Photo Cred: Karli Bell

Ohio University Football Season Preview

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Week one of the 2017 Ohio Football season is upon us, and it is time to take a look at who is standing in the way of the Bobcats path to a second consecutive Mid-American Conference Championship game appearance. According to the 2017 Football Power Index put together by ESPN, Ohio has no excuse not to be playing in Detroit this December.

Out of the 130 teams in the FBS, Ohio is dead last in schedule difficulty.

It’s not hard to see why. Only two teams on Ohio’s schedule finished 2016 with a winning record, the Toledo Rockets (9-4) and the Eastern Michigan Eagles (7-6). Pair that with 17 returning starters from last year’s campaign, and you get a team that many, including coaches around the MAC, expect to capture their second consecutive MAC East title.

Game One: Hampton

The tune up. The teaser. The confidence builder.

That’s what many of the Bobcat faithful expect this matchup to be. Hampton – an FCS school located on the coast of Virginia – opens the 2017 season at Peden Stadium for the first ever meeting between the two schools. The Pirates are big underdogs in this matchup after finishing last season with a 5-6 record. All five of the Pirates victories came against Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference opponents. The Bobcats are expected to use a lot of young players in this game to get them used to live action situations. The opener will be a big opportunity for backup quarterback Nathan Rourke to showcase his skills when it really matters.

Game Two: at Purdue

The marquee matchup of Ohio’s non-conference schedule and what could be their hardest test all season, the Bobcats pay a visit to West Lafayette, Indiana.

Ohio faces a team they’ve never beaten in seven previous attempts.

Following a disappointing 3-9 season that saw head coach Darrell Hazell fired in October, Purdue hired Western Kentucky head coach Jeff Brohm as his replacement after amassing a 30-10 record with the Hilltoppers.

Brohm, well known for energy in the locker room and his stint in the XFL, makes this Boilermaker team a wild card for the rest of the country. No one knows how much his spirit and the high-powered offense he brings to Purdue will affect their win/loss column this year. Question marks aside, Ohio needs to be prepared for a tough road battle against a team hungry to prove that Brohm is the man for the job.

Game Three: Kansas

The Jayhawks have been bottom feeders in the Big-12 for nearly a decade and this year isn’t expected to be any different. Setting aside their 24-21 over Texas, last year’s 2-10 season was a disaster and Ohio Football played a part. The Bobcats beat Kansas 37-21 in Lawrence and the game was never very close. The Bobcats have home-field advantage on their side this time around and heightened confidence after last year’s win on the road. Barring a giant leap by the Kansas defense, Ohio should take care of business against the Jayhawks.

Game Four: at Eastern Michigan

After losing a 27-20 heartbreaker to the Eagles in Peden Stadium last season, Ohio should be hungry to return the favor when they travel to Ypsilanti. Eastern Michigan was up and down throughout 2016, but a 6-7 final record was a massive improvement for a team that had won three games in the two years prior. That improvement paired with the arm of Brogan Roback makes the Eagles a scary team to face in the first conference game of the season. Roback, a former four-star recruit, threw for 2,694 yards and 18 touchdowns in 10 games last year. The highlight of that campaign came against Ohio where he amassed 347 yards, and 3 touchdowns through the air en route to victory. Ohio has to win the battle in the trenches and put consistent pressure on Roback or this could be Déjà vu for the Bobcats.

Game Five: at UMass

A trip to Amherst, Massachusetts awaits Ohio for their final non-conference matchup of 2017 against a Minutemen team that never took up arms last season. UMass was the worst independent team in the FBS last season, finishing the year with a 2-10 record and one of the worst defenses in college football. The Minutemen gave up 30-plus points in nine games last season and they’ve continued that trend to start this season after dropping their opening game to Hawaii 38-35. This one could be a letdown road game for Ohio but if they can manage a few defensive stops a victory is in the cards.

Game Six: Central Michigan

Ohio Football just can’t seem to figure out the Central Michigan Chippewas.

