Football Preview: Ohio/Temple is MAC East’s game of the year

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Keys to the game: Temple (5-3, 3-2 MAC) at Ohio (5-3, 2-2 MAC)

1. Slow Down (because you will not stop) The Owls Running Game

Let me throw some numbers at you: Temple averages 252 yards per game rushing, good for first in the MAC. Statistically, Bernard Pierce is the best running back in the conference, averaging almost 119 yards per game and has scored 18 rushing touchdowns this season. Even Pierce’s back up, Matt Brown, is ninth with a 70 yards-per-game average on the ground and also has nine touchdowns. The Owls run well, they run a lot, and they run physically. For Ohio to survive this game the Bobcats must weather the storm coming at them out of the backfield and keep Pierce and Brown from beating them on their own. Temple’s Tandem will get its yards – it’s hard not to when Temple will run the ball 40-plus times – but Ohio will have the advantage if it can keep them out of the end zone and force the Owls to throw.

Note: Bernard Pierce may not be himself Wednesday; he has been playing with a sore hamstring for the past few weeks and missed practice time this week. Pierce saw a season-low 17 carries in the Owls’ loss to Bowling Green.

2. Execution and Efficiency

Because Temple runs the ball so much, it will burn up some clock. Ohio’s offense is all about speed and getting off as many plays as possible, but Temple’s average time of possession is 34:31. Do you see a problem here? If the time the Bobcats have to run plays is reduced, they will need to execute on the plays they do have because second chances will be reduced. The Ohio offense has been inconsistent this season. There have been games where the offense could do no wrong (Marshall), but a few times this season the ‘Cats have not been able to sustain drives (Buffalo, Kent State), forcing them to rely on the big plays. This is an offense that can score from anywhere on the field, but the time of possession and number of plays will most likely be lower in this game than they have all season, so when the Bobcats are on offense they must make the plays they do have count.

3. Embrace the Environment

There is a brilliant buzz about Bobcat Blackout (that’s a lot of "B"s). The energy in Peden Stadium was great for the Marshall game and should be similar on Wednesday. The black jerseys will be back, Ohio is rocking brand-new black helmets, the fans are supposed to be decked out in black, and oh yeah, the game is on ESPN. The MAC East is on the line in this game, the winner of Ohio-Temple controls its own destiny for the division title, so it's fair to say this is a big stage. If the ‘Cats don’t get nervous about playing in front of a large crowd, on national television, for the division title, and instead embrace the moment, they will be in good shape.

Kickoff is at 8 p.m.—see you there.