#86 Ohio 2018 Football Preview

Ohio Bobcats
Overall Rank: #86
#3 MAC
 Ohio Logo
Ohio has quietly evolved into one of the top programs in the MAC thanks to the strong leadership of head coach Frank Solich and his staff. The Bobcats won nine games in 2017 and are loaded with enough returning talent to contend for the MAC Championship once again in 2018. One wildcard in this equation will be the ability of Ohio to take care of the football on offense as last year they were a minus -4 in the turnover battle.
2017 Record: 9-4, 5-3
2017 Bowl: Bahamas Bowl vs. UAB (41-6 W)
Coach: Frank Solich (97-71 at Ohio, 155-90 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Tim Albin
Defensive Coordinator: Jimmy Burrow and Ron Collins
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: A.J. Oulette, RB, 1,006 yards
Passing: Nathan Rourke, QB, 2,203 yards
Receiving: Papi White, WR, 631 yards
Tackles: Javon Hagan, DB, 85
Sacks: Evan Croutch, LB, 2.5
Interceptions: Jalen Fox, DB, 2
Other Key Returnees: WR Andrew Meyer, OL Joe Anderson, OL Joe Lowery, OL Austen Pleasants, S Kylan Nelson, K Louie Zervos, P Michael Farkas
Key Losses: RB Dorian Brown, WR Brendan Cope, LB Quentin Poling, DB Bradd Ellis, LB Chad Moore, DE Trent Smart, DL Kevin Robbins
Nathan Rourke is an outstanding dual-threat quarterback for the Bobcats. Rourke nearly pulled off throwing for over 2,000 yards and rushing for 1,000 last season. A.J. Oulette leads a deep stable of running backs as Oulette ran for 1,006 yards, while averaging 5.2 yards per carry in 2017. The offensive line should be strong as it returns three starters anchored by seniors Joe Lowery and Joe Anderson and it will be incumbent upon them to stay healthy and dominate the line of scrimmage. If that happens you should see a few more opportunities arise in the passing game for Rourke and the wide receivers. Papi White and Andrew Meyer combined to catch 71 passes in 2017 and will look to boost that total closer to 90-100 in 2018.
If there is an Achilles heel on this Ohio team it’s their defense. There is some inexperience across the board as the Bobcats only return four starters. The defensive front will have to rebuilt starting with Will Evans and Austin Conrad at defensive end along with Andrew Payne and Kent Berger in the middle. This will be a great example of player development coming to the forefront as Payne and Berger are seniors getting their shot. Evan Croutch will stabilize the linebackers and Croutch will need to pick up the slack for the loss of Quentin Poling and Chad Moore who were stalwarts last season. The secondary returns the most experience with three starters in Jalen Fox, Javon Hagan, and Kylan Nelson and those guys will have to improve as Ohio surrendered 261.2 passing yards per game in 2017. Jamal Hudson and Marlin Brooks should also provide plenty of competition for playing time in 2018 in the secondary. Louie Zervos and Michael Farkas should be able to help the defensive maintain solid field position as they are back at kicker and punter, respectively in 2018. If Farkas can flip the field with 45-50 yard punts that will help take some stress off the defense this season.
The Bottom Line:
Trips to Virginia and Cincinnati on consecutive weekends will go a long way towards determining if the Bobcats will win ten games in 2018. If they can get one of those games, it should be a very close call as far as double-digit wins are concerned. Buffalo and Akron will visit during the month of November and if the offense can cultivate enough big plays all season long then they should be in position to do enough to potentially win the MAC East in 2018.
Projected Bowl: Dollar General Bowl
2017 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 244.5 (16th in nation, 1st in conference)
Passing Offense: 188.5 (95, 9)
Total Offense: 433.1 (34, 2)
Scoring Offense: 39.1 (9, 1)
Rushing Defense: 110.5 (10, 1)
Pass Defense: 261.2 (109, 12)
Total Defense: 371.6 (50, 5)
Scoring Defense: 24.2 (44, 4)
Turnover Margin: -0.31 (90, 9)
Sacks: 2.15 (55, 4)
Sacks Allowed: 1.23 (16, 1)