Cure Bowl Preview: Miami (OH) vs. Appalachian State
On Saturday, December 16th, college football bowl game action kicks off with a slate of seven games, including this Cure Bowl matchup between Miami (OH) and Appalachian State at FBC Mortgage Stadium in Orlando, Florida.
Odds as of 12/13, 6:40 a.m. PT
The Miami RedHawks won their second MAC Championship two weeks ago, 23-14 over Toledo, and paid back the Rockets for a Week 8 loss. In that initial meeting with Toledo, Miami lost starting QB Brett Gabbert to a season-ending leg injury. Backup QB Aveon Smith took over and ran a more run-heavy offense (a little over 2/3 of the offensive plays over the last five games were run plays) and went 5-0 as a starter, including a victory in the MAC Championship Game. However, Smith entered the transfer portal, and Miami will be down to third-string QB Henry Hesson, who threw his five career collegiate passes last season, and Colorado transfer Maddox Kopp, who played in two games for the Buffaloes last season.
"We’ve had a lot of bumps in the road along the way, all the way back to the beginning of the season," said Miami (OH) head coach Chuck Martin, whose team opened the year with a 38-3 loss at Miami (FL) on Sept. 1. "Every time it seems like it wasn’t going to go our way, somebody would make a play and we survived, and we’ve been doing that for 13 weeks."
The RedHawks have been carried by their defense that has held opponents to 20 or fewer points in eight of their last 10 games and ranks seventh in the nation in scoring defense at 16.2 points per game. Special teams are also a strength of Miami’s, mainly led by its kicker and Lou Groza Award winner Graham Nicholson, who went 26-for-27 (9-10 from 40-49, 1-1 50+) on field goals and 35-for-36 on PATs. His only miss of the season came in the MAC Championship Game.
Miami’s defense will be tested by Appalachian State’s offense (34.4 ppg – No. 20 nationally) under quarterback Joey Aguilar, who established a school record with 3,546 passing yards this season and was third nationally with 33 touchdown passes. The Mountaineers nearly defeated North Carolina in Week 2 and did hand previously unbeaten James Madison its only defeat of the season.
Appalachian State’s defense had allowed just a little over 18 ppg in its last four regular season games before allowing 49 points and 463 yards at Troy in the Sun Belt Championship Game. The Mountaineers are not without transfer portal attrition as leading rusher Nate Noel (864 yards, 5 TD) has departed the program.
The total has dropped four points from the opener of 48.5, mainly due to Smith’s transfer, but the Miami offense should not change much, although App State does not have much film on Hesson or Kopp. Martin has shown he will not hesitate to use Nicholson and lean on the kicking game when the offense sputters. The RedHawks are also the best defense the Mountaineers will have faced all season, so points should be at a premium.
Appalachian State opened as a four-point favorite, and the line is starting to approach -7, which is too many points to lay to a good defense and a team that has fought off adversity all year, broke a 16-year losing streak in the Victory Bell game to Cincinnati, and is attempting to become the winningest program in Oxford since Ben Roethlisberger’s 13-win team in 2023.
Pick: Miami (Ohio), 23-20