College Football Odds, Picks, Predictions for Miami (OH) vs. Kent State: Game Decides MAC East Champion

College Football Odds, Picks, Predictions for Miami (OH) vs. Kent State: Game Decides MAC East Champion article feature image

Adam Lacy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Brett Gabbert.

  • The winner of this Miami (OH) vs. Kent State duel will face off against Northern Illinois in the MAC Championship Game.
  • These two teams have combined to go undefeated at home this season, but just 3-10 on the road.
  • Stuckey breaks down the matchup and provides his top selection.

Miami (OH) vs. Kent State Odds

Saturday, Nov. 27
12 p.m. ET
Miami (OH) Odds
-120o / +100u
Kent State Odds
-120o / +100u
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.

After all of the weekday MACtion, the East Division all comes down to Saturday when Kent State hosts Miami (Ohio).

The winner will advance to the MAC Championship to take on surprise West champion Northern Illinois at Ford Field. Meanwhile, the loser will drop to 6-6 and await a potential bowl invitation.

Miami, which has won the MAC three times in the past, will look to get back to the conference title game after taking home the trophy in 2019. Meanwhile, Kent State has never won the MAC and has only one appearance in the conference championship in school history (2012).

The RedHawks have historically owned this series with a 50-17 head-to-head record. That includes their two most recent meetings in 2018 and 2019.

Interestingly enough, none of the previous seven meetings have eclipsed 40 total points. However, that should change on Saturday afternoon with a sky-high total of 65.

Miami RedHawks

Miami's offense is alive and well since the healthy return of Brett Gabbert under center.

The passing attack has thrived in recent weeks with the reliable Jack Sorenson, who has 27 catches for 533 yards over his past three games, and the increased production of Jalen Walker and Penn State transfer Mac Hippenhammer.

Just take a look at the statistical difference between the Gabbert and backup AJ Mayer this season:

  • Gabbert: 20 TD, 4 INT, 112.6 NFL Rating, 9.3 YPA, 66.7% ADJ%
  • Mayer: 6 TD 4 INT, 88.2 NFL Rating, 7.6 YPA, 60% ADJ%

The RedHawks have averaged 24.6 points in the three conference games Mayer threw more passes. That number jumps almost 10 points to 34 points per game in the four MAC games that Gabbert did.

Plus, Mayer did most of his damage this season against FCS Long Island and one of the worst defenses in FBS in Akron. If you remove those two games, he has just two touchdowns and two interceptions in the other five games he saw action in.

The running game has sputtered for most of the season due to a very raw offensive line that replaced a number of extremely productive players in the offseason.

Consequently, Miami ranks 112th in Opportunity Rate and has struggled in pass protection. However, Gabbert has tremendous awareness in the pocket, so he doesn't take sacks often (top-25 in Sack Rate). He also likely won't have to worry too much about Kent State's defensive line.

On the other side of the ball, Miami features one of the league's best defenses. The RedHawks' 4-2-5 base defense features a particularly strong defensive front, led by edge rushers Kameron Butler and Lonnie Phelps. They also have excellent depth off the edge.

Austin Ertl has also done a tremendous job in the interior stuffing runs. Overall, the defense ranks in the top 20 in both Line Yards and Sack Rate in every situation. That's an ideal combination for a unit that also has one of the best linebackers in the conference in Ivan Pace Jr.

Despite frequently playing with five defensive backs on the field, Miami has really struggled in coverage, ranking outside the top 100.

It has a pair of experienced safeties in Sterling Weatherford and Mike Brown. While both are very reliable and versatile, they are most effective in the box stuffing the run and getting after opposing quarterbacks. The same can be said for Matthew Salopek, who plays a lot of linebacker after the injury to Ryan McWood.

While the box is usually filled with solid run stuffers and attacking pass rushers, the cornerbacks have really struggled in man coverage on the outside. That group really misses Manny Rugamba, who signed with the Browns for a brief period after going undrafted. Injuries also haven't helped.

