2013 Ohio Bobcats football's 10 things to know: Boring is good

Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE

Ohio battled through a ton of injuries in 2012 and still managed to eke out a 9-4 record. With experience and better health, another happy win total seems likely. Beware the Bobcats, Louisville.

Confused? Check out the glossary here.

1. Cruise control

Your defense is obliterated by injury, your offense regresses a hair, and you win nine games. That's a pretty good sign that you've reached your chosen destination.

Frank Solich arrived in Athens, Ohio, for the 2005 season; his predecessor, Brian Knorr, had gone just 11-35 in four years at Ohio, and Knorr's predecessor, Jim Grobe, earned a promotion to the Wake Forest job simply by putting together two winning seasons in six years. This was in no way a destination program, even by MAC terms. But in his second season, Solich won nine games. And after a minor setback (10-14 in Year 3-4), he has reached his cruising speed. After winning more than five games in a season just twice in a 23-year span, Ohio has only lost five or fewer games for four straight years.

The Bobcats have yet to pull off a conference title -- and while they will probably be considered this year's East Division favorites, they should expect a fierce challenge from Bowling Green, among others (Kent State, Buffalo) -- but this has become, alongside Northern Illinois and Toledo, one of the steadiest programs in a conference known for parity and quick ups and downs.

2. Boring is good

A year ago, Toledo hired Matt Campbell at 32. New Western Michigan coach P.J. Fleck is just 32 now. Dan Enos was just 41 when Central Michigan hired him three years ago (and he still doesn't look a day over 35). New Northern Illinois coach Rod Carey is just 41 now. Pete Lembo is entering his third year at Ball State at 42. New Kent State coach Paul Haynes is a ripe, old 43.

And then there's Frank Solich. The former Nebraska head coach was 60 when he started his first season at Ohio, and he's only gotten older. (That tends to happen.) While much of the MAC is aiming for the Next Big Thing, Ohio was a little boring in hiring a coaching lifer. It has paid off.

While Solich did move from the I-formation to more spread-friendly principles over the years, his team's style of play has never been particularly MACtion-worthy. Ohio's 10-win 2011 team averaged 31 points per game (just over the national average) and allowed just 22. In 2010, Ohio won eight games with an average score of just 27 to 24. Ohio runs a lot, passes when it has to, leans on special teams when it can, and when it has the health to do so, attempts to choke the life out of a high-octane passing attack. It is a good recipe. There is nothing flashy, but that's okay.

Last year, when things got less boring, when Ohio's defenders started dropping like flies and the squad got involved in more MACtion-style shootouts (37-34, 38-31, 52-27), the results were not particularly kind to the Bobcats. A return to boring could mean very good things for Ohio in 2013.

2012 Schedule & Results

Record: 9-4 | Adj. Record: 4-9 | Final F/+ Rk: 68
Date Opponent Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L
1-Sep at Penn State 24-14 W 36.8 - 25.7 W
8-Sep New Mexico State 51-24 W 30.8 - 19.8 W
15-Sep at Marshall 27-24 W 18.9 - 24.5 L
22-Sep Norfolk State 44-10 W 18.5 - 25.5 L
29-Sep at Massachusetts 37-34 W 26.8 - 49.2 L
6-Oct Buffalo 38-31 W 27.3 - 33.1 L
13-Oct Akron 34-28 W 26.7 - 28.8 L
27-Oct at Miami (Ohio) 20-23 L 21.9 - 31.2 L
1-Nov Eastern Michigan 45-14 W 34.0 - 21.0 W
7-Nov Bowling Green 14-26 L 19.8 - 26.6 L
14-Nov at Ball State 27-52 L 25.0 - 49.3 L
23-Nov at Kent State 6-28 L 15.6 - 27.6 L
28-Dec vs. UL-Monroe 45-14 W 45.4 - 18.6 W
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
Points Per Game 31.7 42 24.8 47
Adj. Points Per Game 26.7 77 29.3 74

3. Attrition took its toll

Their projected starting cornerbacks played a combined one game -- eight plays -- in 2012. Their best defensive end was lost after four games. Their offensive line saw some attrition. Their quarterback got hurt. One of two primary running backs was barely healthy. Their leading receiver missed some time. It was a war of attrition for Ohio last fall, and it was ill-timed. After a season-opening win at Penn State, it wasn't difficult to scope out a potential BCS run for the Bobcats; the schedule was pillow-soft, and the overall level of talent and experience (when healthy) was as strong as any in the MAC. But as the year unfolded, Ohio just couldn't maintain its form.