Following last years 27-20 loss in Mt. Pleasant the Chippewas took a commanding 24-5 all-time series lead over Ohio.

This year they welcome the Chippewas into Peden Stadium for a mid-season clash and for the first time in four years Central Michigan will have a new man under center. Four-year starter Cooper Rush is now focused on finding a roster spot in the NFL, and that’s welcome news for Ohio Football fans after Rush threw for 268 yards, and two touchdowns in last year’s matchup. The Chippewas defense was suspect in 2016 and the departure of Rush means Ohio has a good shot to pick up their sixth all-time victory over Central Michigan.

Game Seven: at Bowling Green State

From one historically tough opponent to the next, the Falcons hold a 40-26 all-time record against Ohio but last year’s insertion of freshman James Morgan was just what the doctor prescribed. Morgan struggled with accuracy against the Bobcats and was under pressure throughout the contest, Ohio sacked the freshman four times and intercepted him once. That will be the recipe for victory once again this season: keep Morgan off his rhythm, and punish the historically poor Falcons defense.

Game Eight: Kent State

Ohio welcomes Kent State into Peden Stadium for the first of three straight home games near the end of the season.

This one reeks of a trap game for the Bobcats.

The Golden Flashes have finished 3-9 in each of the past two seasons but their defense has kept them in plenty of battles, they just can’t seem to gather enough playmakers to win close football games. Now that defense has just five players returning from last year’s team that held Ohio to 14 points. Putting all that aside, Ohio has a chance to be undefeated going into this game and if they start thinking about the date with Miami a week too early, that perfect record will be gone in a flash.

Game Nine: Miami

Peden Stadium should be rocking for this matchup. Ohio fans have pegged this as the most anticipated game of the 2017 season and it’s not hard to see why.

Halloween. Battle of the Bricks. Tuesday night MACtion.

This should be an electric battle between two teams picked to finish first and second in the MAC East this season and the division title could be on the line.

Midway through last season, Miami seemed like the same old Redhawks: 0-6 and on their way to another lost season.

Enter Gus Ragland.

The junior quarterback fought through a torn ACL to come back halfway through the year and sparked the Redhawks to six straight wins, throwing for 1,537 yards, 17 touchdowns, and one interception. Miami became the first team in FBS history to finish a regular season 6-0 after starting 0-6. The last time Miami lost at home was a 17-7 defeat at the hands of the Bobcats. This time around they want to return the favor and bolster a MAC East title résumé.

Game Ten: Toledo

Similar to Western Michigan last season, Toledo represents the cream of the crop in the MAC this season. As the preseason favorites to win the conference, Toledo returns seven starters on defense, a deep receiving corps, and most importantly: quarterback Logan Woodside. The senior is looking to lead his team to the MAC Championship for the first time since 2004 and is the preseason favorite for MAC Offensive Player of the Year. This will be Ohio’s toughest test of the season but if they channel their play from last year’s 31-26 victory in the Glass Bowl (their first win in Toledo since 1967) they’ll have a good shot to close out the home schedule in style.

Game Eleven: at Akron

Last years date with the Akron Zips might as well have been called the Louie Zervos Show. The most consistent placekicker in the nation went 3-for-3 on the night to seal a 9-3 victory and the 2016 MAC East title. This year could play out very similarly in what is expected to be a cold, physical northern Ohio battle between two division rivals. The defenses will likely be the difference in this matchup, especially if Akron doesn’t turn around a unit that gave up 33.6 points per game last fall.

Game Twelve: at Buffalo

Rounding out the 2017 season for Ohio Football is a trip to Buffalo. Ohio should have no problem taking care of a Bulls team that went 2-10 last season and averaged a paltry 16.5 points per game. The defense returns its top-six tacklers but if 6-7 dual-threat quarterback Tyree Jackson doesn’t figure out how to keep drives going on third down it will be a long day against an Ohio team primed for another MAC Championship Game run.