Bobcats aiming for another run at title
Defense, Ohio’s forte all . . .
2016 MAC record: 6-2 (Tied 1st MAC East)
Dollar General Bowl: Troy 28, Ohio 23
2017 MAC Media prediction: 1st MAC East and MAC Championship Game runner-up
● Ohio was eighth in scoring offense, averaging 26.3 ppg. Last year, the ‘Cats were seventh in total offense (393.3 ypg), with 167.9 ypg coming via the ground game. Another 224.4 ypg. went through the air.
● Sophomore Quinton Maxwell took over quarterback duties shortly before the midway point of 2016. That experience, along with his size and skill set, have the ‘Cats hoping for more this time around.
● Maxwell completed 54.2 percent of his passes and ranked seventh in pass efficiency last year. Junior college transfer Nathan Rourke, who was available for spring drills, joins Drew Keszel as options.
● The ‘Cats lost several key playmakers in the receiving corps. Sebastian Smith (56 catches, 905 yards, 4 TDs) is gone, along with Jordan Reid (58 catches, 655 yards, 6 TDs). Papi White, a 5-9, 171-pound junior speedster, will anchor the wideouts, while tight end Troy Mangen (6-5, 258) is looking forward to a healthy and productive senior season.
● Creating some space for Quillette and protecting the quarterback falls on a line with three starters returning. Center Jake Pruehs, Third Team All-MAC, anchors that group.
● Ohio was second among MAC teams in scoring defense, allowing 22.6 ppg. It was third in total defense (360.2 ypg).
● The Bobcats were particularly strong in defending the run. The 104.4 ypg average was more than 40 yards better than second-place Miami.
● Opponents fared somewhat better against OU through the air. Ohio was eighth in pass defense and sixth in pass defense efficiency.
● The Bobcats were plus-one in turnover margin. It would have been better were it not for the final two games. OU was minus-three (2-5) in the bowl game and minus-one (2-3) against Western Michigan in the MAC title game.
● Blair Brown, an All-MAC First Team linebacker, is also gone, but senior nose tackle Cleon Aloese is back to anchor the line. Quentin Poling – another MAC first teamer – joins fellow senior Chad Moore as returning linebackers.
● Safety Javon Hagan returns after earning All-MAC Second Team honors as a freshman. Junior Kylan Nelson is also back at safety, while Mayna Williams joins senior Brad Ellis at the corners.
● Placekicker Louie Zervos had quite the freshman season in 2016. His 29 field goals (of 35 tries) was a program record. Seven of his boots were at least 40 yards and he registered a long of 51 yards.
Classmate Michael Farkas averaged 40.8 yards per punt. Only three of his boots resulting in touchbacks, while 30 were downed inside the 20.
It’s a young, but talented, pair who can serve the ‘Cats well in what could be some very close games.
While Ohio has lost some outstanding talent on both sides of the ball, few should be surprised that the Bobcats got the MAC Media nod to take the East. Head coach Frank Solich and staff have a way of finding answers, and OU has been a consistent contender.
Reaching the championship game again will be a challenge, however. Rival Miami appeared to turn the corner midway through the 2016 season and returns a talented group that gained confidence with last year’s late run.
Ohio’s win over MU last year turned out to be the decisive factor when the two programs tied atop the MAC East with 6-2 marks. This year’s game is not only in Athens, it will be on Halloween night!!
Halloween in Athens is its own show. Throw in a key football matchup on national television and … well, it could be a Battle of the Bricks like never before!
Eastern Michigan and Central Michigan, West Disivision foes who defeated OU last year, are also on the Bobcats 2017 slate. So is preseason MAC favorite Toledo, who Ohio edged 31-26 last year in the Glass Bowl. This year’s matchup will be in Athens Nov. 8.