Miami (Ohio) vs. Appalachian State: Prediction & Odds (12/16/23)

This year’s Cure Bowl in Orlando, Florida will feature a Group of Five matchup between the MAC Champion Miami RedHawks and the Sun-Belt runner up Appalachian State Mountaineers. Get Miami vs. Appalachian State odds, picks and predictions below as our best bet is Miami +6.5.

Miami (Ohio) vs. Appalachian State Prediction

After a couple of years of playing right around .500, the Miami RedHawks took a big step up this year. Not only did they make it all the way to the MAC Championship Game with a near-perfect record, they avenged their sole loss in conference play by taking down a highly-regarded Toledo team in Detroit- all without starting quarterback Brett Gabbert. Now, they’ll be without even backup Aveon Smith, who led them to that key victory, as he’s entered the transfer portal, but he’ll mostly be missed as a runner as he completed just six passes against Toledo.

2023 was also a marked improvement for Appalachian State, who missed out on a bowl at 6-6 because two of their wins were against FCS competition. This year, the Mountaineers got right back to their usual winning ways, and returned to the Sun Belt Championship Game, where they were dispatched by Troy. Still, EPA per play pegs them as a top-40 team in the country, so they should be viewed as one of the top teams in the Group of Five, even without a conference crown.

Other than Smith and the still-injured Gabbert for Miami, the portal is hitting Appalachian State way harder, as they’ll be missing several major offensive skill contributors, but for the most part, this game will feature most of the best players from both teams. As for the Miami quarterback situation, Henry Hesson or Maddox Kopp could start; neither has thrown a pass this year, but Kopp was decent in a start for Colorado against Utah last season.

With questions flying around the offense, Miami’s defense should be able to win this one. The MAC champs have the 22nd-best defensive EPA in the country, and had three defenders earn a PFF grade over 80, including key linebacker Matt Salopek, who will be participating in the game after some doubt as to that fact.

Despite the weakness of their run game, the RedHawks were able to get the job done against Toledo. They should do the same against an even weaker Appalachian State ground defense, and win a hard-fought low-scoring battle of Group of Five royalty. After a 2022 that was disappointing to most in and around the program, Miami continues to be highly motivated, and have a golden opportunity to cap off their resurgent season with a great win; expect tenth-year coach Chuck Martin to have his guys motivated and ready to go.

Miami (Ohio) vs. Appalachian State Prediction: Miami +6.5

Miami (Ohio) vs. Appalachian State Best Odds

Miami is a 6.5 point underdog in this one, or +200 on the moneyline. By comparison, Appalachian State is -250 to win, and the total is set at a pretty standard 44.5 with -110 odds on either side.

Miami (Ohio) vs. Appalachian State Key Matchups

With a greatly diminished quarterback situation, Miami is going to do their best to rely on a run game that has been spotty this year, while Appalachian State’s efficient air offense will look to break down a very solid Miami pass defense.

Miami Ground Offense vs. Appalachian State Run Defense

Miami’s rushing offense does not grade well by advanced metrics; it’s 120th in the country by EPA per play, although they do pick up a respectable 4.4 yards per carry. Still, the unit got it done when it mattered most, picking up nearly 200 ground yards in a low-scoring clash with Toledo. Smith was a key contributor in the rushing game, but running back Rashad Amos had a nice day too, averaging 4.9 yards per carry, with two touchdowns to boot. He’s rushed for nearly 900 yards on the year, at a clip of 5.1 per tote, with a dozen rushing scores.

Luckily for Miami, the Appalachian ground defense is just as brutal as their rushing offense; the Mountaineers’ run-stopping unit is 124th in EPA per play. Linebacker Andrew Parker has been solid at the core of the defense, but there are few other positives. Opponents are picking up an even 5.0 yards per tote against Appalachian State, and scoring over two rushing touchdowns per game. If they want to take advantage of Miami’s lack of a quarterback, they’ll have to stop the run and force them into the air; we’ll see if this defense is up to that task.

Appalachian State Passing Offense vs. Miami Air Defense

Appalachian State lived and died by their aerial attack this season, ranking 11th in the country in terms of EPA per play on those snaps. After an early injury to starter Ryan Burger, backup quarterback Joey Aguilar stepped in and won the job permanently. He tossed 33 touchdowns and just nine picks this year, and an efficient 3,546 yards. His top targets, Kaedin Robinson and Christian Horn, will both be available for this game, but leading rusher Nate Noel is transferring, so the passing offense will have to shoulder an even heavier load than usual.

Miami’s pass defense was similarly elite, ranking 23rd in EPA per play. Cornerback Yahsyn McKee was a standout with a team-best three picks, and a stellar coverage grade of 81.3 from PFF. Behind him is safety Michael Dowell, who picked off a pair of passes en route to a PFF coverage score of 85.3, and in front is a solid pass rush led by edge rush duo Caiden Woullard and Brian Ugwu, who have racked up 9.5 and 8.0 sacks, respectively. This RedHawks pass defense should be able to diminish Appalachian State’s greatest strength just enough to stay ahead in a competitive ballgame.

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From starting my own blog in Middle School, to working on a friend’s in college, and finally joining the Lineups team this year, I’ve been writing about sports for over a decade and betting on them as long as I’ve been legally able. I graduated from the University of Michigan last year, where I took sports journalism classes alongside my business major. Having played and watched sports for almost my whole life, I aim to provide insight and entertainment, as well as profitable picks, in my writing about professional and collegiate leagues.

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