1. Formidable. This will mark the season’s midway point for Ohio and already season goals are within reach. A win today and the Bobcats become bowl eligible for the fourth straight season and the sixth time since Frank Solich took over eight years ago. They opened the season with a 24-14 victory at Penn State, outscoring the Nittany Lions 21-0 in the first half. That result – and a win at Marshall – were key to positioning the 5-0 Bobcats for a shot at their first 6-0 start since 1968 – when they carried a 10-0 record and a No. 15 national ranking into the Tangerine Bowl. Ohio is one of 22 Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) unbeatens and has won 11 of its last 12 since losing back-to-backers to UB and Ball State last October. What kind of difference can a coach make? Ohio averaged 3.4 wins a season in the 28 years before Solich’s arrival and 7.1 since.
2. Underrated. Ohio’s offense receives a lot of attention but it’s an opportunistic defense that has made the difference in the bigger wins. The unit produced three turnovers in the comeback at Penn State and another three in a 27-24 victory over a high-powered Marshall team that has scored at least 41 points in three of its five games and at least 52 twice. Bobcats lead the MAC in scoring defense, rush defense and are fifth nationally in turnover margin. Defensive rotations have helped 17 players produce at least one tackle for a loss with senior NG Neal Huynh leading the way with five. Seven players have at least one sack. Weakside LB Jelani Woseley has two of Ohio’s five picks. UB’s No. 1 priority today: Protect the football.
3. Pass unhappy. UB produced a couple of big plays in the passing game at Connecticut last Saturday but otherwise the aerial attack has been a struggle. QB Alex Zordich has completed just 17 of his last 52. There have been a few drops but the more pressing problem has been his inaccuracy. The Bulls got creative in their two big gains versus the Huskies and will need to do likewise today whether or not Bo Oliver plays to loosen up an Ohio defense that has allowed just one 100-yard rusher. The lack of production from WRs other than Alex Neutz has been disconcerting.
4. Fumble! UB’s offense has produced seven scoring drives of 75 yards or more. Trouble is, that’s been the necessity. Bulls are tied with Oklahoma for 119th and last in the nation in turnovers produced – one. Zordich and the offense know little of the luxury of working with a short field. Bulls intercepted Ohio’s Tyler Tettleton once last year and forced a fumble on the Bobcats’ final gasp, a fourth-and-5 play from the Ohio 39, to secure a wild 38-37 victory at UB Stadium. They’ll need more of the same to get that same result on the road and slow Tettleton and workhorse RB Beau Blankenship.
5. Extra points. Ohio leads the series, 11-8. … Bulls are 1-6 at Peden Stadium, which is named after Don Peden, who coached Ohio to a 121-46-11 record from 1924-46. … Bulls linebacker and reigning MAC East Defense Player of the Week Khalil Mack leads the nation in tackles for losses (11) and is tied for second in sacks per game (1.5). As a team UB ranks fourth nationally in sacks . … Ohio kicker Matt Weller is 16 points away from fourth place on all-time MAC scoring list but is just 3 of 8 on FG between 30-39 this season.
Outlook: This would be a major breakthrough for a UB team that’s won one road game in the Jeff Quinn era. Tough task. Ohio, 30-14.