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2015 MAC football non-conference previews: Idaho Vandals

The Ohio Bobcats open the season with a visit to the Sun Belt Conference as they take on the Idaho Vandals.

Sums up Idaho football
Sums up Idaho football
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

THE Ohio Bobcats will kick off their 2015 campaign on the road with the prestigious Idaho Vandals on September 3rd, a Thursday night extravaganza. Ohio will look to capitalize on their opener as their non-conference doesn't get any easier with games against Marshall and Minnesota.

To say the Idaho program is experiencing a downward spiral wouldn't be doing it justice. After a spectacular season in 2009 that ended in an eight win season and a bowl win over MAC opponent BGSU. In 2010 they had another near bowl season with a 6-7 record. Since then though... well not so good. They are just 5-42 with three straight one win seasons. And people thought the UMass program was in bad shape.

The Vandals experienced a decent run game last year and will look to build on that as Elijhaa Penny will be getting the majority of the workload. In 2014 he had averaged 4.3 yards per carry and found the endzone 12 times. The senior is a hard man to tackle at 6-2, 254 pounds. He will force Ohio to stack the box.

Unfortunately for the Vandals, their effective running game wasn't enough to spark a helpful passing game. Matt Linehan (son of the Dallas Cowboys OC) struggled with interceptions as you would expect any true freshman to do. He finished with 18 on the season and two games with three picks. While he is young that doesn't mean his job is safe with Paul Petrino at the helm. Redshirt freshman Jake Luton and former Utah State commit Kareem Coles are lurking in the background ready to stake their claim.

Whoever ends up behind center (most likely Linehan) will be very happy to see Dezmon Epps back in the fold after being suspended for the entirety of the 2014 season after he was charged with drunk driving. In 2013 he caught 77 balls for 971 yards. With Linehan losing three of his four top targets from last season, Epps should have a target rate similar to what he had in 2013 (31.5).

Ohio could blow this game open if they are able to hit on their big plays. Idaho loved to give up huge plays with 16 opponent plays going for 50 or more yards. Only three more schools gave up more. Add that to giving up an average of 15 yards per pass completion and you have the recipe for a rout. It's not surprising they gave up 37 points per game. Either Vick or Spague could very well have a NCAA Player of the Week type performance.

The Vandals will be switching to a 3-4 defensive scheme with the hire of former Washington State D-Coordinator Mike Breske. This will allow Marc Millan to rush the edge as he led the team with 15.5 tackles for losses and added on two sacks.

Idaho was a young team in 2014 and should improve in 2015 but they still have miles to go if they are going to be threatening to any decent team this year.