Ohio doesn’t have much left to play for this season.
The best way for the Bobcats to finish is to win their final two games, end the regular season 6-6 and pray for a selection to a bowl game.
None of those are guaranteed as Ohio prepares to play Bowling Green on Tuesday night at Doyt Perry Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
Despite the bleak outlook, there’s still a few reasons to tune in.
Quarterback Nathan Rourke has two, maybe three games left with the Bobcats. Ohio likely won’t have a quarterback as talented as him for a while, if ever.
And with a Mid-American Conference Championship out of the picture, coach Frank Solich may opt to give younger players time to prove they deserve bigger roles for next season.
But outside of that? Well, it’s football on a Tuesday, and that’s about it.
How to watch: The game can be watched on ESPNU. Jay Alter and Rocky Boiman 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.
Scouting the Falcons
Bowling Green’s offense isn’t one to boast about. In conference-only stats, the Falcons are either last or close to last in every major statistical category except for rushing yards per game (173.8).
Led by running back Bryson Denley, the Bowling Green offense on average in conference games has scored just 18 points. Denley’s 463 rushing yards on the season are a team-high, as are his 4.8 yards per carry.
Quarterback Grant Loy has thrown for just 882 yards with only five touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Bowling Green isn’t much better defensively. In conference games, the Falcons have allowed the most yardage of any team in the MAC with an average of 465.7 yards per game. The run defense ranks last in the conference and the pass defense isn’t any better sitting at tenth in the conference.
Defensively, the Falcons are led by Brandon Perce. The redshirt senior linebacker has 93 total tackles and two sacks on the year with two interceptions.
The lone category of any statistic where Bowling Green sits in the top-5 is in punting. Redshirt junior Matt Naranjo has a net punt average of 38.9 yards in conference play.
Three things to watch for
Solich’s 111th win
So far, Solich is 0-for-2 in chances to gain win No. 111, which would make him the winningest MAC coach of all time.
That record will likely be reached Tuesday against Bowling Green, who owns a 2-4 MAC record and sits at fifth in the East Division. The Falcons’ only conference wins came in an upset victory to Toledo and a win over Akron, who has yet to win a game this season.
Now, the record feels much less significant compared from two weeks ago when the Bobcats were in contention for a MAC Championship, but it’s still a considerable achievement that deserves recognition even in a season that will be viewed as a disappointment.
Will redshirt players see the field?
The NCAA allows teams to redshirt players who don’t play more than four games in a season.
With the MAC Championship out of the picture, Solich might give potential redshirt players a chance to prove their worth for next season.
“We’re obviously taking a look at that,” Solich said. “It’s not been easy because everything has come down to the stretch.”
Solich specifically mentioned a desire to give looks to younger linebackers and offensive linemen. The only player he specifically mentioned who could be in line for playing time was freshman defensive tackle Jeremiah Burton, a former three-star recruit from Westerville.
Take advantage of watching Rourke while there’s still time.
The quarterback will leave Ohio with the most touchdowns ever recorded by a player in program history. His dual-threat ability has kept the Bobcats in games all season, and it will certainly be missed when he’s no longer a part of the team in two months.
Ohio’s next quarterback appears to be either Kurtis Rourke — Nathan’s younger brother — or Joe Mischler. That’s a competition that will start as soon as spring camp opens.
But for now, the Bobcats have at least two more games with Rourke, who has typically thrived against East Division opponents. That’s who Ohio has left this season, and it would be fitting for Rourke to end his collegiate career with the same dominant performances he’s scattered across his three seasons as starting quarterback.
When Ohio has the ball: Looking at Bowling Green’s numbers compared to Ohio’s, there’s no reason why the Bobcats shouldn’t have their way against the Falcons. Ohio is averaging 435.3 yards of total offense. The Falcons defense on average has allowed exactly 30.7 more yards than Ohio’s average. Rourke and co. should have an evening.
When Bowling Green has the ball: The Falcons offense has struggled mightily to move the ball on opponents this season. Through six conference games, they’ve played against three of the top-5 defenses in the MAC. Ohio, who sits at No. 6, has the opportunity to turn the flashes it had into a full four-quarter performance.
Special teams: Against Western Michigan on Nov. 12, kicker Louie Zervos hit field goals from 33- and 37-yards. The redshirt senior, along with punter Michael Farkas, has demonstrated their talents over the last few weeks. Expect that to continue in Tuesday’s game.
Sports Editor Anthony Poisal: At this point, it feels as though Ohio is simply playing out the stretch. Even if the Bobcats win out, there’s no guarantee their season will extend with a bowl game. What effect might that outlook have on the effort from the players? Against Bowling Green, it probably doesn’t matter. Ohio has too much talent to blow this game. Ohio wins 35-14.
Sports Editor Matt Parker: Ohio still has something to play for. If it wins out the season, it’s bowl eligible for the 10th consecutive season. The likelihood of making a bowl game at 6-6 is dicey, but all Ohio can do is win. Luckily for it, it has the MAC East Division’s two worst teams. The first of two should come with relative ease. Ohio wins 45-17.