Adj. Points Per Game (first 4 games): Ohio 26.3, Opponent 23.9 (plus-2.4)
Adj. Points Per Game (next 4 games): Opponent 35.6, Ohio 25.7 (minus-9.9)
Adj. Points Per Game (next 4 games): Opponent 31.1, Ohio 23.6 (minus-7.5)
Adj. Points, Bowl Game: Ohio 45.4, Opponent 18.6 (plus-26.8)

Ohio was at its worst in the middle third of the season. The wins kept rolling in, but the warning signs were there. The Bobcats were barely able to hold off the MAC's two worst teams (UMass and Akron), and though they got to 7-0 before falling, it was obvious they would fall soon. The end of the winning streak came at Miami, and after a rebound against Eastern Michigan, the losses continued. A smoking hot Bowling Green team knocked them off in Athens, then two of the MACs better teams, Ball State and Kent State, dominated them.

Here's where bowl games can produce a lovely shot in the arm. Ohio healed up a bit during the bowl break, laid a whipping on UL-Monroe in the Independence Bowl, and headed into the offseason with spirits a little higher than they could have been.

Last year's injuries are still taking their toll, as well:

Unfortunately for Ohio, a lot of front-line players won’t be ready to go at all this spring. More than a dozen potential starters sat out the first spring practice, and most aren’t exepcted to take part during the next five weeks.

Included in the list of the injured, or recovering from surgery, are WRs Donte Foster, Mario Dovell and Landon Smith, TE’s Tyler Knight and Derek Roback, RB Ryan Boykin, OLs Sam Johnson, John Prior, Jon Lechner and Ryan McGrath, DE Nic Barber and S Josh Kristoff.

That said, the Bobcats still have five and a half months to get healthy for the season. If they do so, they should be a major player in the MAC race.

Offense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 33 94 109 88
RUSHING 27 104 113 96
PASSING 53 73 83 64
Standard Downs 85 106 70
Passing Downs 102 95 102
Redzone 118 112 121
Q1 Rk 73 1st Down Rk 95
Q2 Rk 107 2nd Down Rk 110
Q3 Rk 89 3rd Down Rk 71
Q4 Rk 117

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2013 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Comp Att Yards Comp
Rate
TD INT Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Tyler Tettleton 6'0, 200 Sr. ** (5.3) 228 367 2,844 62.1% 18 4 26 6.6% 6.7
Derrius Vick 6'1, 205 So. ** (5.4) 19 30 249 63.3% 4 1 1 3.2% 8.0
Greg Windham 6'1, 217 RSFr. ** (5.4)








4. Ohio is set at quarterback, probably for a while

It only feels like Tyler Tettleton and Beau Blankenship have been sharing the Ohio backfield for a decade now. Tettleton struggled with an "undisclosed abdomen injury" for much of the middle of the season, limiting his dual-threat effectiveness, but he still racked up 2,800 passing yards, a 62-percent completion rate, an 18-to-4 TD-to-INT ratio, and nearly 500 pre-sack rushing yards. That's impressive considering he missed Ohio's worst opponent (Norfolk State) and only completed 52 percent against three pretty bad teams: UMass, Buffalo and Akron.

When healthy, Tettleton is a dynamo. But when Tettleton was hobbled, backup Derrius Vick showed some solid potential. In his only start of the year against Norfolk State, he completed 14 of 20 passes for 199 yards and four touchdowns. He completed five of 10 passes for 50 yards otherwise, and he showed reasonably decent running ability. With another year as Tettleton's understudy, he could be ready to do some pretty interesting things in 2014.

