Every so often, the Ohio Bobcats jump up and lose a football game that you might have thought they would win. It’s an undeniable trend over the long Frank Solich era. But the Bobcats usually turn things back around right away.
What happens when they don’t? A September ’17 loss to Purdue, a Big Ten program, was followed by a win over Kansas of the Big 12. A mid-season MAC loss to Central Michigan was followed by a nice win over Bowling Green. But almost no one foresaw Solich’s team losing its final 2 regular-season games to Akron and Buffalo, blowing a shot at the conference title and finishing 8-4.
Ohio is facing UAB, a fellow 8-4 school, in the Bahamas Bowl on Friday. Having made the trip early, players from both sides are swimming with dolphins and enjoying a pristine setting. But no amount of pink sand or fresh seafood can erase the Blazers 36-7 loss to Florida, a below-average P5 team (at least this season), on 11/18.
Coupled with a 20-point loss to Ball State in Week 2, the result pooh-poohed any notion of UAB’s long-embattled program making real noise on the national stage. That’s why Ohio comes in as a decided favorite despite having lost 2 games in a row.
Who: Ohio Bobcats vs University of Alabama-Birmingham Blazers
When: Friday, December 22nd, 12:30 PM EST
Where: Thomas Robinson Stadium, Nassau, Bahamas
Lines: Ohio (-7) vs UAB (+7) / O/U Total: (59)
It’s Ohio’s defense which has let the program down with inconsistency and fatigue in ’17. In October, the Bobcats allowed the awful Massachusetts Minutemen 550 yards of total offense and 50 points, including 21 in a wild 4th quarter. It’s almost amazing to think that the same ‘D held the Toledo Rockets to only 10 points in a masterful 38-10 November win.
But the results to follow seemed to show that it had been more of a bad day for Toledo than a good day for the ‘Cats. Ohio QB Nathan Roarke is playing very well through minor injuries, and the ground game is averaging well over 5 ypc. Yet the team lost out in late November thanks to a flawed defense that slipped again, giving up 24 1st-quarter points to Tyree Jackson and the Buffalo Bulls.
UAB does not have the size and speed to compete with larger programs, but the squad has done well on its own mid-major level in 2017. Quarterback A.J. Erdely takes excellent care of the egg, throwing only 4 interceptions in around 300 pass attempts this season.
As for the defense? You can point to the upset loss to Charlotte as a negative, but in fact the Blazer ‘D hasn’t allowed a big day to an opposing offense since losing to North Texas 46-43 almost 10 weeks ago. That bodes well for a touchdown-underdog on the point spread.
We’re liking UAB, given the (+7) line and the fact that an explosion of offense – or lock-down defense – from Ohio is very unlikely. The Bobcats could very well win, but nothing will come easy.
Take the Blazers and (+7) points for a winner in the Bahamas.