The Ohio Bobcats' success last year was a bit unexpected. An 8-5 record wasn't exactly unexpected, but how the Bobcats got to 8-5 was. Ohio finished last season with three straight wins aginst Kent State, Ball State and Northern Illinois to secure a bowl appearance in the Camellia Bowl.
But a number of key players - namely linebacker Jovon Johnson, cornerback Ian Wells and running back Daz Patterson - are gone and Ohio is left hoping it can recreate last season's success.
Saturday, September 3 vs. Texas State (3-9)
Ohio should absolutely cruise here. The Bobcats might end up being average by MAC standards and nothing more, but Texas State isn't on that level. They were one of the worst teams in the Sun Belt last year and figure to be again. Ohio wins.
Saturday, September 10 at Kansas (0-12)
Out of every game on the schedule, this may be the hardest one to predict. Kansas is a Power Five school, but not a good one. This is the perfect game for Ohio to pick up a win on the road against a bigger school.
Here's the problem: to pick Ohio, you have to have the utmost confidence that it''ll be as good as last year when it would have had a very good chance of beating this Kansas team. It also assumes you have faith in J.D. Sprague and whoever he's ultimately paired with at quarterback. For now, I'll say Ohio wins.
Saturday, September 17 at Tennessee (9-4, Finished No. 22 in AP Poll, No. 23 in coaches poll)
Here's where the Bobcats might get themselves in a bit of trouble. The Volunteers might not be an elite program, but they are 100 percent a cut above Ohio. Even if Ohio rolls into this game 2-0 and is feeling good, there's a chance this gets ugly fast and the Bobcats never have a chance. Ohio loses.
Saturday, September 24 vs. Gardner-Webb (4-7, FCS opponent)
Ohio should cruise here. They have struggled with FCS schools in years past, the Bobcats should have this under wraps. That'll be a welcome sight after Tennessee.
Saturday, October 1 at Miami (3-9, 2-6 MAC)
The RedHawks, barring some unforeseen improvement, won't be very good next year. But they always play Ohio tough - even though the 'Cats have won nine of the past 10 matchups - and even in last year's 34-3 victory, the RedHawks pushed the Bobcats. This depends mostly on how Ohio fills in gaps on both sides of the ball, but Ohio should win this 21-14.
Saturday, October 8 vs. Bowling Green (10-4, 7-1 MAC)
Bowling Green has been Ohio's defining opponent for the past few season. The 'Cats have fallen in November year after year - often at the hands of the Falcons - and it's a matchup that will probably shape how we view the Bobcats again next year.
Even if the Falcons lost Matt Johnson and have a new head coach, they should be favored over Ohio. They mollywhopped the Bobcats last year and it'll probably be much of the same here. Ohio gets blown out.
Saturday, October 15 vs. Eastern Michigan (1-11, 0-8 MAC)
It's been a few years since the Bobcats and Eagles squared off. Eastern, as usual, will probably be one of the worst teams in the MAC. Ohio's schedule in recent years has been loaded with some of the better teams in the MAC - particularly in the MAC West - and this is a nice change in scheduling. Ohio picks up its biggest win of the season.
Saturday, October 22 at Kent State (3-9, 2-6 MAC)
Fun fact: the last time Ohio played at Kent was when A.J. Ouellette made his college debut two years ago. Ohio won that game on a last-second Josiah Yazdani field goal, for what it's worth.
This is a game where we figured to learn a lot about Ohio. If it wins, it beats a team it should have beat. If it loses, it means that the Bobcats probably belong in the bottom half of the conference. Ohio loses a close one.
Thursday, October 27 at Toledo (10-2, 6-2 MAC)
Toledo might not be as good as it was last year, but it should beat Ohio here. The Bobcats just aren't on the same level as the Rockets, frankly. It's very, very hard to see Ohio winning this game against a team that isn't that much different from one that spent part of last year ranked. Ohio loses.
Thursday, November 3 vs. Buffalo (5-7, 3-5 MAC)
Last year, Buffalo tripped up Ohio early in the year in update New York. Although Ohio finished second in the MAC East, it would have been a bit easier to do had the Bobcats won this game. This year, with not as much margin for error, Ohio probably needs this game to have a shot at bowl eligibility. Ohio wins.
Tuesday, November 15 at Central Michigan (7-6, 6-2 MAC)
Central was, and is, really good. Ohio gets blown out.
Tuesday, November 22 vs. Akron (8-5, 5-3 MAC)
This is much better way to finish the season for Ohio as opposed to playing at Northern Illinois last season. They beat the Huskies, sure, but the Zips aren't quite that good. These two teams always play each other close, however, and this should be much of the same. Ohio wins a grinding, methodical game.
Somehow, while assuming Ohio is worse than last year, I have them again winning eight games. For as much as they are losing, and with how many questions as there are about the roster, eight wins seems on the table. Of course, it could be less and in past year's Ohio teams have been tough to figure out for weeks on end.
That being said, if the right players step up and things break the right way, next year could be a very successful year in Athens.