Football Preview: Ohio heads to Akron for must-win game

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Ohio is in a must-win situation, with just five games remaining. The 'Cats need to win out and get help to win the MAC East. Here are our keys to the game:

Ohio (4-3, 1-2) at Akron (1-5, 0-2).

Tidy up “the little things”

In Ohio’s two-game losing streak, the Bobcats have turned the ball over four times, three of those have come at crucial points in the ball game.

Late in the third quarter against Buffalo the Bobcats were driving. On third-and-six from the Bulls’ 12-yard line Tyler Tettleton’s pass attempt to LaVon Brazill was intercepted in the back corner of the end zone and the green and white left the red zone without putting points on the board. If that ball falls to the ground, Matt Weller most likely knocks through a 29-yard field goal and that one-point loss potentially flips to a two-point win.

Three turnovers against the Cardinals made it an uphill battle for the Bobcats. A Tettleton pick right before the half gave Ball State three cheap points, and add in the blocked extra point attempt and you have a four-point swing right there.

Ohio has harmed (I wont say beaten) itself the past couple games; this could be a week where the Bobcats focus on what they can control and forget about anything else.

Pound it on the Ground

The numbers on Akron’s rush defense are flat-out bad. Opponents are averaging 204.5 yards per game while also running for 4.5 yards per carry against the Zips’ defense.  
Fun number comparison—The Akron offense has scored 12 touchdowns total; it has allowed 18 rushing touchdowns (25 total). Donte Harden has looked fresh since returning from the leg injury, no lack of explosion from number eight. He had 126 total yards on 18 touches against the Bulls and another 158 yards with 21 balls against Ball State. An Ohio running back hasn’t rushed for over 100 yards since Ryan Boykin gashed Marshall for 140– this could be the week a ‘Cat back goes over the century mark.

Start Fast

It is not a secret that the Zips have struggled this season. Ohio is a better team than Akron and it is important to establish that early. Ohio let Kent State and New Mexico State, both teams that are worse than Ohio, hang around for way too long. The Green-and-White has lived off the big plays, but a few sustained, clock-melting drives would be a good sign for this offense. The Bobcats need to let the Zips know they mean business the second they step off the bus and follow it up with some early stops and scores.

The good news, as you will read below, is the weather forecast calls for a bright and sunny day in Akron. A beautiful 56 degrees, no rain expected, you couldn’t ask for a better fall football day in Ohio.

Weather an issue? No way.

By: Rob Guliano

Front page news is widely regarded as being reserved for the most urgent, gripping, and relevant stories in any media publication.

So, it is a relative shock that weather has made some notable appearances on front pages in the past decade. Hurricane Katrina surely flooded fronts of newsstands. An influx of tornadoes last spring did the same thing. There have also been sporadic tsunamis that have cracked the main headlines.

Each of these stories have one thing in common—they are natural disasters. In Athens, however, I feel it unduly relevant to make it known as prominently as possible if our beloved Bobcat football team may have any measurable chance of playing in weather conditions that could possibly alter any aspect of any factor that could possibly affect anything about their upcoming games.

Which is precisely why I should not be writing this piece. Because Saturday's conditions in Akron, Ohio (the site of Ohio’s football game) are predicted to be in the mid-to-upper 50s and sunny (according to the Weather Channel—we’ll chalk that up as a credible source). The wind will be rather trivial as it is forecast to blow out of the southwest at 5-10 miles per hour.

You see, weather does this wild and innovative thing from day-to-day—it changes. I’m no ancient Mayan, but rampant showers on Wednesday and blustery conditions on Thursday hold little bearing on anticipation of weather woes over the weekend. If you will give me a second while I pull out the pocket farmer’s almanac that I don’t have…

Yeah, weather still won’t play a factor in this Saturday’s game.

Heck, let’s go wild. Let’s look ahead to practice next week. Surely that holds bearing on Ohio’s performance on November 2 against Temple.

Thanks to Doppler radar-like technological advancements, we aren’t restricted to the ol' whistling weather vane. We don’t have to wait until game day and throw a pile of grass into the air to measure the conditions. In fact, we are so past that stage that we would be throwing turf in the air in 2011. So, here we go.

Literally the next relevant weather report in the foreseeable future is next Thursday. Perhaps practice should be canceled as the temperature nosedives three degrees from Saturday’s game to 53. The wind, coming from the same direction is predicted to be at eight miles per hour. And most daunting of all, there is a 40% chance of rain.

Forget injuries to your defensive leaders and an impending matchup against the MAC East leader. That weather report for Thursday's practice is adversity if I’ve ever seen it.

Throw the stats out the window, ladies and gentlemen. Let the records fly out with them. Because next Thursday I know what the real story will be leading into Temple.

And you can bet it will be front page news.