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Behind Enemy Lines: A Q&A With The Hustle Belt

The Hustle Belt, SB Nation's MAC blog, joins us to preview the #MACtion

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Are y'all ready for some #MACtion? The Illini host a MAC team this weekend, so expect a high scoring affair in Champaign!.......Oh, it's Miami? No #MACtion? Awwww.

Anyways, Bryan Vance from the Hustle Belt was kind enough to answer our questions.

1. Miami has had two very bad games, but they played Cincinnati tough last week. Was the defensive performance one good game, or a sign of things to come?

Brian Vance: To be perfectly honest, Miami's performance last week wasn't really tough. Sure the defense did a decent job, but a big factor in that low scoring affair was Cincinnati doing everything in its power to screw up. Miami's offense is miserable, which unfortunately makes the RedHawks' defense worse (it's actually not a bad unit, but not as good as that 14-0 loss would imply) due to the sheer number of plays it spends on the field.

I think if that game were replayed this week Cincinnati would put 40+ on Miami. It's hard for any defense to perform well when it spends two-thirds of the game on the field.

2. Through three games, the RedHawks have only scored 21 points. Why is the offense struggling so much, and do you expect it to improve?

BV: Two words; Read option. Miami lost a lot when quarterback Zac Dysert graduated this past spring. Making things worse, the RedHawks lost arguably their greatest receiver ever when Nick Harwell was kicked off the team for off the field issues. To make up for that, and apparently to try and play to quarterback Austin Boucher's skill set, head coach Don Treadwell has switched to a read option offense this year. But it isn't working. Miami's offense is worse than awful. The line is bad, there's no one for Boucher to pitch it to, and he can't complete a pass to anyone. This team as a whole has 180 rushing yards...clearly the read option isn't working.

There's a lack of play makers, and a lack of the required personnel to execute this offense, but for some reason Treadwell is determined to stick with it. This is statistically the worst scoring offense in FBS, and isn't far off from that in every other offensive category. Unless something changes, and quickly, this offense will continue to struggle across the board. It just doesn't work and no amount of repetition is going to fix it.

3. Which players should Illini fans be looking out for on offense?

BV: This is hard to say honestly. Miami's offense lost so much, and no one has stepped up to replace those guys. I'd keep my eye on Boucher, because three years ago he was a phenomenal quarterback in limited action for an injured Dysert and its possible he could regain that magic at some point, but so far he looks nothing like that guy this season. Another name to keep an eye out for is slot Dawan Scott. The junior has been the only bright spot on this offense and leads the team in receiving yards (91) and is second in rushing (58). If the offense can figure out how to be even remotely competent Scott could break some big plays.

4. Defense?

BV: Defensively, as I mentioned, Miami isn't bad, but it's far from good with all the time its forced to spend playing damage control. Dayonne Nunley is a force at corner back. He has 13 career picks and is an excellent man-coverage guy. Chris Ward and Kent Kern are names to watch from the linebacking core. Wade led the RedHawks with 128 tackles in 2012, and Kern is off to a great start so far with 34 tackles, including three tackles for loss, in three games.

But honestly the biggest name to watch on defense, actually isn't a defensive player. Punter Zac Murphy (I'm not joking) has been the RedHawks MVP. He has four times as many punting yards as the RedHawks offense has total yards. He's on pace to finish with one of the highest single season punt averages in FBS history, and is on pace to shatter the FBS single season punting yards record by nearly 1,400 yards. It's not just the number of punts he's taking, it's the length. He booted an 84-yard punt last week against Cincinnati and has no problems pinning opposing offenses inside their own 20.

5. What in general will Miami try to do to win the game?

BV: For Miami it's comes down to trying to limit Scheelhaase's shots at the endzone, and forcing turnovers. Turnovers were the main thing that kept the RedHawks in the game last week, and it's really the only hope that they have of keeping this one close. That or Ron Zook getting his old job back before Saturday.

6. Prediction?

BV: A one-sided game, I expect Illinois to hang 40+ on Miami. But I do think we see the RedHawks post more than 1 net yard in the second half, which will be an improvement over last week.


Thanks to Brian for answering our questions. You can follow him on Twitter here, and be sure to keep up with the Hustle Belt.

Follow The Champaign Room on Twitter at @Champaign_Room and Like us on Facebook. You can follow Brandon Birkhead on Twitter at @BrandonBirkhead.