Game 5: Ohio at Buffalo
When: Saturday, Oct 8, 2011
Where: UB Stadium
Series History: Ohio 9 - Buffalo 4
Tickets: Get them right here
I have to admit I have a little bit of envy for Ohio. Frank Solich is entering his seventh season as the head coach most seven year MAC coaches are, well, not all that good. But Solich has two division crowns, three bowl appearances, and has produced one of the more consistent powers in the MAC east. All he is missing is a conference title, but he has a bit of time, He's not going anywhere.
Solich has already coached at the highes levels of college football, taking the Cornhuskers to the Rose Bowl. After being treated rather shabbily by Nebraska her took a year off and then returned to Ohio, his home state, and took over the BobCats.
So Ohio has an accomplished coach with nothing to prove who likes his situation. In short OU has hit the Mid-Major lottery.
Last season Ohio had little trouble disposing of Buffalo. Half way through the second Quarter the Bobcats had amassed a 21-0 lead. It was a typical game for Buffalo there was the awful passing (8 of 27 for 84 yards) the mediocre running (15 for 65 by UB's running backs), and let's not forget the turnovers (one fumble and two picks).
This year the Bulls have a better line and a renewed focus on the run, weather or not this will tip the balance against Ohio is anybodies Guess.
Ohio On Offense:
The offense should be as balanced as it was last season, perhaps even more so. The combination of Boo Jackson and Phil Bates, dubbed Boo-Bates by Hustle Belt, has been replaced by Tyler Tettleton with Bates as a Wild Cat receiver. Of the three quarterbacks at his disposal Solich settled on the most vanilla option. Tettleton won't blow you away running or passing but brings a respectable threat in both aspects of the game. That, and having Bates anywhere on the field set up a challenging offense for opposing coaches.
The Running game was anchored by bats and Jackson. Together they ran for several hundred more yards than the Bobcat's leading running back. The leading candidate to man half back slot is a scat back named Donte Harden. At 5-10 185. When he is healthy he averages about five yards a carry, but he has had trouble staying o nthe field through his career.
The receivers will be augmented by Bates who will be a real triple threat where ever Coach Solich decides to put him. The best pure receiving threat may be Lavon Brazil who gets a ton of attention for his work in the return game.
Ohio On Defense:
Ohio typically runs a 4-3 defensive set. Much like UB their strongest unit is the linebackers. Where OU has some worries this season is the defensive line.
The Bobcats return no starting linemen but they do return a bunch of experience. Likely to lead the line is Curtis Meyers who in his first year back from ACL surgery totaled 14 tackles and a sack. It was his first year back from a torn ACL. He joins a squad of linemen are a bit light on experience but they do bring size and talent.
Their defensive backs are a bit over sized and a bit slow. They are solid hitters but have proven to be vulnerable to a fast vertical passing game. Temple, Louisiana, Miami, and Troy all put up more than 300 through the air when they played Ohio. For the defensive backs to be effective the front seven have to make life difficult for opposing quarterbacks.
Not quite there yet (Likely loss):
Ohio is just a more polished team despite the improvement by UB. The defensive line may not quite have the punch to keep up with Ohio. It should be a closer game than last season, the Bobcats are not going to be a great passing team and the Bulls almost can't be worse on offense. Having bates in as a receiver opens up the playbook for some trickery.
I'm also not convinced the Bobcat's front four will be significantly worse this season than they were last. In fact, by the time they get to game five they might even be a step up from what UB went up against last season. There is a ton of talent and size coming in and far more experience than one might think. Many of the ratings services just see four departed starters and assume there will be chaos up front. UB is going to have its work cut out for them establishing any kind of running game against this defense.
The Bulls can win if:
UB can win if they establish the outside passing game by setting up with the run. UB's receivers, especially rivers, should be able to do a lot of damage after the catch against Ohio's defensive backs.
Talent wise the defense should be able to keep Ohio from running way with the game but the Bulls need to be sound in their fundamentals. Ohio could easily use one or two gimmick plays to take advantage of an aggressive defense and they have the tools out there to do pull them off.