Tim Albin has been Ohio’s coach for less than two months after former coach Frank Solich retired in mid-July. Saturday is Albin’s first game at the helm, and he gets to lead the Bobcats for the first time in Peden Stadium.
It’s the beginning of what hopes to be a normal season after the Bobcats played only three of their six scheduled games in 2020. Albin now has the potential to lead the Bobcats to their first Mid-American Conference championship since 1968. He came close multiple times as offensive coordinator under Solich but fell short each time.
A new coach brings a lot of unknowns to a program, but Ohio may begin to see how the season may unfold Saturday at 7 p.m. when Ohio hosts Syracuse at Peden Stadium.
Below is The Post’s game day guide with broadcast information, depth charts, things to watch for and predictions:
How to watch: The game will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network. Dave Ryan, Aaron Murray and Brandon Baylor will be on the call.
How to listen: The game can be heard for free on the Ohio IMG Sports Network through OhioBobcats.com. Russ Eisenstein and Rob Cornelius will be behind the mic. Nine stations will air coverage, or the game will be available through Learfield’s “The Varsity Network” app.
How to find stats: Live stats are provided here.
Ohio Special Teams
Three things to watch for
Albin’s first game
Saturday is Albin’s first game as Ohio’s coach. He served as Ohio’s offensive coordinator from 2005-2020 and was associate head coach for the past two seasons. He understands Ohio well and helped produce some of its best offenses in program history.
Albin said Saturday will be business as usual for him during his Monday press conference, and a win over a Power 5 team could set a strong precedent for his first season.
Rourke in the starting role
Kurtis Rourke earned the starting quarterback nod Monday night. The redshirt sophomore started all three games last season while splitting time with fellow quarterback Armani Rogers. It’s unknown how time will be split between the two against Syracuse, but Albin expects Rogers to also receive playing time.
Rourke was 30-for-44 on passing attempts in his first season, racking up 386 yards and three touchdowns. He struggled with rushing and scrambling last year, but he has improved during fall camp and might showcase his rushing ability against the Orange.
Running back rotation
The Bobcats have a minimum of five running backs who might see time on the field Saturday. De’Montre Tuggle is the obvious first choice, but fellow backs O’Shaan Allison, Julian Ross, Jake Neatherton and Sieh Bangura have all proven they are more than capable of taking snaps.
Ohio has an affinity for the run game, and the depth in the running backs room only helps solidify that.
When Ohio has the ball: Rourke and Rogers both have plenty of upsides, but Ohio’s biggest strength is its running back depth. Tuggle is an All-MAC Second Team running back, meanwhile Allison and Julian Ross have proven their capabilities in the past. Neatherton and Bangura are also strong backup options. Even if one running back is stopped, Ohio has more options waiting.
When Syracuse has the ball: Despite its 1-10 record last season, Syracuse returns quality starters like wide receiver Taj Harris and running back Sean Tucker on offense. Tucker rushed for 626 yards last season, the third-most by a freshman in program history. Harris has 1,857 career receiving yards in his first three seasons and averaged 73.3 receiving yards per game last season. Ohio’s defense struggled to contain the run last season, but eight returning starters might give it a shot of containing Syracuse.
Special teams: Ohio had a three-way kicking battle throughout fall camp, with Oklahoma transfer Stephen Johnson winning out. It also returns punter Jack Wilson and long snapper Justin Holloway from last season. Syracuse returns junior long snapper Aaron Bolinsky and kicker Andre Szmyt, who ended the 2020 season with the second best field goal percentage among active players.
- Tim Albin’s weekly press conference
- Ohio picked to finished third in MAC preseason poll
- Ohio’s offensive line has grown through experience
- Ohio’s safeties use past knowledge to improve
- Syracuse scouting report
Sports Editor Jack Gleckler: Ohio is confident in its offensive production, and it shows. Rourke has showcased significant growth in all camp, and the run game looks stronger than ever behind talents like Tuggle and Allison. That’s not to underestimate Syracuse. It’s a Power 5 team with a decent offense, but Ohio will inch it out. Ohio wins 30-27.
Assistant Sports Editor Eli Feazell: There’s a good reason why most sites predict this game being so close. We didn’t see much of Ohio last year since it only played three games. Given that it also has a first-year coach, it’s hard to predict how Ohio will play. Syracuse is coming off a 1-10 season, but Babers has beaten Ohio twice before when he was at Bowling Green. However, that still doesn’t overrule Ohio having far more recent success and more weapons to throw at the defense. Ohio wins 35-27.