Ohio Bobcats (3-4, 1-2 MAC)
Peden Stadium 2 p.m. ET
By JUSTIN HOLBROCK
After facing the best team in the MAC East last week, Ohio will be challenged once again on its home turf Saturday as it takes on Akron. The Zips, off to their best start since 2000, enter the game with the second best overall record among East division teams and are 2-0 in MAC play.
The Bobcats set a school record with 110 plays on offense against the Bowling Green Falcons but lost 31-13. Penalties killed Ohio as the team somehow combined for 16 flags, costing it 153 yards. That negated the fact that Ohio had better numbers in every offensive category.
For Akron, things couldn’t be going better. The Zips triumphed 29-19 over the Miami RedHawks last week and are riding a three-game win skein. Akron’s defense allowed Miami to gain over 400 yards of offense, but it stepped up where it counted, recording three turnovers and nine sacks. That is the most for the Zips in a single game since 2004.
Ohio’s loss to Bowling Green was certainly a blow to its chances of winning the MAC East, but the Bobcats can redeem themselves this Saturday afternoon against Akron, who is also unbeaten in league play.
Overcoming Akron will not be an easy task by any means for Ohio as the Zips No. 2 in total defense.
To add to its problems, Ohio has not been able to capitalize on long offensive drives and that could be detrimental for the Bobcats because Akron’s defense has given up the fewest touchdowns and field goals when opponents enter the red zone. Overall, UA tops the entire league in scoring defense (17.3 ppg). Ohio is 11th in scoring offense (18.1 ppg).
Fortunately for Ohio, it has a well-balanced defense of its own. That favors the Bobcats, because Akron is not a team known for its offensive abilities. The Zips are seventh in total offense (397.5 ypg) and eighth in scoring offense (23.7 ppg).
As long as the ‘Cats can start out strong and not allow easy touchdowns to start the game – as they have on multiple occasions -- then they will have a shot to break their two-game losing skid and hand Akron its first MAC loss.
“They’re certainly very athletic. They’re a defensive football team that I think plays well together,” Ohio head coach Frank Solich said.
Looking at his own squad, Solich hopes the see improvement, including at the quarterback spot.
“You look at his [J.D. Sprague’s] passing percentage, and it’s not where you want it to be. Solich said. “We want him to be able to hit the deep ball with a little bit more accuracy.”
· Ohio has a seven-game winning streak over the Zips and has not lost to Akron since Nov. 22, 2008
· Frank Solich is 7-2 overall against Akron
· The Bobcats’ offense registered a school-record 110 plays against Bowling Green, which was just five shy of the NCAA record
· Ohio held the Falcons to 95 yards rushing, which is the third time this year that the ‘Cats have held an opponent to under 100 yards on the ground
· Ohio ranks fourth in the MAC in run defense, giving up 150.7 yards rushing a game
· In the last six contests, the Bobcats have outscored Akron 220-110
· Akron paces the MAC with 21 total sacks, which also ranks 10th in the country
· The Zips have the number one scoring defense in the conference, allowing just 17.3 points a game (10th in the country). The next closest defense is Central Michigan who is giving up nearly a touchdown extra at 23.7 points a game
· To go on top of scoring defense and sacks, Akron ranks 8th in the NCAA in red zone defense (0.667)
· Junior place kicker Robert Stein was named the MAC East Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance against Miami. He made two field goals and his extended his consecutive streak to nine
· Head coach Terry Bowden picked up his 150th career victory last week
· Punter Zach Paul ranks first in the MAC with 45.64 yards per punt