#82 Ohio Football 2016 Preview

Ohio Bobcats
Overall Rank: #82
#5 Mid-American
Ohio got off to a great start in 2015, winning five of their first six games. Their lone loss in that stretch came at Minnesota 27-24. But in mid-October the defense disappeared and the Bobcats allowed a total of 152 points in a three game losing streak to Western Michigan, Buffalo and Bowling Green. Coach Frank Solich turned things around though and the Bobcats won their last three regular season games, including an impressive victory at Northern Illinois. And, as always with Coach Solich leading the way, the Bobcats will be in the mix for a MAC East title and should go bowling for the tenth time in 11 seasons.
2015 Record: 8-5, 5-3
2015 Bowl: Camellia Bowl vs. Appalachian State (L 29-31)
Coach: Frank Solich (80-61 at Ohio, 138-80 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Tim Albin
Defensive Coordinator: Jimmy Burrow
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: A.J. Ouellette, RB, 687 yards
Passing: J.D. Sprague, QB, 921 yards
Receiving: Sebastian Smith, WR, 777 yards
Tackles: Quentin Poling, LB, 69
Sacks: Tarell Basham, DL, 5.5
Interceptions: Quentin Poling, LB, 4
Other Key Returnees: WR Jordan Reid, WR Brendan Cope, RB Papi White, LB Blair Brown, S Toran Davis, DL Kurt Laseak, LB Chad Moore
Key Losses: RB Daz’mond Patterson, QB Derrius Vick, OL Mike McQueen, OL Lucas Powell, DB Ian Wells, DB Devin Jones
Ohio does not lack talent at the skill positions. Quarterback J.D. Sprague is ready to become the full time starter after splitting time with Derrius Vick for the last two seasons. Last year Sprague played in seven games, passing for 921 yards and seven touchdowns. He is a pretty good scrambler too. But when Sprague is throwing the ball, he will look to Sebastian Smith, Jordan Reid and Brendon Cope. Those were Ohio’s top three receivers, led by Smith’s 65 catches for 777 yards and seven touchdowns. The news gets even better in the backfield where A.J. Ouellette is poised for another big season after rushing for 687 yards and six touchdowns. Daz’mond Patterson is a significant loss, but the Bobcats are absolutely loaded at running back. Dorian Brown, Papi White and Maleek Irons have some experience in Athens and Coach Solich will want to get them on the field more this year.
Outside of that terrible three game stretch, the Bobcats defense was good last year. But there are some concerns now. The secondary was hit hard by graduation and now the pressure will be on Louisville transfer Kevin Houchins to spearhead the defensive effort in the secondary. The pass rush needs to improve too and it should with Tarell Basham and his 5.5 sacks leading the way. Kurt Laseak is another senior end who can cause havoc in the backfield. Linebacker Quentin Poling leads a unit that needs to find some more depth. Poling led the team with 69 tackles and four interceptions as a sophomore and added 10.5 tackles-for-loss and 4.0 sacks. He is a dynamic player and a great leader in the middle of the defense. Blair Brown and Chad Moore are experienced linebackers too, but there is a pretty big drop off behind the three starters.
The Bottom Line:
The Bobcats certainly have some questions on both sides of the ball, but Coach Solich usually has answers. Even if this is a team that ends up outside of the MAC elite, the Bobcats have a pretty nice schedule that should get them to another bowl game. Western Michigan and Northern Illinois are off the slate this year, leaving Toledo as the only team from the MAC West that should be too problematic. A trip to Central Michigan will not be easy either though. The better news is that Ohio gets Bowling Green at home and that game will have major MAC East title implications. This is a team that plays two major conference teams on the road in September, but going to Kansas hardly counts and the Bobcats can win that game and get off to another hot start and cruise to a bowl game from there.
Projected Bowl: Camellia Bowl
2015 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 180.8 (50th in nation, 4th in conference)
Passing Offense: 232.2 (56, 7)
Total Offense: 413.1 (56, 4)
Scoring Offense: 27.5 (74, 5)
Rushing Defense: 168.2 (65, 5)
Pass Defense: 209.5 (44, 4)
Total Defense: 377.7 (49, 5)
Scoring Defense: 25.3 (46, 4)
Turnover Margin: 0.38 (34, 4)
Sacks: 1.77 (88, 8)
Sacks Allowed: 2.15 (68, 7)


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