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Rushes Yards Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Carry
TD Adj.
POE
Beau Blankenship RB 5'9, 202 Sr. *** (5.5) 312 1,604 5.1 4.9 15 -4.2
Tyler Tettleton QB 6'0, 200 Sr. ** (5.3) 94 455 4.8 4.0 4 -2.4
Ryan Boykin RB 6'1, 221 Sr. ** (4.9) 74 445 6.0 5.8 4 +4.8
Daz'mond Patterson RB 5'6, 178 So. ** (5.3) 34 195 5.7 4.2 1 +0.8
Kyle Hammonds RB 5'8, 180 So. ** (5.4) 16 115 7.2 13.2 0 +2.7
Derrius Vick QB 6'1, 205 So. ** (5.4) 16 77 4.8 3.2 0 -1.6
Brian Palermo RB 5'8, 218 So. NR 7 31 4.4 2.6 0 -1.3

5. Interchangeable parts

Beau Blankenship was Ohio's steadiest player in 2012. And by "steady," I mean he was just about the only primary difference-maker who didn't miss time to injury. He leads an interesting set of running backs in 2013; Blankenship (medium), Ryan Boykin (large), and Daz'mond Patterson (small) are built quite different, but they produced remarkably similar numbers last fall: they each averaged between 5.1 and 6.0 yards per carry, and they each averaged between 4.2 and 5.8 highlight yards (the yards after the line has done its job). Boykin showed the most potential of the bunch but couldn't stay on the field, and Patterson is already expected to miss part of this coming season. But if Blankenship does get hurt this year, depending on when it happens, Ohio could remain in good shape in the backfield.

It could be the same story at receiver, where Donte Foster, Chase Cochran, Matt Waters, and Landon Smith are all of similar size and per-target production levels.

Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Yds/
Target
Target
Rate
%SD Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Donte Foster WR-X 6'1, 193 Sr. NR 83 59 659 71.1% 7.9 22.0% 57.8% 8.0 72.3
Bakari Bussey WR-X


48 37 313 77.1% 6.5 12.7% 47.9% 6.2 34.3
Tyler Futrell WR-F 44 28 422 63.6% 9.6 11.7% 52.3% 10.1 46.3
Chase Cochran WR-Z 6'2, 182 Jr. ** (5.3) 35 22 377 62.9% 10.8 9.3% 68.6% 10.9 41.4
Beau Blankenship RB 5'9, 202 Sr. *** (5.5) 30 21 182 70.0% 6.1 8.0% 56.7% 6.1 20.0
Ryan Clark WR-Z 28 17 174 60.7% 6.2 7.4% 60.7% 6.2 19.1
Troy Hill TE 6'5, 210 Sr. ** (4.9) 25 14 169 56.0% 6.8 6.6% 72.0% 6.8 18.5
Matt Waters WR-F 6'0, 203 Sr. ** (5.4) 20 14 225 70.0% 11.3 5.3% 45.0% 9.8 24.7
Jordan Thompson TE 17 8 95 47.1% 5.6 4.5% 35.3% 4.8 10.4
Landon Smith WR 5'11, 180 Jr. ** (5.4) 14 8 198 57.1% 14.1 3.7% 35.7% 15.9 21.7
Derek Roback TE 6'3, 249 So. *** (5.5) 11 7 123 63.6% 11.2 2.9% 45.5% 12.9 13.5
John Tanner TE 6'4, 240 RSFr. ** (5.4)








Mason Morgan TE 6'7, 230 Fr. ** (5.4)








Casey Sayles TE 6'4, 260 Fr. ** (5.4)








James Alexander WR 6'1, 185 Fr. ** (5.4)








Justin Wyatt WR 6'2, 190 Fr. ** (5.4)








Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 95.7 3.04 2.89 39.4% 75.6% 15.8% 81.0 6.4% 6.0%
Rank 86 51 89 61 23 15 89 92 50
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Career Starts/Honors/Notes
Eric Herman RG 51 career starts; 2012 2nd All-MAC
Skyler Allen C 39 career starts; 2012 2nd All-MAC
Jon Lechner LG 6'5, 332 Sr. *** (5.7) 27 career starts
Ryan McGrath RT 6'6, 304 Sr. NR 16 career starts
Vince Carlotta LG 15 career starts
John Prior LT 6'6, 301 Sr. *** (5.6) 13 career starts
Bryce Dietz RT 6'5, 290 So. ** (5.3) 1 career start
J.D. Bales LG 1 career start
Lucas Powell C 6'3, 284 So. *** (5.5)
Mike Lucas RG 6'4, 340 So. ** (5.3)
Mike McQueen RT 6'5, 305 So. ** (5.4)
Nick Gibbons OL 6'4, 308 RSFr. *** (5.5)
Zachary Murdock OL 6'4, 285 Fr. *** (5.5)

6. Can the line avoid mistakes again?

Ohio's overall rushing efficiency was pretty awful in 2012 -- the Bobcats ranked 113th in Rushing Success Rate+ -- but their ability to avoid setbacks and keep moving forward, however slightly, paid off at times. If they could just get to third-and-short, the line would deliver the yards necessary to move the chains. The line's stuff rate (the avoidance of tackles-for-loss on the ground) and power success rate (the ability to convert in short yardage situations) were both strong, even if its down-to-down proficiency was perhaps lacking. But in 2013, it will be without its two steadiest, best performers, guard Eric Herman and center Skyler Allen.

Solich has stockpiled some interesting prospects on the line; two-year starting guard Jon Lechner, one-year starting left tackle John Prior, sophomore center Lucas Powell, freshmen Nick Gibbons (redshirt) and Zachary Murdock (true) were among Ohio's more highly-touted recruits in recent years. It appears there is potential here, but can a less experienced line provide the same level of safety when it comes to avoiding mistakes and converting on third-and-short?

Defense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 56 103 110 97
RUSHING 60 108 110 98
PASSING 56 98 102 96
Standard Downs 102 115 93
Passing Downs 98 89 99
Redzone 91 81 92
Q1 Rk 115 1st Down Rk 96
Q2 Rk 93 2nd Down Rk 84
Q3 Rk 81 3rd Down Rk 105
Q4 Rk 91

7. Opponents knew they could pass

Ohio's defensive front was far from intimidating. The Bobcats ranked just 110th in Rushing Success Rate+ and 108th in Rushing S&P+; that's not good. But while the pass defense ranked slightly better, it is perhaps telling that, even in a conference with plenty of run-heavy teams (like Eastern Michigan), opponents were content to pass all day against Ohio. Opponents ran just 53 percent of the time on standard downs, a sign that they saw some serious mismatches against Ohio's secondary. This makes sense: projected all-conference corner Travis Carrie was lost for the season in fall camp, and starter Jamil Shaw was lost in the first quarter of the first game. Ohio had to do some serious shuffling in the secondary, and with the line's own deficiencies, the Bobcats couldn't lean on much of a pass rush either. Quarterbacks had all day to throw to receivers that probably didn't need long to get open. Bad combination.

I might set a record with the number of times I use "if healthy" in this piece, but ... if healthy, Carrie, Shaw, and the now-experienced Ohio secondary should expect pretty impressive improvement in 2013. Of course, that will only matter so much if the line doesn't improve.

