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NY Post
New York Post
16 Dec 2023

NextImg:Miami (OH) vs Appalachian State prediction: Cure Bowl pick, odds

Fresh off a MAC Championship, the 11-win Miami (OH) RedHawks earned a birth in the Cure Bowl, being played at FBC Mortgage Stadium in Orlando, Florida. 

Their opponent will be Appalachian State.

The Mountaineers dropped their Sun Belt championship matchup to Troy but still capped off an impressive season by winning five of their final seven contests. 

As with every bowl game, there’s a litany of transfer portal activity to recap. 

For the RedHawks, staring quarterback Aveon Smith hit the portal and won’t be available for the bowl game, which is a considerable loss, given first-string quarterback Brett Gabbert suffered a season-ending injury earlier this season.

So, third-stringer Henry Hesson, who has attempted only five collegiate passes, will start on Saturday. 

For the Mountaineers, lead back Nate Noel is in the portal alongside wide receivers Dashuan Davis and Milan Tucker, who combined for around 680 passing yards in the regular season as depth receivers. 

If Smith were available for this contest, the RedHawks might not be catching over six points. Alas, he is, and Miami (OH) is a 6.5-point ‘dog in the Cure Bowl.

Despite no Smith, I still like the RedHawks to cover the number on Saturday. 

Miami (OH)+6.5 (-105)+210o44.5 (-110)
Appalachian State-6.5 (-115)-275u44.5 (-110)

(Via BetMGM)

(3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)

I’m not that worried about the RedHawks’ quarterback situation. 


Because the RedHawks will win this game the same way they’ve picked up their other 11 wins. 

By relying solely on their elite defense and special teams. 

The RedHawks’ defense is the best in the Group of Five and arguably in the top 20 nationally. 

Their 4-2-5 base is stacked with talent from top to bottom. 

Linebacker Matt Salopek might win MAC Defensive Player of the Year, and his running mate Ty Wise is almost as good. 

The interior defensive line is a tad undersized, so you can run on the RedHawks, but Wise and Salopek clean everything up, so it’s hard to generate explosive rushing plays. 

Meanwhile, the secondary is impenetrable. 

Yashyn McKee is an elite lead cornerback, and Raion Strader has played excellently on the other side. Safeties Jacquez Warren, Michael Dowell and Eli Blakey form a stout trio on the back end, so you can’t create explosive passing plays, either. 

Joey Aguilar

Joey Aguilar Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Altogether, Miami (OH) ranks fifth nationally in Explosiveness allowed and 12th in Expected Points Added per Play allowed. 

The RedHawks rank only 40th in Success Rate allowed, but the defense forces opposing offenses to drive methodically without making any mistakes or suffering negative plays. That’s a tough job for any offense. 

Concerning special teams, punter Alec Bevelhimer is averaging over 45 punt yards per attempt, and kicker Graham Nicholson was nearly perfect on field goal and extra-point attempts, going 26-for-27 on the former and 35-for-36 on the latter. 

It’s rare for a MAC team to boast an elite special teams unit, but that’s what the RedHawks have. They rank top nationally in ESPN’s SP+ Special Teams ratings. 

So, I don’t see App State having much success moving the ball on Saturday, even behind stud quarterback Joey Aguilar. 

Behind Aguilar’s 3,500 yards and 33 touchdowns, the Mountaineers rank top 10 nationally in EPA per Pass and Pass Success Rate. 

But Aguilar isn’t perfect. He only threw nine interceptions this season but had 28 turnover-worthy plays – second-most among FBS quarterbacks – and any turnover regression in this game could sink the ‘Neers against an impossibly formidable defense.

Even worse, Miami (OH) could hunt Aguilar with Noel out, given the Mountaineers can no longer attack the RedHawks’ biggest weakness, interior rushes. 

On the other side of the ball, App State’s run defense is trash. 

The Mountaineers rank sub-100th nationally in Rush Success Rate allowed, and EPA per Rush allowed. They’re allowing over 175 rush yards per game at over five yards per carry. 

In the Sun Belt championship game, Troy posted 271 rushing yards at 7.7 yards per attempt against the Mountaineers’ useless front seven.

Miami (OH) won’t be able to pass the ball with Husson, so the RedHawks will lean into the running game. App State might even stack the box trying to stop that, but I don’t think the Mountaineers will be able to. 

This game perfectly sets up for the RedHawks, who can rely on their elite defense and special teams while leaning on a rush-heavy, rush-first, rush-only attack to limit possessions and mistakes. 

Remember, while Miami (OH) is missing its starting quarterback, everybody else is playing. The quarterback is not the most important player on the field for the RedHawks.

That’ll keep this game close, and the RedHawks could win outright in a one-possession, low-scoring, high-variance battle.  

At the minimum, this type of game script is perfect for backing the underdog.

So, I’ll happily grab the six points in the Cure Bowl with the MAC Champions. 

Miami (OH) +6.5 (-105) at BetMGM | Play to +6 (-110)