Calvin Mattheis | Ohio Athletics

Ohio Heads Into 2016 Season With High Expectations

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When the Mid-American Conference preseason polls were released, Ohio University was picked to finish second in the MAC East behind Bowling Green State University. It was a close choice, with Ohio coming in just two points behind Bowling Green.

Bowling Green has dominated the East division the past couple years, but this Ohio team looks like it has what it takes to be competitive at the top of the division. Ohio also gets to face the Falcons at home this year, and the Bobcats tend to play better at Peden Stadium.

Going into his 12th season as the Bobcat’s head coach, Frank Solich thinks that this year’s squad is one of the best he has had the opportunity to coach at Ohio.

“I think we have a really good group of football players, maybe a little bit more depth we’ve had than in the past. We have to shore up some spots in terms of getting high production out of them, but we can be good,” said Solich.

Playing well at home this season will be important for the Bobcats. Their first two opponents in Athens, Texas State and Gardner-Webb, are games that the Bobcats should win. Their first big test of the season is in week three on September 17th when they travel to Knoxville to face the Tennessee Volunteers. Solich is 1-1 all time against the Volunteers, and a win this year on the road would be a huge boost to morale and the Ohio program.

Their final three home games of the season are against Eastern Michigan, Buffalo, and Akron. Eastern Michigan only won one game last year and should be better this year, but not good enough to knock off the Bobcats at home. Akron had their first eight-win season in program history in 2015 but lost a lot of their defensive starters, so this should also be a win at home for Ohio.

The hardest stretch of the schedule for the Bobcats is going to be the short span in October when they travel to Kent State, and turn around five days later and travel to take on Toledo. Short rest and games against two tough MAC opponents will test this Ohio team.

The most important parts on both side of the ball are going to be the production from quarterback and the production from a young defensive backfield. Although JD Sprague is set to start at quarterback in his senior season, he had to battle through a shoulder injury that saw him miss most of spring ball. Defensively, Ohio lost most of its starters in the backfield and will rely on young talent in 2016. Solich realizes these are two areas that Ohio needs to see consistency and production.

“We have good talent (in the backfield), that and our play at quarterback is really going to determine just how good we are going to be.”

The front seven on defense could be the strongest group for this Ohio team. Led by senior Kurt Laseak, the defensive line is returning three key starters, and linebacker Quentin Poling will be back for his junior season. Poling staying healthy will be key for this defense. Last year they lost three straight games when Poling was out with an injury.

Ohio’s season will kick off on September 3rd at home against Texas State. Kick off is set for 3:30 p.m.