Thursday, Sept. 3, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN3
► The Vandals have fallen onto some hard times. The last winning season was in 2009, when they went 8-5, including a victory in the Humanitarian Bowl. They dropped to 6-7 the following year and went 2-10 in 2011. Since that time, they have been consistent – three straight 1-11 seasons. The lone victory last year was a 29-17 triumph over New Mexico State.
► After seven years in the Western Athletic Conference and one season as an independent, Idaho returned to the Sun Belt in 2014.
► Idaho played two MAC teams last year, losing to Western Michigan, 45-33, before falling to Ohio one week later, 36-24.
► The Vandals and Bobcats have met four times. Idaho took the first, 17-14, back in 1972. Four year later, Ohio drubbed UI 35-0. They did not meet again until last year in Athens.
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► The Vandals netted just 64 yards on 28 rushes against Ohio last year in Athens. The visitors, however, picked up 353 yards through the air. Matt Linehan completed 33-of-56 with two TDs and three interceptions – all to Quentin Poling. His two touchdown throws covered 34 yards and 52 yards.
Linehan is the son of Scott Linehan, offensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys.
► Senior Dezmon Epps, who registered 79 catches for 980 and four TDs back in 2013, is back with the team after missing 2014. Tight end deon Watson had 37 receptions for 343 yards and one TD.
► Elijhaa Penny gives the Vandals a power option in the running game. The 6-2, 254-pound senior led Idaho with 590 yards on 138 carries. He scored 12 touchdowns rushing and added one more receiving. He totaled 12 catches for 107 yards on the year.
► Ohio used a balanced offense against Idaho, gaining 272 yards rushing (132 by A.J. Ouelette) and 233 yards through the air.
► The Vandals lost some experience along the offensive line, but tht unit yielded 41 sacks last year. It needs to get better fast to protect a quarterback that can move the chains.
► Idaho’s defense gave up 37.3 ppg in 2014. A new defensive coordinator, new scheme (3-4) and influx of defensive backs are all part of efforts to get the “D” fixed.
► Linebacker Mark Millan led UI with 102 tackles, including 72 solos, with 15.5 TFL. DB Jayshawn Jordan was fourth with 62 stops and also had two interceptions.
► Austin Rehkow handles both placekicking and punting. His best work at placekicking comes inside the 40. Punting is a whole other level. He led the FBS in punting two years ago and was second last year.
► OU returns 20 starters – 10 on offense, seven on defense and three on special teams. All give offensive line members are back, with the unit combining for 79 career starts.
► Ohio returns its top rusher, passer, receiver, kicker, punter, punt returner, kick returner, interceptor and tackler from 2014.
► Sophomore running back A.J. Ouelette impressed last season, finishing with 785 yards rushing. He averaged 4.9 ypg and tallied seven touchdowns.
► Redshirt senior Derrius Vick and junior JD Sprague are both available for the opener. Both have significant experience. Vick completed 94 of 160 for 1,156 yards, with eight touchdowns and four interceptions last year. Sprague went 98-of-202 for 1,236 yards, three TDs and five INTs.
► Ohio had one of the better defenses in the MAC in 2014, yielding 24.8 ppg (second only to Akron). If the ‘Cats can find some replacement for the middle of the D-line, the Ohio defense should once again keep the Bobcats in some tough games.
► Placekicker Josiah Yazdani returns. He won two contests in 2014 with field goals on the last play of the game.