The Bobcats are looking to make a big-time splash in Knoxville on Saturday as they are huge underdogs vs. the 15th ranked Tennessee Volunteers.
Ohio will have an uphill battle in this one: After losing in triple overtime to Texas State, the Bobcats topped Kansas last week on the road. Ohio jumped out to a 25-0 lead early in the game and ultimately held off the Jayhawks, winning by a final score of 37-21.
The Bobcats have totaled an outrageous 1126 yards of offense through their first two games, with their lower rushing total (vs. Texas State) being 237 yards on the ground. The rushing game has prospered despite losing starting running back AJ Ouellette to a foot injury in week one. Week two saw another running back injured, as sophomore Maleek Irons – who had over 100 yards on 22 carries – is questionable for the Tennessee game.
The good news for Ohio is that Dorian Brown, Papi White, and quarterback Greg Windham have picked up the slack in the running game. White has a touchdown in each game, Brown put up 6+ yards per carry against Kansas, and Windham has run 24 times for almost 200 yards through two games. In short, the Bobcat offense has some power.
Even so, the Vols will be a tall task. While Tennessee very nearly wet the bed against Appalachian State in their opener (I’m still mad that UT won that game – they were in position to lose, deserved to lose, and played like they wanted to lose), there is major firepower on both sides of the ball for Tennessee.
Offensively, the Volunteers are led by senior QB Joshua Dobbs, who appeared on some preseason Heisman ballots. He hasn’t been a world-beater through two weeks, but he ran for 106 yards and two scores while throwing for three TDs against Virginia Tech last game. Dobbs might not even be the best player in their backfield. He’s flanked by Jalen Hurd - an NFL prospect at running back. Hurd gobbled up almost 1300 yards last season and is just a big, bruising bully of a runner. The Bobcat defense will have a tough time with him.
The bright side for Ohio is that Tennessee didn’t dominate Virginia Tech despite a 45-24 final score. Virginia Tech fumbled (and lost) the ball five times on the night which tends to obliterate a team’s chances of winning. Tennessee allowed 400 yards to the Hokies after giving up about 300 to the App State Mountaineers.
The bottom line in this one is that, on paper, Ohio is overmatched in a big way. They’re banged up and they just don’t have the caliber of payers that Tennessee has at their disposal. However, Tennessee sure seems overrated at this point. The Volunteers are 27 point favorites against a team that has scored 91 points in two games despite Tennessee only scoring 65 of their own; two of UT’s scores against Virginia Tech came after VT fumbled inside their own 10 yard line.
I doubt Ohio wins this game, but I would be surprised if Tennessee dominated. Maybe they’re rounding into shape and this is going to be a great tune-up game before their SEC season starts, but it also seems like a classic trap game for Tennessee. The Volunteers have given up 185 rushing yards per game, so the smart money says the Bobcats keep it on the ground all day long.
Prediction: Ohio runs the ball early and often, keeping the game close throughout. Tennessee gets hot for a quarter and pulls away, with a late Bobcat touchdown making the score closer than it appeared. However, if Joshua Dobbs starts turning the ball over, all bets are off. Final score: Tennessee 38, Ohio 31.