Coming off a season without a bowl appearance: an oddity in Frank Solich's tenure as coach, the Ohio Bobcats are in Montgomery happy and healthy and looking to take a chunk out of the Appalachian State Mountaineers.
The Camellia Bowl is upon us.
Ohio hasn't won a bowl game since its 45-14 win over Louisiana-Monroe in 2012, though beside last year, the 'Cats have made a bowl game every year since 2009. This marks the ninth bowl game appearance in school history.
App St offense
Ohio fans can expect to see a talented and well-coached team lined up across from their Bobcats. Offensively the Mountaineers utilize an H-back and big bully's up front in a powerful zone-read scheme out of the pistol and regular shotgun. Expect some motion from slot receivers to create an additional option that the Ohio defense has to respect. The Mountaineers featured the country's sixth best run offense, picking up 269 yards on the ground a game. Marcus Cox and Jalin Moore will get the majority of the touches behind a well-schooled O-Line that put several members on the Sun Belt all-conference teams.
App St defense
Defensively App State surrendered under 20 points per contest and featured Sun Belt defensive player of the year Ronald Blair, a down lineman who will relish in the opportunity to stuff the Ohio run game. Linebacker John Law will be another one that it'll be hard to get a push on from the Ohio O-Line. The Mountaineers run a 3-4 and have given some good run teams a hard time moving the rock in the ground game. The red zone defense is particularly adept, and the Bobcats will really have to dial up the right play calls to will themselves into some points deep on the App. State side of the gridiron.
This Ohio squad is healthier than it has been for most of the season after a nearly month-long break. Back should be Derrius Vick, who will likely get the starting nod over starter of the past few weeks JD Sprague. Back at what should be close to full health Quentin Poling, who did play in the team's last few games but benefits from a break. Back is a healthier Jovon Johnson, healthier Blair Brown and several pieces of a a secondary that was depleted by injuries towards the end of the season. Unfortunately, guys like Devin Bass and Nathan Carpenter are not expected to take the field.
All of this will factor into an Ohio defense that should be operating at near full-strength, and if memory extends back far enough the defense of September for Ohio football was one that made plenty of MAC offensive coaches nervous. For a team that is in the top third of the nation in turnover margin and 17th in the nation in stopping opponents on third down, these are confidence producing ingredients to a potential bowl win.
All of that is without mentioning some of the backs who are feeling better, and that includes speedsters Daz'mond Patterson and Papi White, the latter whom was the biggest playmaker the Bobcats had to offer early in 2015.
Ohio will benefit from getting White and Patterson back to compliment a run game that has taken off over the last few weeks. Ohio has not rushed for fewer than 230 since the BG game, when a renewed emphasis on the run game was put back in place. A.J. Ouellette has benefitted the most in terms of touches, but the Ohio offense as a whole has been more productive as a result.
The 'Cats will employ the legs of Vick and even Sprague if he gets snaps, and will have to connect with the likes of Sebastian Smith and Jordan Reid for a couple momentum-building plays throughout the night.
To see how Appalachian State plays in a close game, check out this replay of its game with Troy.