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Hawk Central Huddle with columnist Chad Leistikow and beat reporter Chris Cuellar Rodney White/The Register

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The sharp folks in Las Vegas list Iowa as a four-touchdown favorite in Saturday’s season opener against Miami of Ohio.

You won’t get much of an argument that the Hawkeyes should start 1-0 — not even from the opponent.

Third-year coach Chuck Martin understands that the difficult rebuilding project he’s undertaken in Oxford, Ohio, must be taken one snap at a time. The ESPNU-televised opener, set for 2:30 p.m. at Kinnick Stadium, is against an Iowa team that set a program record with 12 wins a year ago.

“If we go in saying we want to win this game, then we’re losing picture on the next play and the next battle,” Martin said Monday. “To me, it’s how many of those battles can we win? If there’s 150 snaps on Saturday, how many can Miami’s team win?

“Obviously, any time you win one against a team the caliber of Iowa, it’s good for your program.”

A year ago, Miami played an early-season matchup against another burly Big Ten Conference opponent: The RedHawks lost at Wisconsin, 58-0, on their way to a 3-9 season.

But Martin sees value in these matchups, because the physical brands of football that come out of Madison and Iowa City are what he wants to mimic in the Mid-American Conference, where his team is predicted to finish fifth out of six teams in the East Division.

That’s why Martin admitted about Iowa, “In some respects, it’s not a great matchup.”

In 2014, he took over what was truly the most dilapidated program in college football. The 2013 RedHawks went 0-12 and lost each of those games by an average of 26 points.

But Miller does know a thing or two about winning, so there’s gradual optimism being generated in Oxford. He went 74-7 as Division II Grand Valley State’s head coach and came to Ohio after two seasons as Notre Dame’s offensive coordinator. In 2012, he took the Fighting Irish to the national championship game.

The cupboard is still being loaded. Martin said he’s only got 15 upperclassmen.

And though it’s hard to get worse than the 5-19 record over his first two seasons, Martin likes what he’s seen in fall camp.

The team that finished 2015 with a 20-13 win at Massachusetts?

“Our team would beat the team we took to UMass by two or three touchdowns,” Martin said.

Billy Bahl is the RedHawks’ quarterback. He started eight games a year ago as a true freshman. He’s a year older, a year bigger, a year more experienced — emblematic of Miami’s team that understandably is trying to grow one snap at a time.

“I think you’re going to see a major difference, even this week against Iowa,” Martin said. “I’m not saying any predictions on the game; I just think anybody who watches this week … We’re going to play better football, (be) more physical, (and) we’re going to execute at a higher level.”

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