Head coach: Shane Montgomery
Last season: In 2006, Miami couldn't run, couldn't stop the run and definitely couldn't protect junior quarterback Mike Kokal. That concoction translated to a 2-10 record, the only wins coming at Bowling Green and Buffalo. Only one of the 119 bowl division teams allowed more sacks than Miami's 49 (Stanford, 50). Despite constantly fearing for his livelihood, Kokal was an OK quarterback. He threw for 14 touchdowns, averaged the MAC's second-highest yards per game (behind only Luke Getsy) and minimized turnovers (eight interceptions and no fumbles). Brandon Murphy, a second-team All-MAC runner two seasons ago, missed about half the season with injuries. A bright point was wide receiver Ryne Robinson, perhaps the best in school history. The Carolina Panthers drafted him in the fourth round this spring.
Senior safety Joey Card was the defense's playmaker. He broke up 11 passes, intercepted two and logged 90 tackles in 2006. The defensive line wasn't bad at reaching the quarterback, but it also allowed the MAC's fourth-most rushing yards.
Best returning player: Junior linebacker Joey Hudson
Offense: Kokal probably won't need witness protection in 2007 as his line should be a little better. Of course, now he has no one to throw the ball to. Robinson and five other receivers from 2006 are gone, and the No. 2 receiver Dustin Woods missed the spring with an injury. Like with Akron, the tight ends will play a more prominent role in the offense. Murphy should be back to his 2005 form. MACReportOnline.com calls him a second-team preseason All-MAC player.
Defense: If you thought the defensive line struggled against the run in 2005, wait until this season. Montgomery will rely on three first-time starters up front. His linebackers, beginning with Hudson, should be pretty good. The secondary won't be bad either, despite the loss of Card.
How the Zips match up: The RedHawks and Zips will meet on a Wednesday night in November at the Rubber Bowl. Don't you love mid-major college football? Akron has a glut of teams on its schedule who will excel in the running game. That works against J.D. Brookhart's 3-3-5 defense and Akron's lack of defensive line depth. Miami basically is in the same position, however. The RedHawks will be much improved from their 2-10 record a year ago, but the Zips will be a little better for the ESPN2 audience and crowd at Oxford. Edit: The game is on the road, not home. My fault.
Way-too-early prediction: Akron 23, Miami 21