The last time Ohio played on ESPN, the team earned a share of the Mid-American Conference East Division lead. The next time the Bobcats take the national stage, they might claim the crown for good.
Ohio sits alone atop the MAC East standings, and it can clinch a trip to the MAC Championship game in Detroit with a win against Bowling Green and a Miami loss to Western Michigan. Any other scenario would result in the Bobcats and RedHawks playing for a shot at the title Nov. 22 at Peden Stadium.
“We want to be a team that finishes strong,” coach Frank Solich said. “We want to be a team that’s able to go on and win conference championships and win a bowl game.”
The game against the Falcons (4-6, 2-4 MAC) also gives the Bobcats (7-3, 4-2 MAC) a chance to accomplish something they have never done: win eight games for the third season in a row. Before this season, Ohio had not won at least seven games in a season for three consecutive years since 1929-1932 under legendary coach Don Peden.
A win would also improve Ohio’s chances of earning a bowl bid for the third straight season. Ohio has not won a bowl game in five previous appearances and has never played in a postseason contest three years in a row.
“This is where coach Solich is trying to get this program to, and we feel like we’re where we need to be right now,” senior receiver Riley Dunlop said. “We’re ready to take it to the next step, get these next two wins and then get a MAC championship.”
Defeating the Falcons requires a similar game plan to what Ohio executed against Central Michigan last Thursday. The Bobcats kept the young Chippewas in check by halting their rushing attack and forcing them to rely on the passing game to pick up any meaningful yardage.
Bowling Green also relies heavily on the flying pigskin to move downfield. Sophomore quarterback Matt Schilz has thrown for 2,556 yards and 21 touchdowns this season, and receivers Kamar Jorden and Eugene Cooper are among the top five in the conference in receptions per game.
“They’ve got a pretty good receiving corps, and they like to pass,” cornerback Travis Carrie said. “We’ve put in some new stuff to match up with their strategy and their game plan.”
Bowling Green will be playing to keep its bowl eligibility hopes alive. The Falcons need to beat the Bobcats and then Buffalo to reach the six-win threshold. They opened the season with a 3-1 mark that included a 14-point road win against Miami.
But a brutal loss to West Virginia changed Bowling Green’s course. The Falcons fell to the Mountaineers 55-10 and have lost five of their last six games.
“These teams that are playing with young players are playing with really good players,” Solich said. “You get to this point in the season, and a freshman really isn’t a freshman anymore.”
Ohio will try to replicate the balanced rushing and passing attacks it established against Central Michigan. Quarterback Tyler Tettleton, who already owns the single-season program records for yards, passing touchdowns and total touchdowns, looks to tighten his grip in those categories.
Nose guard Neal Huynh is expected to play Wednesday for the first time since the Kent State game Oct. 1. Huynh had led the team in tackles until he injured his leg early in that contest.
“Neal should be able to play some. He’s been practicing this week,” Solich said.
“We’d like to get him on the field. We’d like to get him some snaps.”
Running back Donte Harden and receiver Donte Foster are also set to play against the Falcons. Foster did not make the trip to Central Michigan because of an injury, and Harden was ill and saw limited action against the Chippewas.