The list of reasons why Ohio needs to win Wednesday against Miami never ends.
First place in the Mid-American Conference East Division is up for grabs. A trip to Detroit for the MAC Championship is at stake. A national audience will be watching on ESPN. Frank Solich can break a MAC coaching record.
Need we say more?
Kickoff is at 8 p.m. in Peden Stadium, and it will be the only game played on the 150th anniversary of the first ever college football game. The Bobcats are hoping it will be the first ever sellout for a MAC midweek game, too.
Below you’ll find a guide to gameday with how to follow along, depth charts, three things to watch for, who has the edge, a reading guide and our predictions.
How to watch: The game can be watched on ESPN2. Matt Barrie, Desmond Howard and Holly Rowe will have the call.
How to listen: The game can be heard on the Ohio IMG Sports Network — Russ Eisenstein and Rob Cornelius will be behind the mic. The broadcasts are available online through OhioBobcats.com and TuneIn.com/OhioBobcats.
Three things to watch for
Solich’s 111th win
Solich has downplayed personal coaching records whenever the media has asked him about it. He just wants a win every week, but his next win can’t be overlooked.
If Solich wins Wednesday, he’ll become the coach with the most wins all-time in MAC history behind Herb Deromedi, who had 110 wins from 1978-1993 with Central Michigan.
After he tied the record with the win against Ball State, Solich didn’t really want to talk about the record. Not because he didn’t think it was important, but because he just didn’t believe it was a big deal.
“Mmm, not really,” Solich said when asked if he had any comment on his achievement. “Um, it’s good. I’ve been around a lot of good players and good coaches, and you don’t get there unless that’s the case.”
A win Wednesday likely won’t change Solich’s attitude on the personal triumph. The Bobcats will have a lot more to celebrate if they beat the RedHawks, but it would still be a significant night in Solich’s storied tenure.
Young players on the big stage
Tim Albin is excited for Ohio to play under a national TV audience, but the offensive coordinator admitted some concern over how the younger players might adjust.
“It’s on my mind,” Albin said. “It’s the only game on ESPN, and we got some young guys on their first big stage. It’s the only game on across the world, right? So I’m a little worried about some of the young guys handling that. I’m worried about them pressing and (thinking), ‘I got to make every play.’”
Ohio’s young offensive players have handled things well so far this season. The Bobcats own the fifth best rushing offense in the MAC and have done it from the work of Julian Ross (redshirt sophomore), O’Shaan Allison (redshirt freshman) and De’Montre Tuggle (junior), who played at a junior college last season.
The Bobcats’ top wide receivers are young, too. Isiah Cox (redshirt sophomore) and Shane Hooks (redshirt freshman) lead the receiving corps in receptions.
It could all mean nothing if the Bobcats build an early lead. It could also be the reason for a slow start.
Can the defense keep it going?
Ohio played its best performance of the season defensively in its last game against Ball State. The Bobcats held the Cardinals, who had the best scoring offense in the MAC at the time, to 21 points.
The tackling ability showed a large improvement. There was no late-game letdown — Ball State scored only seven points in the fourth quarter and the Cardinals were just 4-for-12 on third down.
It couldn’t have been much better for the Bobcats. They have a solid chance to repeat that success against the RedHawks, who are 10th in the conference in scoring offense.
When Ohio has the ball: It’s no secret that when Ohio is running the football, and is running it effectively, there are few teams that can slow it down. It’s had 10 days off with plenty of periods built for rest so the battered running back room can recharge. Miami’s rush defense is ranked No. 5 in conference-only statistics, but it has only played against the No. 2, 5, 7 and 10 best rush offenses. I’d expect the Bobcats to find success on the ground with their multitude of options.
When Miami has the ball: The RedHawks have found success through the air this season behind the arm of Gabbert. The freshman has averaged 207.8 yards through four conference games and the Bobcats’ pass defense ranks No. 8 for average passing yards allowed with 227.3. Dry conditions but a cold night might favor Miami, however, the Bobcats’ defense has been surging as of late and will once again have another test to pass.
Special teams: Louie Zervos went a perfect two-for-two and made all four of his extra point attempts in Ohio’s win over Ball State in a complete downpour. The redshirt senior has only missed two field goals in conference play and at home for the second to last time in such a big game, don’t expect many missed opportunities.
- Stock watch following Ohio's win over Ball State
- Final thoughts after Ohio's win over Ball State
- A look at the rest of Ohio's conference schedule
- News and notes from Solich's press conference ahead of Miami
- A look at Ohio's last three games against the RedHawks
- Miami preview
Sports Editor Anthony Poisal: Ohio has turned its season around at the perfect time. A 3-1 MAC record didn’t seem possible when the Bobcats limped out of their nonconference schedule at 1-4. The defense deserves a ton of credit for the turnaround, but so does Nathan Rourke, who has piloted the offense to gaudy numbers since conference play began. He’ll shine under the national spotlight Wednesday. Ohio wins 35-17.
Sports Editor Matt Parker: This is admittedly a tricky game to predict for a lot of reasons. Both teams are surging at the right time. They both have had 10 days of rest and preparation ahead of the 96th showing of the “Battle of the Bricks.” Each team knows what’s at stake, win or lose. Expect trick plays from both teams and gambles, but with the stakes being what they are and Rourke in his last chance to make it to Detroit and his last game against Miami, we should expect another career day from the senior. Ohio wins 31-21.