Know Thy Enemy: The Ohio Bobcats
***Part Two of our MAC Championship Game team breakdown, we talk about the Toledo Rockets HERE*** We are finally here! The 2022 MAC Championship is RIGHT around the corner, and the Toledo Rockets will take on the Ohio Bobcats to determine who is the King of the MAC. The Rockets come into this game riding a two-game losing streak (to rival BGSU and WMU) after locking up the division with their win over Ball State on Election Night. The Bobcats enter this game on a seven-game winning streak, their lone loss to Kent State in week one of conference play. As we prepare for the 26th iteration of the MAC Championship Game, let’s take a closer look at each team’s history, how they got here, and their strengths and weaknesses that may help or hinder their chances at a championship. GAME HISTORY
Ohio has appeared in four championship games, the last appearance in 2016 when they came up short by just six points to NY6 Bowl Bound Western Michigan, 29-23. They sit tied for fifth all-time with title game appearances and will move to a tie for fourth with Miami (OH) after this weekend. They have the chance to earn their first title since the introduction of the championship game, as they are currently 0-4, but more importantly, they have the chance to end the longest drought without a conference championship in the MAC, a drought dating back to 1968. HOW OHIO GOT HERE
After a 41-38 win over Florida Atlantic at Peden Stadium, the Bobcats would drop back-to-back games at Penn State and Iowa State. They would return home and treat fans to a THRILLER with Fordham, beating the Rams 59-52, a game where Kurtis Rourke would set the single-game passing yard record with 537 through the air. The Bobcats would drop one to Kent State at Dix Stadium before stringing together seven straight, capping the regular season with a blowout win over BGSU in the de facto MAC East Championship game, 38-14. The Bobcats might have finished MAC play 7-1, but not without a massive loss in star quarterback Kurtis Rourke, a torn ACL in their Week 11 win over Ball State. CJ Harris stepped in and guided the Bobcats' offense as needed, and helped secure the outright divisional crown for Ohio.
When Ohio has the ball, they have the best scoring offenses in the MAC, averaging 36 points per contest in MAC play. Even with the loss of Kurtis Rourke, CJ Harris has plenty of outstanding weapons he can lean on as well as an offensive line that has only given up ten sacks in conference play, the best in the conference. His weapons? Freshman running back Sieh Bangura has 884 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns, Ohio State transfer wide-receiver Sam Wiglusz has 11 touchdowns and 814 yards on 66 receptions, Jacoby Jones has 694 yards and 5 scores, James Bostic and Miles Cross have combined for 1,076 yards and 4 touchdowns. Not to be forgotten, tight ends Will Kacmarek and Tyler Foster have 395 yards and three touchdowns to aid the offense. CJ Harris, despite playing in just four games this year on limited touches can make some magic with his feet, 104 yards on 21 carries for three scores. The Bobcats might rank sixth in conference games on the ground, but thanks to the aforementioned receiving options they sit second through the air, trailing only Akron at 286.4 yards per game. They also pace the MAC in turnover margin, +15 versus conference opponents, which leads us to the defensive side of the ball. On defense, the Bobcats have talent all over the field. At linebacker, linebackers Keye Thompson and Bryce Houston combine for 151 total tackles, 7 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and 4 fumble recoveries. On the defensive line, Jack McCrory (51 total tackles, 4 sacks) and Vonnie Watkins (38 total tackles, 3.5 sacks) help create the best run stop in the MAC, surrendering just 123 yards per game on the ground. If you include the numbers of safety Alvin Floyd (62 total tackles, 2 sacks, 1 INT), and cornerbacks Zack Sanders (51 total tackles, 3 INTS) and Torrie Cox (49 total tackles, 2 INTs, 2 Forced Fumbles), then there is a good reason as to why Ohio owns the second-best scoring defense in the MAC, allowing just 21.6 points per conference game.
The Bobcats sit at the top of the conference this year as the least penalized team in the MAC, averaging 4.6 penalties per game. This is a massive improvement from a season ago when Ohio averaged 5.9 penalties per game in the MAC, which ranked as the fifth most penalized team in the conference.
OHIO WEAKNESSES Ohio sits at dead last in passing defense in the MAC, surrendering 270 yards per contest. Many will point to the fact that a lot of those yards came from Akron in garbage time (418 yards surrendered), but Colin Schlee dropped 398, John Paddock dropped 273 and injured Brett Gabbert had 244 against this secondary. This is not great against a Toledo team who averages almost 250 passing yards per MAC contest. As far as offense, the Bobcats (for as much as they pace the MAC in scoring), sit fifth in conference play in red zone offense, scoring 87% of the time, BUT of 40 scores, just 27 of them are touchdowns. On the defensive side, Ohio sits 4th from last in the MAC in the red zone, with opponents scoring 84.62% of the time, converting 16 touchdowns on 22 attempts.
KEYS TO THE GAME Ohio has been absolutely lethal in their ability to run through the MAC after the overtime loss to Kent State. Outsourcing opponents in each MAC contest 36-21, the Bobcats are winning with style and having fun doing so. With a plethora of weapons on both sides of the ball, this is a team who comes in with very little weakness, and a team who has a lot of experience. Ohio will need to get their scoring going early against a tough Toledo defense, CJ Harris will need to extend plays with his feet and the defense will need to get to Tucker Gleason or Dequan Finn early and often. If these things happen, you can paint the Motor City green and white, and bust out the bottles of champagne to celebrate the end of the 54-year drought for the Bobcats as MAC Champions.
Preview Episode: https://t.co/vwY1kpfcGm
*** All Stats taken from http://cfbstats.com/ ***