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College Football Week #13: Ohio Revisited
For the first time this season, I return to a well that has dried up.
In week 10, I won the Ohio University Bobcats from Frank Solich, giving Eastern Michigan 6.5 points. Alas, Ohio won 16-10. And I said: argh.
But I still love the history of Athens. The Bobcats just won the MAC East and will face Central Michigan for the overall MAC title next week. Just winning their division gave Ohio their first football title of any kind since 1968. Anyone who thought the University of Nebraska was morons for dropping Solich after a few fairly successful years can feel smart; in only his second season in charge of the Bobcats, Solich took that program to heights that even Jim Grobe (who is currently winning raves as Wake Forest’s leader) reached here in the late 1990s.
All that remains for the Bobcats before the title game is unfinished business with their rivals, Miami of Ohio.
It hasn’t been a great rivalry lately. The RedHawks have won six in a row against the Bobcats and 11 of 12. But this season the tables have turned. Miami (OH), a perennial MAC powerhouse for the past decade and the former home of Ben Roethlisberger, has suffered a slew of injuries and will post its first losing season since 1994: they are 2-9 on aggregate and 2 -5 in the MAC. Meanwhile, Ohio is 8-3 overall and 6-1 in the conference, their first winning season since 2000. The Bobcats are a superior team, but the question is: with nothing other than playing pride, will Ohio rest its best players just six days before the MAC title game?
Solich says no. He and the Bobcats really want to win this game. Star running back Kelvin McRae has a six-game streak of 100+ rushing yards, and he wants it to continue. Ohio also has a four-game winning streak of allowing opponents 10 points or less, and a six-game winning streak overall. And more importantly, there’s the fact that this is a game against Miami, a school that has absolutely waxed the Bobcats over the past decade. Check out the last five scores: 38-7 (2005), 40-20 (2004), 49-31 (2003), 38-20 (2002), 36-24 (2001). If this is truly going to be a dream season in Athens, Ohio University needs to beat Miami of Ohio and beat them hard.
Better yet, Ohio’s strength in running the ball perfectly matches Miami’s greatest weakness. The Bobcats average 148 rushing yards per game; the RedHawks allow 162 per game. What Miami did best was stop the pass, but you won’t see Ohio trying to throw more than, say, 15 or 20 times the whole game. And while Miami is an extremely happy offense (35 attempts per game), the Bobcats have allowed just 160 passing yards per game, second best in the MAC and 12th best in the nation. Solich’s team dominates possession time with their running game, rarely throws to wide receivers, lets the quarterback (Austen Everson) run with impunity, and won’t get anyone out of the water. But the defense has been extremely solid (especially against the pass), and during the team’s six-game winning streak, only Illinois of the Big Ten has edged them. Meanwhile, Miami is extraordinarily stoned, especially on its offensive line: Charlie Norden and Matt McKeown are out for the year, leading Miami to allow 46 sacks in 11 games.
The RedHawks aren’t as bad as their record. They took Purdue to overtime, let Western Michigan escape on a late field goal, and should have beaten Ball State, but for a late drive and 1-yard TD pass when time expired. Their average loss margin in their five losses to MAC has been less than five points. But they’re also 4-10 ATS in their last 14 games as underdogs, 1-4 ATS in their last five home games, and 0-3 straight (albeit by seven points combined). ) at MAC home games this year. Meanwhile, Ohio is 5-1 ATS in its last six games overall, 5-2-1 ATS in games after an ATS win, and 4-1 against the spread in its last five conference games. In fact, as the momentum picked up for Solich & Co., the only ATS loss they suffered was, well, the half-point ATS loss in which I picked them in this same column .
Was it a monstrous coincidence, or did I curse them? We’ll find out, because I like Ohio this week too. I certainly don’t expect a major win, because that’s not what the Bobcats are doing. But I expect the Ohio U. contingency to do the three hours from Athens to Oxford well, and I expect the Bobcats to be a lot more motivated than your average participant already in the division. I think the line is a little low because people expect the Bobcats to rest for the MAC title game, but I don’t think that’s happening. Instead, Ohio scrambles, takes a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter, and stares right into the faces of the big, bad RedHawks and exorcises a decade of demons. I’m taking Ohio (-3) to Miami (OH) to cover on their way to the conference title tilt.
Last week: Going into Saturday night’s contest in Cincinnati, the nation wondered if Rutgers could withstand the national scrutiny involved in seeing the dominoes fall perfectly, and therefore if the Scarlet Knights were ready to face Ohio St. in the National Title Game. I guess we have our answer, huh? I jumped on the Rutgers bandwagon in a big way, then watched the Bearcats plot Ray Rice over his relevance and let Rutgers QB Mike Teel self-destruct. And did he ever. Rarely has an undefeated team crumbled as much as the Knights did last weekend, and I wasn’t the only sucker to be beaten with them in their ridiculous 30-11 loss as a 6.5-point favorite. . As a result, we are 7-5 against the number for the season.
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