#89 Ohio Football 2017 Preview

Ohio Bobcats
Overall Rank: #89
#3 Mid-American
With Coach Frank Solich leading the way, Ohio continues to be a consistent contender in the MAC. Last season was no different as the Bobcats went 6-2 in conference play and took a trip to the Dollar General Bowl. Ohio should yet again compete for a spot in the MAC title game and maybe this team can actually win it.
2016 Record: 8-6, 6-2
2016 Bowl: Dollar General Bowl vs. Troy (L 23-28)
Coach: Frank Solich (88-67 at Ohio, 146-86 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Tim Albin
Defensive Coordinator: Jimmy Burrow
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Dorian Brown, RB, 825 yards
Passing: Quinton Maxwell, QB, 1,247 yards
Receiving: Papi White, RB, 672 yards
Tackles: Quentin Poling, LB, 110
Sacks: Quentin Poling, LB, 4.0
Interceptions: Javon Hagan, S, 3; Kylan Nelson, S, 3
Other Key Returnees: RB Maleek Irons, OL Jake Pruehs, LB Chad Moore, DL Cleon Aloese, CB Brad Ellis, K Louie Zervos, P Michael Farkas
Key Losses: QB Greg Windham, WR Sebastian Smith, WR Jordan Reid, OL Troy Watson, LB Blair Brown, DL Tarell Basham, DL Casey Sayles
Quarterback Quinton Maxwell took over the starting job halfway through the 2016 campaign and showed plenty of potential. On the year he completed 55.3 percent of his passes with eight touchdowns and four interceptions. Maxwell has a decent arm and is pretty mobile for a 6-3, 223 pounder. Maxwell will have to find some new receivers to work with this year though. Gone are Jordan Reid and Sebastian Smith, leaving Papi White as the only proven receiver on the roster. Elijah Ball, who caught 16 passes for 212 yards, will be asked to step up after showing potential as a freshman. If the passing game struggles for a while, the running game can pick up the slack. Dorian Brown and Maleek Irons were not terribly efficient last year, but both had their moments. The return of power back A.J. Ouellete, who rushed for 691 yards in 2015, gives the Bobcats a potent rushing trio.
Ohio boasted a superb rush defense last year, ranking fifth in the nation allowing just 104.4 yards per game on the ground. But there are a lot of players to replace on the line, most notably Tarell Basham and Casey Sayles. There is a little bit of experience returning at tackle, but there is not much depth and the pressure will be on end Trent Smart to help replace Basham’s 11.5 sacks from 2016. Quentin Poling and Chad Moore lead a talented group of linebackers. Poling tallied 110 tackles and 4.0 sacks, while Moore added 97 tackles with two interceptions. Those two will continue to make plenty of big plays, especially if the front four can give them space to operate. It is the secondary that could turn into the top unit for the Bobcats. The young secondary played pretty well at times last season and now return eight key contributors.
The Bottom Line:
This year seems like it should be right on par with what we have come to expect from Ohio. They should win the MAC East and then lose in the conference title game. A home date with Miami on Halloween night could very well turn into the game that decides the division champion. However, the Bobcats do have an opportunity much earlier in the season to make some headlines. They head to Purdue for a Friday tilt and then host Kansas the following week. Those are two very winnable games against power conference teams, especially if the front seven comes together quickly.
Projected Bowl: Dollar General Bowl
2016 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 167.9 (75th in nation, 6th in conference)
Passing Offense: 224.4 (72, 9)
Total Offense: 392.3 (77, 7)
Scoring Offense: 26.3 (85, 8)
Rushing Defense: 104.4 (5, 1)
Pass Defense: 255.8 (102, 9)
Total Defense: 360.2 (27, 3)
Scoring Defense: 22.6 (26, 2)
Turnover Margin: 0.07 (64, 5)
Sacks: 3.14 (12, 1)
Sacks Allowed: 1.36 (24, 5)