Ohio football preview for 2016, including keys to success for the Bobcats, best players and season prediction.
Oh c’mon, Ohio. Can’t you catch the right breaks and win the MAC championship just once under Frank Solich?
The Bobcats have won the East three times in the Solich era, but they haven’t been able to pull it off over the last four years. It’s been a good run, it’s been a strong run, and it’s been a consistent run with six winning seasons in the last seven – going 6-6 two years ago in the one blip – with the team a regular on the minor bowl circuit. But it’s been Bowling Green’s East division over the last three years.
Since Solich has taken over, Akron won a MAC championship from the East. Buffalo won in 2008, Miami University won in 2010, and while Ohio has gotten to the big game three times under Solich, it hasn’t been able to get it done to win it all.
So what’s been the problem? The offense hasn’t been high-octane enough, especially compared to what Bowling Green has been able to do, and while the identity is there to bring a good defense every year and a solid offense, this has been just a good enough team to come close, but not quite be good enough with at least one other team in the league just too strong over the last several seasons.
Does this year’s team have what it takes? The Bobcats have lost four in a row to Bowling Green, getting annihilated over the last three seasons, while going through offensive funks at the worst times. There isn’t the firepower there to keep up in shootouts, but it should be yet another rock-solid team overall.
But can that be enough? Can being good year after year after year eventually mean that one season, everything is going to fall into place? That’s the hope, but if that doesn’t happen, this is still going to be one of the league’s standard-bearers.
Being really good has been nice, but after 11 years, Solich is due for a really great season. He’s in the division to do it.
What You Need To Know About The Ohio Offense
Good against the bad teams and non-existent at times against the good one, the offense was solid running the ball and occasionally efficient in the passing game, but it failed to keep up the pace in blowout losses to Western Michigan, Buffalo and Bowling Green over an ugly three game stretch. Will there be more firepower? If the quarterback situation is settled in a hurry, maybe. The receiving corps should be among the best in the MAC, and A.J. Ouellette is a veteran runner working behind a line that gets back two starters, losing all-star center Lucas Powell, but J.D. Sprague or Greg Windham should grow into a sharper playmaker under center.
Biggest Key To The Offense
There was a decent passing game here and there, but it wasn’t a positive when it was pressed. More often than not, the big days through the air came because the offense had to try keeping up the pace. The running game has to work for the Bobcats to win, going 5-1 when cranking up 200 yards or more, only losing to Bowling Green when the ground attack rocked. For the most part, the Bobcats ran better than they did over the last few seasons, but when they won the East and went to the MAC title game in 2011, they ran for over 200 yards ten times. With A.J. Ouellette back as the main man running the ball, he needs to be terrific.
What You Need To Know About The Ohio Defense
One of the MAC’s best defense clunked over a midseason three-game stretch giving up 152 points in losses to Western Michigan, Buffalo and Bowling Green. Other than that, it was a good season that allowed 28 points or fewer eight times. The line has the experience and talent to be a terror in the backfield with ends Terell Basham and Kurt Laseak a deadly combination. Star LB Jovon Johnson is done, but the linebacking corps should be fantastic working around Quentin Poling in the middle. The problem is a secondary that loses three starters, but there’s plenty of time to get that settled before dealing with Bowling Green on October 8th.
Biggest Key To The Defense
Considering it’s not an explosive Ohio offense, the defense can’t allow teams to control games on the ground. The run D has to be able to hold up. With so much experience returning to the front seven, the potential is there for a big season from a defense that did a nice job at times, but was a disaster in the losses giving up 303 yards in the bowl loss to Appalachian State and 430 in the loss to Western Michigan. How much does the run defense matter to Ohio? It allowed two rushing touchdowns in the win over Idaho to open things up, but gave up two scores or more in all five losses. In the seven wins, Ohio allowed six touchdowns, and allowed 15 in the defeats. Ohio is 2-12 in the last 14 games when it allowed multiple rushing scores.
Ohio Will Be Far Better If …
The offense scores whenever it gets a reasonable chance. Even with a rock of a kicker in Josiah Yazdani, Ohio was miserable in the red zone scoring just 76% of the time with at least one empty trip inside the 20 in nine of the 13 games. There weren’t a ton of close games last season, but considering Ohio should get into several tight battles, there can’t be any whiffs.
Best Ohio Offensive Player
WR Sebastian Smith, Sr. – The very big, very good all-star receiver is just a part of the Ohio receiving corps puzzle, catching a team-leading 64 passes but being helped by a slew of good players around him. Jordan Reid and Brendan Cope made plenty of big plays and should be a bigger part of the attack, but it’s Smith who was the go-to guy in key situations.
Best Ohio Defensive Player
LB Quentin Poling, Jr. – He came up with a nice all-star season as the team-leader in interceptions and showing off a great nose for the ball as the top run stopper in the middle. He doesn’t need everything funneled his way, especially when the veteran line is holding its own, but he’s a sure-thing hitter in the open field.
Key Player To A Successful Season
OT Troy Watson, Sr. – Getting a big year out of QB J.D. Sprague is a big deal, and finding some new parts to the secondary and a reliable placekicker is important, but the season goes nowhere unless the line can quickly crank up the production with three new starters. The 6-6, 293-pound Watson started on the right side last season, and now he’ll have to be more of an anchor no matter where he plays. He has the experience, but he has to turn into an all-star.
The Ohio Bobcats Season Will Be A Success If …
It wins the East. There’s too much missing to win the MAC championship, but it might be just good enough to get there with several key games at home. There are plenty of holes to fill on both sides of the ball, but the schedule is just okay enough to withstand two losses and take the division title if, and it’s a bit if, it beats …
Bowling Green, Oct. 8 – The Bobcats have gotten their clock cleaned by the reigning three-time MAC East champ getting blown away 62-24 last year, 31-13 in 2014, and 49-0 in 2013. With a coaching change and a little bit of turnover, the Falcons might be vulnerable and the Bobcats have to take advantage. With road games at Toledo and Central Michigan coming later, winning the East probably isn’t going to happen with yet another loss in the series.
2015 Ohio Bobcats Fun Stats
– Points Allowed In 1st Quarter: 51 – Points Allowed In 4th Quarter: 111
– Fumbles: Opponents 22 (lost 10) – Ohio 9 (lost 4)
– Time of Possession: Ohio 32:15 – Opponents 27:44