Ohio vs. Massachusetts Preview

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The Ohio Bobcats (4-0) will face the University of Massachusetts Minutemen (0-4) in the Bobcats’ first MAC game of the season on Saturday at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.

The Minutemen are new to the MAC, and they have struggled this season. UMass has been outscored 172-35 in its four games this year. Massachusetts got shut out 37-0 in its season opener at Connecticut, lost 45-6 to Indiana, 63-13 to Michigan and 27-16 to Miami (Ohio). 
The Miami game was the most encouraging of the season thus far for UMass. The Minutemen’s Michael Cox, a transfer running back from Michigan, ran for a career-best 188 yards on 30 carries in the game. He scored on an absurd front-flip into the end zone against the Redhawks.
“I think [Cox] is talented,” said Ohio head coach Frank Solich. “I think he’s a physical player. He’s able to make plays, so you’re faced with that. But we’ve been faced with individual talent through the course of our first three games; really it comes down to how you match up across the board.”
UMass’ freshman quarterback Mike Wegzyn, while he has been struggling, has improved in every game this year.
While the Minutemen did get destroyed in their first three games, the quality of their first three opponents was high. They faced a Big East team and two Big Ten teams to start their season in the Football Bowl Subdivision. That’s a tall order, and Solich realizes that. 
“They’ve played three BCS schools and then Miami, who is projected to have a good football team in our conference,” said Solich. “They’ve only played one game at home, so I’m sure they’ll be anxious to get back home, so statistically it doesn’t match up to the kind of football team they are on film.”
Solich went on to add, "I think they're well coached, I think they're sound in all phases of the game."
Charlie Molnar is in his first year as UMass’ head coach after following Brian Kelly from Central Michigan University to the University of Cincinnati, and then to the University of Notre Dame to serve as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the Irish in 2010 and 2011. 
It is understandable that Molnar and the Minutemen are struggling thus far; it takes some time to build a program, especially one in its first year of FBS play.
Molnar is definitely capable of coaching a high octane offense, he oversaw the two most prolific passing seasons in Cincinnati history. He coached Mardy Gilyard and Dominic Goodman to become two of the best receivers in UC history. In 2009, Molnar’s passing attack averaged 308.77 yards per game, which was good enough for eighth in the NCAA. They also amassed 4,014 passing yards to set a Cincinnati single-season record. 
The Bobcats come into the game with a high octane offense of their own. Ohio’s offense, whether it’s been led by Tyler Tettleton or Derrius Vick, has been rolling on all cylinders. The Bobcats have the 22nd ranked offense in the nation, averaging 465 yards per game. 
Ohio is battling some injuries at key positions. Ohio wide receiver Tyler Futrell will miss the game with an undisclosed injury and fellow wide receiver Landon Smith will also miss the game with a lingering neck issue. To make things worse, Mario Dovell, another Ohio receiver, was ruled out for the season last week with a leg injury. 
Ohio will have to mainly rely on wide receivers Donte Foster, Ryan Clark and Bakari Bussey against the Minutemen. Ohio has battled through injuries thus far, and the depleted receiving corps should not be a problem for Ohio as UMass’s defense has allowed 43 points per game this year. 
Ohio running back Beau Blankenship figures to be a big part of Ohio’s offense. Blankenship is averaging 28.25 carries a game and he should get his usual workload against the Minutemen. 
Tyler Tettleton missed last week’s Norfolk State game with an undisclosed abdominal injury, but he is expected to start against UMass. Ohio’s backup quarterback Derrius Vick, who played well in Tettleton’s absence, may see the field in some new offensive packages, according to Solich.
“There is a possibility of [working Vick into the offense] but Tyler has won so consistently for us and has such experience that when he’s operating at a really high level, it’s tough to just say ‘O.K. go sit on the bench for a couple series, we’re going to try something else’ … but, there may be times when it makes sense to utilize Derrius in some games,” said Solich. 
The Bobcats are heavily favored to begin MAC play with a victory against UMass, it is something that Ohio is not used to.
“That’s strange to us,” said Solich, referring to being heavily favored. “We just need to keep our focus and just keep going the direction we’re going.”
Ohio is tied with Alabama for the third best turnover margin in the nation. The Bobcats have been efficient on offense and opportunistic on defense.
Ohio has 12 turnovers on defense and has only had two turnovers on offense. The Bobcats should increase their turnover margin against UMass.
Ohio will look to battle though injuries and take home its first MAC win of the year against UMass. The Bobcats are expected to win this game. UMass isn’t quite ready to handle Ohio and its prolific offense.