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2011 MAC Football Preview: Ohio Bobcats

Now that summer is winding down, football season winds up. While NFLers were negotiating, college programs have been practicing and filing down their depth charts in preparation for Labor Day weekend when the season begins. The weather outside is heating up and that must mean it's time for us to begin previewing the MAC, one team at a time...

It's going to happen one of these days, but the drought has been noticeable. OHIO's last MAC Championship was 1968, the dream 10-0 season led by Cleve Bryant and Todd Snyder. Since then, they've won MAC East titles but still no big shiny conference championship. They're also still looking for that bowl victory which has not happened, like, ever.

All these long unrequited goals ... and some people think they might go undefeated. I first saw it on Pre-Snap Read, and the movement is gathering steam. Cart before the horse, they need to play the 12 games first, and it's hard to control how many of those teams are going to be as pitiful as their preseason outlook dictates. Meanwhile, we don't know who OHIO's quarterback is going to be. That's kind of big. Athens, Greece is the birthplace of democracy. Athens, Ohio is the birthplace of voodoo algebra, where unknown variables are being guesstimated with hopes that the single-wing offense goes back in style or that 50-yard punts are worth five points.

Last Season: A rough 1-3 start was wiped away from the brain with seven straight victories, including big road wins at Miami and Temple, the latter which knocked the Owls out of MAC East consideration. Kent State was all that stood between them a trip to Ford Field, but a Black Friday shocker landed them on the wrong side of a 28-6 outcome, their lowest offensive output of the year. A trip to the New Orleans Bowl was their consolation prize, but a 48-21 loss was their destiny, finishing at a disappointing-yet-still-impressive 8-5.

Also their mascot punched Brutus Buckeye. You might've heard about this. And then someone punched Boo Jackson. There was a theme to the season. Fists.

Returning Players: Know who's not returning? Boo Jackson, and he's the only MAC starting QB not returning. Phillip Bates did see sporadic time as the running quarterback, but most helpful coming back for another round is most of their offensive line.

Joe Flading and A.J. Strum are the two pedigree linemen you may recognize, but a total of seven returning players started at least four games on the line: Flading, Strum, Ryan McGrath, Vince Carlotta, Jonathan Lechner, Skyler Allen and Eric Herman. Also, throw tight end Jordan Thompson into the mix of returners. Whoever throws or runs behind them will be fronted by some veterans. Helping out the QB will also be senior wideouts Riley Dunlop and LaVon Brazill.

You also have Matt Weller and Paul Hershey returning from the kicking units, so all should be good there.

And the medical redshirt returns will be the X-factors. Linebacker Noah Keller and Brazill should've been off to the workforce by now, but they're still in college and have one last go at it. 

New Faces: If Bates can't handle the full load of running AND passing, then that's where Tyler Tettleton comes in. He played a skosh in 2009 but redshirted last year. Yes, that's Mickey Tettleton's son. He will not have to catch anything. There are also a few freshmen who might get some good playing time. One guy they're high on is Stephane N'goumou, a big mysterious wide receiver who initially committed to Iowa but didn't sign because of grades and spent a year at the Milford Academy, where he was neither seen nor heard. You can always tell a Milford man. I'm not sure if he'll make an impact this year, but there's some raw talent that could really strengthen the nascent passing game.

Games to Circle: Kent State on October 1 will be pure revenge. Even if KSU isn't playing for anything, it seems like OHIO's going to come out and try to nail 50 on their foreheads. They may also do well to come out big on November 2 against Temple, which could also help decide the MAC East yet again. Plus it's a nationally televised game, and if they really do go undefeated, this is going to be the first taste many national fans will get of them.

And then, whaddya know, the final game is against Miami. Funny how that works out.

Did You Know: The Bobcats once had a live mascot, an actual bobcat named Sir Winsalot. No word if they had a female bobcat named Miss Winevere. In fact, now I just want to see a reenactment of Knights of the Round Table using nothing but live bobcats.

Prediction: Can they go 12-0? They might be better on paper than the 12 on their schedule, but oh heavens it's difficult to run the table, no matter the opponents. The quarterback question lingers, and if Bates, Tettleton or anyone else can't replace Franshaw, it's going to be something like a seven-win season, or worse. And perhaps some of these supposedly "easy" teams are not as winnable as we think come October. But they have a rather fortunate go at a favorable outcome, since they won't play Toledo, NIU or WMU until at least the MAC Championship. I can't ignore that. Let's say 9-3 and a trip to the MAC Championship.