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Ohio University Quarterback Kurtis Rourke (7) runs down the sideline as he's persued by Northern Illinois Saftey CJ Brown (6) during the Ohio University vs Northern Illinois Huskies football game on Oct. 22, 2022 in Athens, Ohio.

Football Column: Ohio cannot let this opportunity pass

We are officially two-thirds of the way through Ohio’s season, and it has gone better than anyone could have reasonably expected.

Entering the 2022 season, Ohio was coming off its worst record in well over a decade, 3-9 in 2021, and facing a huge season for second-year head coach Tim Albin, who was still trying to convince people he was the right man for the job.

Ohio also lost a number of talented players before this season. De’Montre Tuggle and Armani Rogers departed for the NFL, and Cam Odom and Isiah Cox transferred. Things only got worse in that department, as O’Shaan Allison and Ty Walton, Ohio’s top two returning producers, have barely seen the field. Allison was ruled out for the year before the season started, and Walton has only appeared in the first four games of this season.

But despite all that, and despite having arguably the worst defense in the Football Bowl Subdivision for the first six weeks of the season, Ohio is currently 5-3, one win away from securing bowl eligibility for the first time since 2019.

The Bobcats, however, have their sights set on a bigger prize: a Mid-American Conference Championship. With four games remaining, Ohio controls its own destiny in the MAC East. A win over Buffalo next week would put it in poll position for a spot in the MAC title game.

Now, a look at both Ohio’s results and season statistics would suggest that it is not quite as good as a 3-1 conference record would suggest. For example, Ohio’s defense was so bad for six weeks that despite allowing fewer than 400 yards in each of the last two games, it still ranks 130th in FBS in yards per game and 129th in yards per play.

In addition, the offense, which was one of the best in the MAC through six weeks, has faltered over the last two games, recording fewer than 400 yards in both. The only other games in which Ohio’s yardage total was that low were its road games against Penn State and Iowa State.

It could be argued that after almost blowing a 17-point lead against Florida Atlantic, allowing 52 points to a Football Championship Subdivision team, giving up 736 yards of offense to Kent State and barely escaping with a win against 2-5 Northern Illinois, Ohio doesn’t “deserve” to be in this position.

But that doesn’t really matter. The Bobcats are here. They’ve won three games in a row, and with one more, a trip to Detroit for the MAC Championship becomes a likelihood, not just a possibility.

Ohio got to this point with six weeks of a high-flying offense and a defense that allowed big plays on seemingly every other drive, and two weeks of a sputtering offense and a defense that has suddenly turned a corner.

With Buffalo, who is undefeated in MAC play and holds a one-game lead over Ohio in the MAC East, coming to Athens for the 2022 debut of midweek MACtion, Ohio now faces what is probably its biggest game since a loss to Western Michigan in the 2016 MAC Championship game.

With a win, Ohio has an inside track to return to that game. With a loss, it is still looking at a solid bowl season, but this is an opportunity that Ohio cannot afford to let slip through its fingers.

Whether the Bobcats are as good a team as their record suggests doesn’t matter, what matters is what they do with the opportunity that record has given them.


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