Ohio was supposed to be in Oxford on Tuesday facing Miami in the annual Battle of the Bricks rivalry game. Instead, it returned to practice in Peden Stadium. A positive COVID-19 test and contact tracing forced the Mid-American Conference to declare the game a “no contest” with no time between now and the MAC championship on Dec. 18 to make the game up.
On paper, the cancelation seems like a massive blow to Ohio’s chances at a trip to Detroit. All’s not lost, however. According to the MAC’s guidelines for this season, a team can still make the championship as long as they’ve played three games this season. What matters is a team’s winning percentage.
In a season that wasn’t supposed to have a bye week, a nixed game might be a blessing in disguise for Ohio. Without having to face Miami, Ohio now has an 18-day gap between the game against Akron and when it faces Bowling Green on Nov. 28.
Ohio has two-and-a-half weeks to prepare for its final three games. A team like Ohio can move mountains in two-and-a-half weeks. With this extra time, coach Frank Solich and the rest of the coaching staff will have plenty of time to work out a plan for its final three opponents.
The difficulty of the Bobcats’ schedule ramps up after their game against the Falcons. The final two games of the season will be against the two best teams in the MAC East in 2020. Buffalo is coming off a 42-17 victory over Bowling Green, and buried Miami alive in a 42-10 victory the week before.
Kent State’s offense has exploded out of nowhere. Tuesday’s 69-35 victory over Akron tied a school record for the most points scored in a single game.
Two undefeated teams with offenses that average over 40 points per game are the biggest hurdles Ohio will face this season. If it can figure out a solid plan for both of them, the path to the top of the MAC East is wide open.
But like previously stated before, Ohio has time on its side. If the Bobcats went toe-to-toe with Central Michigan in Week One, they can do the same with Buffalo and Kent State. Ohio just needs to sort out its insecurities. Among those insecurities is how to properly utilize both of its quarterbacks in each game.
Solich has remained firm on wanting to stick with both Kurtis Rourke and Armani Rogers for the moment. While both are skilled quarterbacks, there have been rhythmic problems when changing between the two. When either one gets going, they could be taken out in favor of the other.
Rourke has proven himself to be a gunslinger in the works and Rogers is at his best when running the ball. Both have led the Bobcats on strong drives in the past two games but have a hard time finding a groove right off the bat. The next 10 days are the perfect time for the Bobcats to find a solution to the transition problem.
On the other side of the ball, Ohio also needs to bring attention to its defense’s stopping power.
The Bobcats’ defense has promising young assets like Keye Thompson and Jett Elad behind leaders like Jared Dorsa and Austin Conrad. The Bobcats have strength, it just needs to be put to good use.
Ohio’s defense stopped the Zips when it mattered, but it barely kept them from steamrolling down the field. Akron surpassed Ohio’s offense in total offensive yards and total plays. Solich commented on the defense’s inability to get three-and-outs, which only led to Akron pushing downfield and threatening to score one too many times.
The interceptions from Thompson and Elad came at critical moments, and Akron’s offense soon cracked under the pressure.
That defense won’t fly against Buffalo or Kent State. The Bulls haven’t scored less than 42 points in a game yet and Kent State’s offense has been on hyperdrive for two weeks. If Ohio wants to stand any chance against either, it has to stop both offenses from the outset.
Just under two weeks separate Ohio from the second half of its schedule. The Bobcats weren’t supposed to have a bye week, but now they have been handed precious time to work out the kinks in their play. If a solution can’t be found, the road to the end of the season will be treacherous.