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 87.7 3.10 3.75 42.8% 75.0% 19.9% 67.8 3.2% 4.0%
Rank 114 90 109 108 106 53 108 103 104
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Carl Jones DT 13 38.5 5.3% 7.5 3 0 2 1 0
Corey Hasting DE 13 36.0 4.9% 7 1.5 0 1 2 0
Antwan Crutcher NG 6'1, 300 Jr. ** (5.4) 12 26.0 3.6% 3 1.5 0 0 0 0
Neal Huynh NG 12 19.5 2.7% 8 2.5 0 4 0 0
Ty Branz DE 6'2, 250 Sr. ** (5.4) 13 16.5 2.3% 4.5 3 0 1 1 0
Tremayne Scott DE 4 10.0 1.4% 3.5 2 1 0 0 1
Nic Barber DE 6'3, 219 Sr. NR 10 9.5 1.3% 2 1 0 0 0 0
Kendric Smith DE 6'3, 245 Jr. NR 12 9.0 1.2% 0.5 0.5 0 0 0 0
Brandon Purdum DE 6'3, 255 So. ** (5.3) 9 7.0 1.0% 0.5 0.5 0 0 0 0
Kendrick Davis DT 6'3, 280 Sr. NR 10 6.5 0.9% 2.5 2 0 0 0 0
Tony Davis DE 6'4, 215 Jr. ** (5.4) 4 3.0 0.4% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Watson Tautuiaki DT 6'4, 305 Jr. ** (5.3)
Cameron McLeod DE 6'3, 285 Jr. ** (5.2)
Tarell Basham DE 6'4, 240 Fr. ** (5.4)

Trent Smart DE 6'4, 235 Fr. ** (5.4)






8. Attrition that doesn't count as attrition

Eight members of Ohio's 22-man February recruiting class are defensive linemen. Two are junior college transfers (and Solich doesn't mine the JUCOs that heavily). That's a pretty good sign that everybody involved knows that Ohio's front four needs serious improvement.

It's also a good sign that the attrition up front -- five of Ohio's seven leading tacklers on the line have graduated -- won't mean too much. Granted, tackles Carl Jones and Neal Huynh combined for a pretty impressive (for tackles) 15.5 tackles for loss, and end Tremayne Scott was a strong contributor before injury. But Ohio already got used to playing without Scott, and if newcomers like JUCOs Watson Tautuiaki and Cameron McLeod, along with perhaps one of many freshmen, can mix with returnees Antwan Crutcher and Ty Branz, improvement can be found. It can't get much worse than 114th in Adj. Line Yards and 108th in Adj. Sack Rate.

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Keith Moore MLB 6'0, 219 Sr. NR 13 72.0 9.8% 5.5 2 2 2 0 1
Alphonso Lewis SLB 13 46.5 6.4% 1.5 0.5 0 2 1 1
Jelani Woseley WLB 13 44.0 6.0% 7 1.5 4 7 0 0
Ben Russell MLB 6'1, 234 So. *** (5.5) 11 13.0 1.8% 1 0.5 0 0 0 0
Brandon Atwell LB 6'2, 212 Jr. ** (5.2) 12 11.0 1.5% 0.5 0 0 0 0 0
Tim Edmond LB 5'11, 240 Jr. *** (5.5) 13 10.0 1.4% 0.5 0 0 0 0 0
Blake Jones LB 6'0, 225 Jr. ** (5.1) 12 4.0 0.5% 1 1 0 0 0 0
Jovon Johnson LB 6'0, 215 So. ** (5.2) 11 2.5 0.3% 0 0 0 2 0 0
A.J. Grady SLB 6'1, 198 Jr. ** (5.4) 11 2.5 0.3% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Jake Schany LB 6'2, 210 RSFr. *** (5.5)






Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Josh Kristoff SS 6'0, 194 Jr. ** (5.2) 13 47.0 6.4% 2.5 0 0 3 0 1
Larenzo Fisher CB 5'11, 170 Jr. *** (5.5) 13 45.0 6.1% 0 0 0 8 1 1
Nate Carpenter NB 5'9, 197 Jr. ** (5.2) 13 44.5 6.1% 6 1 2 3 0 2
Travis Carrie (2011) CB 5'11, 203 Sr. NR 14 42.0 5.6% 1.5 0 4 13 0 0
Devin Bass CB 5'9, 178 So. ** (5.2) 13 39.5 5.4% 3 0 1 6 0 0
Ian Wells CB 5'11, 192 Jr. ** (5.4) 13 39.0 5.3% 1 1 0 7 1 1
Gerald Moore FS 11 35.5 4.8% 2.5 0 1 3 1 1
Thad Ingol FS 5'10, 190 Jr. ** (5.2) 11 22.5 3.1% 0 0 1 1 2 0
Jamil Shaw (2011) CB 6'0, 208 Jr. ** (5.2) 13 16.0 2.1% 1 0 0 3 1 0
Mose Denton NB 13 15.5 2.1% 0 0 0 3 0 0
Xavier Hughes S 6'1, 171 Sr. *** (5.5) 4 12.0 1.6% 2 0 0 1 1 0
Octavius Leftwich CB 12 9.0 1.2% 1 0 1 0 1 1
Devin Jones SS 6'0, 210 So. NR 11 8.0 1.1% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Blake Scipio DB 5'11, 185 So. NR 8 3.0 0.4% 0 0 0 0 0 0
James Ray S 6'0, 185 So. NR 6 2.5 0.3% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Aaron Macer S 6'0, 194 So. ** (5.4) 8 1.5 0.2% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Sebastian Smith DB 6'2, 180 RSFr. *** (5.7)

Corey Quallen DB 6'2, 205 Fr. ** (5.4)

9. Extra seasoning

I say it about 60 times per year during the preseason previews: Injuries hurt in the present tense and help in the future tense. Without Travis Carrie and Jamil Shaw, Ohio was forced to dip into its reservoir of corners, instead going with then-sophomores Larenzo Fisher and Ian Wells and then-freshman Devin Bass. The results were less than impressive. But with Carrie (granted a sixth year) and Shaw returning eventually, Ohio will have a much deeper base of experience in 2013 than it expected to have. Throw in safety Josh Kristoff and Nate Carpenter, a particularly intriguing nickel back (six tackles for loss, five passes defensed), and now you've got a reasonably interesting set of defensive backs.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Grant Venham 6'3, 210 So. 55 39.5 5 19 24 78.2%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB TB%
Matt Weller 86 62.2 33 38.4%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Matt Weller 49-49 16-23 69.6% 7-8 87.5%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Daz'mond Patterson KR 5'6, 178 So. 24 24.2 1
Kyle Hammonds KR 5'8, 180 So. 12 20.2 0
Devin Bass KR 5'9, 178 So. 6 20.2 0
Ryan Clark PR 25 8.1 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 35
Net Punting 99
Net Kickoffs 54
Touchback Pct 50
Field Goal Pct 53
Kick Returns Avg 66
Punt Returns Avg 50

2013 Schedule & Projection Factors

2012 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
31-Aug at Louisville 33
7-Sep North Texas 112
14-Sep Marshall 79
21-Sep Austin Peay NR
5-Oct at Akron 120
12-Oct Central Michigan 96
19-Oct at Eastern Michigan 118
26-Oct Miami (Ohio) 106
5-Nov at Buffalo 101
12-Nov at Bowling Green 67
19-Nov Kent State 80
29-Nov Massachusetts 124
Five-Year F/+ Rk 76
Two-Year Recruiting Rk 97
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* +15 / +16.6
TO Luck/Game -0.6
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 11 (6, 5)
Yds/Pt Margin** -1.7

10. Another monstrous opportunity

Ohio's 2013 schedule takes shape a lot like its 2012 schedule: A big (but winnable) challenge up front, followed by quite a bit of cake. Eventually the challenges will mount -- the three-week stretch of @Buffalo, @BGSU, Kent State is particularly daunting -- but if the Bobcats can pull off another Week 1 upset (and make no mistake: on paper, Louisville is not the Top 10 team they will be in the polls) and stay healthy this time, they could go a long way without a serious challenge.

And even if Ohio does lose to Louisville, the odds of a 7-1 record heading into November are good, as are the odds of another great, boring, nine-win (or better) season in Athens.

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