first season as a starter.
However, it's not enough for him to find success against this Iowa team. Bahl is still a relatively young and raw QB going up against a very smart and experienced defense. Bahl suggests long term stability for the Redhawks, but getting a team like Iowa to open up your sophomore campaign isn't exactly a blessing for this young QB.
One of Worst Offenses in FBS Last Season
The Redhawks averaged just 18 points per game last season, which was good for last in the MAC and 117th in the entire FBS. They also ranked last in the MAC in rushing yards per game and total yards per game. They did manage to rise to 10th in terms of passing yards per game. But I would hardly consider that a success.
They'll return their QB, four out of five offensive linemen, their tight end, and one of their three receivers. I would hardly expect them to take a big leap this year, but when you return seven out of 11 guys on offense you should make some strides. To make matters worse, their turnover margin was -14, which was good for 123rd in the country.
Defense Struggles But Getting Better
The defense was better than the offense was last season, but the offense was so bad that it really didn't make a difference. They allowed a whopping 32 points per game, which was close to last in the conference, but were right in the middle in terms of rushing, passing, and total yards allowed per game.
They are going to return J.T. Jones, who was tied for second in the conference with 10 sacks last season. They are going to get Heath Harding back after he missed the last seven games of the season last year. Harding was Miami's Defensive Skill Player of the Year back in 2014.
Tee Shepard should jump in and help the defensive backfield this year. He is a graduate transfer from Ole Miss.
They return some of their more talented guys on the defensive side of the ball, but that number 32 would still worry me if I were a Redhawks fan. That number has to shrink this year or they are headed towards another 3 or 4 win season.
Defensive X-Factors Could Make Plays
J.T. Jones and Paul Moses are two guys that will likely play extremely well for the Redhawks. I mentioned earlier that Jones tied for second in the MAC last season with 10 sacks, while Moses was third on the team in tackles with 71. Now Moses assumes the leadership role along with T.J. Williams at the linebacker spots as they try to break in sophomore Junior McMullen, who will man the middle linebacker spot.
If anybody is giving the Hawkeyes fits in the backfield, Jones and Moses are the likely suspects.
We'll have more pre-game coverage of Iowa's first game this Saturday as the week progresses.