Former Iowa transfer Cedric Boswell has really struggled. In fact, per PFF, Boswell ranks dead last in coverage among 496 cornerbacks with at least 200 snaps in 2021.

Fellow cornerback John Saunders has played well of late but has only seen action in six games — and hasn't really faced many formidable passing attacks.

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Kent State Golden Flashes

Kent State goes as its offense goes.

The Golden Flashes feature one of the most explosive offenses in the country with a three-headed monster on the ground if you include the rushing ability of quarterback Dustin Crum, who also has plenty of weapons to work with on the outside.

The offensive line has also performed at a high level, ranking in the top 10 nationally in Line Yards and Opportunity Rate. It will be strength-on-strength when it goes up against Miami's front seven.

In contrast, the defense doesn't really do anything well. Overall, it's a bottom-20 unit in FBS. The secondary has the most talent and experience, but it doesn't get much help from a defensive front that ranks outside the top 100 in Sack Rate.

Kent State's undersized front also can't stop the run. It ranks outside the top 100 in Line Yards and yards per carry.

When it does have rare success on early downs, it can't get off the field, ranking 118th in opponent third-down conversion percentage.

Miami (OH) vs. Kent State Matchup Analysis

Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Miami (OH) and Kent State match up statistically:

Miami (OH) Offense vs. Kent State Defense
Rush Success97100
Line Yards75107
Pass Success60118
Pass Blocking**122110
Big Play4490
Finishing Drives85113
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Kent State Offense vs. Miami (OH) Defense
Rush Success848
Line Yards579
Pass Success8975
Pass Blocking**6820
Big Play1921
Finishing Drives6480
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Pace of Play / Other
PFF Tackling3990
Middle 84783
SP+ Special Teams120107
Plays per Minute753
Rush Rate52.% (86)61.7% (18)

Data via College Football Data, FootballOutsiders, SP+, PFF and SportSource Analytics.

Miami (OH) vs. Kent State Betting Pick

I still don't think the market has caught up to two factors:

  • The laughably bad Kent State kickoff and punt units
  • Miami's offense with Gabbert under center

Kent State's explosive offense likes to play as fast as any team in the country. There's a reason head coach Sean Lewis' "Flash Fast" offense has scored more touchdowns in under two minutes than any team in the country.

Crum should have ample opportunities to exploit the vulnerable Miami cornerbacks down the field and take advantage of its aggressive ends in the read-option game. He also gets rid of the ball very quickly (2.3 seconds) on pass attempts, which can neutralize the Miami vaunted pass rush.

However, after the Golden Flashes score, opposing teams have started with the nation's best field position after kickoffs. Kent State's kicker simply can't get it to the end zone with the fewest touchbacks in the country. As a result, the Golden Flashes rank 127th in kickoff efficiency; opponents routinely start at the 40-yard line or better.

Plus, when Kent State does punt, it hasn't been efficient in that area either, ranking 114th in punt efficiency.

Miami (Ohio) should have spectacular field position all game and likely won't have any issues finishing off drives with touchdowns against a porous defense. While it doesn't play particularly fast, it prefers to throw with Gabbert, who should continue his recent roll through the air.

The RedHawks will also likely have no issues breaking explosive runs against a Kent State run defense that can't stop a nosebleed.

For the season, Kent State conference games have averaged a total of 72.9 combined points per game. If you remove last week's anomaly against Akron in which it played slower (given the situation in my opinion), the other six averaged 78.7.

There's no reason why this shouldn't turn into another shootout where Kent State scores in a flash and Miami answers quickly with short fields.

In regards to the side, l'm pulling for Kent State for my 14-1 preseason conference future. I actually make Miami (Ohio) a slight favorite, so I may hedge a bit off to at least get my initial investment back, especially with a favorable opponent in Northern Illinois for the MAC Championship.

Stay tuned on Twitter and the Action Network App to see what I decide to do there.

I may just stay away and hope home-field advantage proves to be the difference in what I project as close to a coin flip. After all, these two teams have combined to go 9-0 at home and 3-10 on the road.

Pick: Over 64.5 (Play to 66.5)

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