Ohio plays Louisiana-Monroe in the Independence Bowl this afternoon, looking for their second bowl win in as many years.
You might have memorized the plot by now: Ohio began the season with a 10-point win at Penn State, started the season 7-0, then a multitude of injuries and close games finally caught up to them. I mean, LOOK AT THIS INJURY REPORT. That's 19 players for Ohio listed on there, compared to six with ULM.
But Louisiana-Monroe has also followed a similar, not identical, path in their season. They frontloaded their schedule with an impossible three-game stretch against Arkansas, Auburn and Baylor. They did win the Arkansas game, mostly due to the insanity surrounding that program, but they also did some things right there. After close losses to Auburn and Baylor the Warhawks won five straight games, then lost two and finished with two straight wins.
That's way better than OHIO, which is riding not just a three-game losing streak, but a three-game noncompetitive streak. They were throttled at home by BGSU, burst at the seams at Ball State and had nothing left in the tank against Kent State. I would not have blamed the Bobcats for saying "no" to a bowl game, even at 8-4, given their collective health status, but it looks like a semi-famous bowl is better than no bowl at all.
It's not something we'll lose sleep over, but were they to win this game the MAC would finally have a win in the Indy Bowl. You may remember that NIU lost to Louisiana Tech 17-10 in 2008 and Miami fell to Iowa State 17-13 in 2004. That's 57 total points in two MAC-featured Independence Bowls. That's very un-MAC-manlike, but credit for this happening quadrennially.
If the Bobcats can pull this off, then they'd follow CMU's pioneering pattern of winning bowl games despite not being in any shape to play one. The thing is, ULM credentialed a gnome for the game, and I don't know how you compete with that. I know what you're thinking, but Rufus finds gnomes to be rather bitter.