If you were looking to get a jumpstart on your holiday shopping, Tuesday night may be your opportunity since with a win, the Ohio University Bobcats will claim the Mid-American Conference East Division title, and with it a trip to Detroit to play for the MAC Championship on December 2. Think of little Timmy or little Suzy getting an early Christmas present in the form of a trip to Detroit or a Ohio MAC East Champs t-shirt! And really, isn’t that the goal of the holidays? To bask in the precocious wonderment of our children while we slam down ice cold beers and wonder what brand of non-filter cigarettes Frank Solich prefers? Takes me back, I tell you.
For the Bobcats, it’s a chance to not only make some travel plans to the Mitten the first week of December, it’s a chance to continue to build on an impressive season that hit a new high last week with the dismantling of the Toledo Rockets. Granted, it’s commonplace in sports to have an extreme recency bias, but ask anyone who watched that game and they’ll tell you that Ohio looked head and shoulders above the Rockets, the team that’s been getting the lion’s share of attention, interest, and eyeballs from the Rust Belt this season.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Standing in the way of the back-to-back Motown trips for the Bobcats are the Akron Zips, who are still alive in their own way for the MAC East. With a win this week against the Bobcats and a win in the Nov. 21 matchup at home against Kent State, it would be the Zips heading to Detroit Rock City. So Tuesday night’s matchup is one of the more important ones you’ll have this year, with championship hopes rising and falling. For those about to MAC, we salute you.
Akron comes in to Tuesday’s contest fresh off their own impressive win last week over Miami, not because the opponent was especially strong or the result especially impressive. Rather, it was how it happened that made people take notice. Just before kickoff, Akron’s starting QB Thomas Woodson was suspended for a violation of team rules, meaning the Zips would be led by freshman Kato Nelson. Nelson threw for 218 yards and a touchdown and added a TD on the ground. His mobility and running threat adds a dimension to the Zips’ playbook, but it’s hard to imagine a Zips win without Woodson. Woodson started the first nine games of 2017, throwing for 1700 yards and 14 scores in the process, and against a Bobcat defense that allows just 368 yards of offense per game and 24 points having an experienced and veteran QB could mean the difference between winning and losing. Akron’s coach Terry Bowden has not announced whether Woodson will sit, start, or somewhere in between.
The Bobcats offense is considerably less of a question mark. The Bobcats are second in the conference in rushing at 248 yards per game, good for 14th-best in the nation. For those hoping that Akron has the mojo to shut that down, don’t bet on it. The Bobcats have been held to a sub-150 yard performance rushing just once this season. For Akron, that’s a tall order against any opponent given their lack of success against the rush on the defensive side of the ball. For the season, Akron has allowed 186 yards per game.
Ohio has a three-back attack that’s nearly impossible to outright stop. A.J. Ouellette is the primary running threat, with 897 yards and seven TDs this season. QB Nathan Rourke is also a running thread, compiling 668 yards and 17 TDs this year. Want a third option? That would be Dorian Brown who’s gone over the century mark in two of the last three games.
Tuesday night is a night that is going to springboard one program up and leave the other with a significant amount of questions. An Ohio win proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that the Bobcats may very well be the class of the MAC this season and perhaps the only consistent team over recent memory. An Akron win means that the Terry Bowden experiment has finally lived up to expectations and has been worth the growing pains to get to this point. Theres a lot on the line Tuesday at InfoCision Stadium.
The Zips and Bobcats kick off at 7PM and the game will be televised on ESPN2. Vegas has installed Ohio as 10.5 point favorites, but expect movement on that line when/if news about Woodson is confirmed.