Frank Solich has coached the Ohio Bobcats for a thousand years. No, really, he’s coached Ohio for 13 years, and has a solid career head coaching record of 155-90.
A veteran odds-manager I know used to say that an awful lot of people talked smack about Tom Osbourne (who Solich once replaced at Nebraska) considering that Osbourne wouldn’t harm a fly and retired with a record of something like 10,000 wins and 12 losses. I feel the same way about Solich being in Athens. People give Solich a lot of grief considering his Ohio Bobcats haven’t had a losing season since 2008.
Ohio will never have an elite FBS offense because however good the program’s QBs and tailbacks are, Northern Illinois and many other schools in the region get to recruit all of the biggest and fiercest blockers.
But if the Bobcats can play really well on defense and special teams in ’18, there is a chance to win 8-10 games.
Virginia, meanwhile – Ohio’s favored opponent on Saturday – would be happy with 7 wins. That’s not an insult, as the Cavaliers play in a much-tougher conference. However, an opening loss to Indiana has Cavalier fans worried that another season could end in disappointment.
The O/U total is set almost at the median average of O/Us for college ball, indicating that bookies have no clue what type of game to expect – only that UV deserves a slight handicapping edge.
This game has been moved to Vanderbilt in lieu of playing in hurricane-addled conditions along the coast. The point spread has been adjusted by 2 and a half points given the new neutral site.
Who: Ohio Bobcats at Virginia Cavaliers (official home team at neutral site)
When: Saturday, September 15th, 4:30 PM EST
Where: Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville, TN
Lines: Ohio (+3.5) at UV (-3.5) / O/U Total: (54)
The Cavaliers are a well-enough coached team under Bronco Mendenhall that UV won’t be too distracted or thrown-off by the change in venue. But last week’s loss to Indiana was disconcerting, despite the upstart Hoosiers having gotten off to a solid 2-0 start.
Junior UV quarterback Bryce Perkins tossed 2 touchdown passes and rushed for over 100 yards. He’s a legitimate dual threat, and I’m not too worried about his 50% completion rate on the day. Completion rate is an overrated stat compared to TD-INT ratio, 1st downs earned, and touchdowns per play.
But the rest of Virginia’s offense seemed missing in action. Only 2 receivers had more than 1 catch, no other player rushed for 60+ yards, and the Cavaliers took few offensive snaps in general. The Hoosiers ran up a halftime lead, controlled the ball with 5.4 yards per carry, and coasted to the win.
The UV football blog Streaking the Lawn thinks that the key vs Ohio is better run defense:
In what is likely to be an ongoing key to each game this season, the Hoos have to be better at stopping the run. As we only have one game for reference, it’s difficult to discern the identity of the Bobcats, but in their opener against Howard, it was the passing game that took center stage with Quinton Maxwell going 17-25 for 233 yards through the air, 154 of them to star wide receiver Papi White.
But it wasn’t more than a season ago when it was the Ohio run game that took the Bobcats to second place finish in the MAC East division, led by A.J. Ouellette who returns for his junior season. A week ago, Virginia struggled to contain Indiana’s Stevie Scott, and along with giving up over 200 yards on the ground, the Hoos’ inability to contain the run made them susceptible to the pass. On the day the Hoosiers connected on four passes over over 18 yards including a 22 yard touchdown in the second quarter. The strength of the Virginia defense is in the secondary, and the key to a Cavalier win rests in stopping the run and forcing the Bobcats to pass.
The only part of that I disagree with is that it’s hard to discern the Bobcats’ identity. They’re a methodical run-first team under Solich, with a defense that is limited but game for the fight.
How has Ohio fared against the Power-5 in recent years? They have beaten the Kansas Jayhawks twice while losing to Minnesota, Purdue and Tennessee in contests that were competitive but not super-close finishes.
I’m liking the Virginia Cavaliers based on Ohio’s recent history against the P5 as well as UV’s record against the MAC and other Group-of-5 conferences. The Bobcats are 11-5 in their last 16 games against the spread, but when the point spread is as thin as 2-4 points, that trend is less significant. There isn’t much room for Ohio to lose the game but win ATS – it would take a dramatic finish that I don’t see happening in Nashville.
Take Virginia (-3.5) to cover.