The Ohio Bobcats football team post-Frank Solich seems to be reverting back to pre-Solich performances. After 11-straight bowl-eligible seasons – and a COVID-shortened 2020 – it seems that the Bobcats are on their way to being the doormat of the MAC.
Despite losing to Syracuse, Louisiana, Northwestern, and FCS Duquesne, there are reasons for optimism and a path to a divisional championship. That path, albeit narrow, is predicated on Ohio discovering a true identity and playing up to its talent level. When one thinks about it, the Ohio Bobcats must do two things and both pertain to the rushing attack.
Despite an 0-4 start, The Ohio Bobcats have a path to Detriot
Establish the run
Over the past few seasons, it was a staple of Ohio football to keep the ball on the ground and smack the defense around. Considering what has been seen from O’Shaan Allison and De’Montre Tuggle thus far in their respective careers, it’s obvious that these two need to lead the way. The eight MAC opponents Ohio will face average 174.5 yards per game allowed on the ground, including three of the five worst rush defenses in the conference.
Allison currently leads the Bobcats with 202 yards off of 41 carries, whereas Tuggle is the only running back with a rushing touchdown to go with his 159 yards off 34 carries. If Ohio wants to challenge, it must give these two a chance to do what they do best: score! Allison broke onto the scene in 2019 by averaging over six yards per carry and was an absolute game-changing back. This year, he is running for just under five yards per carry, but has yet to break off one of his signature explosive plays.
Alongside Tuggle, the two dominated defenses the last two seasons. This year, they have been held in check. Allion’s longest run to this point is 37 yards and Tuggle’s is all of 17 yards. If there is any inkling of doubt of either Kurtis Rourke’s or Armani Rogers’ passing ability, having a dynamic, two-headed rushing machine would alleviate the pressure.
Stifle the run
The eight games against MAC opponents feature some exciting and skilled running backs. When one considers the Bobcats’ leading rusher in Allison, the Ohio defense will face eight of the 12 players with more productivity:
- (2) Lew Nichols III, Central Michigan (384 yards, 2 touchdowns)
- (3) Bryant Koback, Toledo (282, 2)
- (6) Kevin Marks Jr., Buffalo (254, 3)
- (7) Marquez Cooper, Kent State (247, 1)
- (8) Jawon Hamilton, Eastern Michigan (239, 3)
- (9) Dylan McDuffie, Buffalo (224, 4)
- (10) Darius Boone Jr., Eastern Michigan (220, 3)
- (11) DeQuan Finn (QB), Toledo (213, 3)
Moving forward, the Bobcats must go against what they’ve done thus far and contain the run. Against four less-than-stellar teams, Ohio has given up 286 yards and 3.3 touchdowns per game on the ground alone. When faced with mobility at quarterback, the defense has struggled, giving up 49 yards and a touchdown, as well as 61 yards to Tommy Devito (Syracuse) and Levi Lewis (UL-L), respectively.
They will be tested by the second (Finn), third (DJ Irons, Akron), and fifth (Dustin Crum, Kent State) leading rushing quarterbacks as well. Force these teams to throw the ball and the Ohio Bobcats have a path to victory. Considering Ohio only allows 156.5 yards and less than one touchdown allowed through the air, the Bobcats will be able to showcase its star safety in Alvin Floyd in coverage.
Don’t tell me the odds
As it turns out, Vegas is on the Bobcats’ side. Ohio’s odds for a MAC Championship sit at +550, good for third-best, behind only Toledo (+210) and Ball State (+440). The bettors see that Ohio is certainly capable of turning around its (0-4) start.
By leaning on Allison and Tuggle, paired with containing opposing rushers, Ohio can play in Detroit on December 4th for the MAC Championship.