1. What does the rivalry with Cincinnati mean to you? Is this a game you and fans look forward to every year?
To me, the Cincinnati game is always a big deal. Even though Miami has lost 13 straight meetings, the games with UC have been close more often than not under Chuck Martin. The rivalry is particularly strong with alumni, and it’s hard to overlook how deep the rivalry runs among fans who have been through the different eras of the rivalry.
2. Do you feel, from Miami’s perspective, that there is value to this series and you want to see it continue annually?
As a Miami fan, there is definitely value to playing the Bearcats every year. UC has done a good job of building its brand over the past couple of decades and Luke Fickell has helped elevate the program’s profile even more (last week’s game against Ohio State notwithstanding). I feel like the series should continue for the sake of tradition (Miami and UC typically go after the same recruits so there’s naturally a rivalry there) and I feel like the game is good from UC’s standpoint because of the travel and because of the quality of play. Both programs are as good as they’ve been in a while, making this a series that is mutually beneficial for both schools.
3. How would you react to a win on Saturday, for the first time in 14 years?
A win would definitely bring a sense of relief. Miami has had its opportunities to get a win during this streak, but the Bell has always found a way to elude the RedHawks. With the current group that Miami has, this is as good of a Miami team that Martin has had going into the Battle of the Victory Bell and there is plenty of reasons for Miami fans to be optimistic heading into this game. A win Saturday wouldn’t necessarily be a surprise to me, but it would do wonders for the momentum of the program.
4. What do you view as the keys to the game for Miami - what needs to happen in order for you to win?
For Miami to get the win, Brett Gabbert needs to manage the game against a good defense. Even though Cincinnati lost two starting safeties for the season, this is still a Luke Fickell defense that’s going to throw a lot at a true freshman quarterback so Gabbert has to be sharp and not force any throws. Another key to the game is the running game. Miami bases a lot of its offense around the ground game and that could be challenging with the talent that UC has and the nagging injuries that could keep some vital offensive weapons out of the game. Finally, the RedHawks have to stop Michael Warren. With the Bearcats being as thin at RB as they are, Miami has to commit to stop the run to make that offense one dimensional in order to have the chance to get stops consistently.
5. What did you learn from the team in a loss to Iowa that can be viewed as a positive
The three positions that stood out to me at Iowa were quarterback, offensive line, and defensive back. Gabbert established himself as a competitor and was able to make some big-time throws against a good Iowa defense. The ceiling is clearly high for him as he’s probably the most physically gifted quarterback that Miami has had since Andrew Hendrix. The offensive line did a pretty outstanding job against Iowa as they only allowed one TFL in the game and Iowa’s future NFLer AJ Epenesa had a minimal impact on the game. The bad news is that the defensive backfield has a habit of turning receivers loose on the back end (they even did this against Tennessee Tech) so the pass defense is certainly an area of concern.
6. What is the temperature/mood like around Chuck Martin. 23-40 through 5+ seasons, 1 bowl appearance. is he still the guy long term or is he on the hot seat?
It is definitely lukewarm amongst fans. This is probably the best roster in terms of depth and talent that Martin has had at Miami and it’s time for Miami to get over the hump as a program. The RedHawks were finally able to beat Ohio University to end the losing streak of that rivalry, and they won a share of the MAC East title and was very competitive against Mississippi State in the 2016 St. Petersburg Bowl. Any combination of beating UC, winning the MAC East, and winning a bowl game would go a long way in cementing Martin’s place at Miami for years to come.
7. What are realistic expectations for Miami this season as far as record and standings wise?
Before the season started, I would’ve tempered my expectations for Miami due to not knowing how the QB play was going to end up being. Two weeks into the season, I feel pretty comfortable with saying that a 6-8 win season is pretty realistic. After Miami gets past UC and Ohio State in the next couple of games, it gets a MAC East where half the teams are in rebuilding mode while no one in the MAC at this point has looked unbeatable. As I alluded to earlier, getting the Victory Bell back can give a talented a lot of momentum heading into conference play.