With each passing year, Ohio Bobcats head coach Frank Solich has proven time and again why his unceremonious firing by the Nebraska Cornhuskers was one of the more head-scratching moves as it pertains to coaching changes in college football within the last 15 years. He’s been able to keep this Ohio program more than relevant during his tenure, and has provided his share of shockers–such as beating an eventual 8-4 Penn State Nittany Lions team at home to begin last season.
After finishing 2012 9-4 with a dominant Independence Bowl victory, can this team take the next step and capture a MAC Championship? Or better yet, can they follow in the footsteps of last year’s MAC winner and bust the BCS in its final year? Let’s take a look.
The success of this team begins and ends with QB Tyler Tettleton. Returning for his senior season, Tettleton was superb in ’12 tossing for 2844 and 18 touchdowns with just four interceptions. The scary part is that he actually missed a game last year and those numbers were a drop-off from 2011 where he went for over 3300 yards with 28 TDs and 10 picks. The Bobcats possess not just maybe the best quarterback in the MAC, but one of the best overall signal callers in the country.
Oh, and his running back isn’t too shabby neither. Also a senior, RB Beau Blankenship looks to keep his 2012 momentum rolling. Rushing for 1604 yards last year with 15 TDs, Blankenship and Tettleton make up one of the more dangerous QB-RB tandems in college football.
With three starters returning on the offensive line along with a capable receiving corps led by last year’s leading pass-catcher Donte Foster, putting up points on the scoreboard should become very redundant for the Bobcats this season.
Defensive line is where the hindrance to the success of this team may come in. Solich loses four experienced players up front and will look to the likes of senior defensive ends Nic Barber–who did get to start eight games in 2012– and Ty Branz to fill the voids of those losses. Defensive tackle Antwan Crutcher also brings some experience to the group, recording an impressive 40 tackles last season.
The good news for the linebacker group is while they lose some starters, they return experience to plug those holes. Ben Russell, Nathan Carpenter and Keith Moore have all had their fair share of success on the field and should gel together as a productive group rather quickly.
Senior CB Travis Carrie returns from a medical redshirt last season to anchor the secondary. Along with Larenzo Fisher opposite him and Xavier Hughes and Josh Kristoff at the safety slots, there’s also enough experience in this unit to keep them formidable enough to cause problems for opposing offenses.
Just as last season, the Bobcats have a chance to make a statement, and make a statement early. They open up 2013 against the Louisville Cardinals to attempt to shatter any national title hopes that Teddy Bridgewater and company may have. And as I’ve said before, an outcome of that nature wouldn’t surprise me in the least. Following that, it’s a normal MAC slate which sees some potential tough tests against Miami (OH) in October and Kent State in November.
This squad, out of all the programs in college football, gives me the biggest feeling of indifference. Assuming the defense shows minimal hiccups, I can see this squad running the table, grabbing the MAC title, and being the Northern Illinois of this season and sneaking their way into the BCS. And yes, for as much criticism as I have taken, I believe this is a team that can beat Louisville in Week 1.
However, on the other hand, those Tuesday night #MACtion games we love so dearly are unpredictable, which ironically is why we enjoy them.
Jack is a College Football Writer for Rant Sports. Follow Jack on Twitter @JackJ14RS