2007 Ohio Preview

Posted May 27, 2007

Ohio was one of the biggest surprises of last year getting to the MAC championship and a bowl game, but can a team as one-dimensional as this one, led by RB Kalvin McRae, really become a champion?

Ohio Bobcats

Preview 200

By Pete Fiutak

- 2007 Ohio Offense Preview | 2007 Ohio Defense Preview
2007 Ohio Depth Chart | 2006 CFN Ohio Preview 

College football philosophers (a.k.a. message board posters) had a field day a few years ago when Frank Solich was fired from Nebraska. After all, the guy took the Husker to a national championship game. However, the Nebraska powers-that-be were concerned that the program would always be good, but it needed a change to be elite. Basically, there was a ceiling on what Solich could do.

2006 was both vindication for Solich and a possible indictment of his system. Ohio was one of the national surprises as it got past a tough schedule to go to the MAC title game for the first time, and got to the program’s first bowl game since the 1968 Tangerine Bowl loss to Richmond. However, in blowout losses to Central Michigan and Southern Miss to end the season, the lack of any semblance of a passing game, the concern when Solich was at Nebraska, proved to be the team’s undoing.
Head coach: Frank Solich
3rd year: 13-12
9th year overall: 71-31
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 16, Def. 21, ST 1
Lettermen Lost: 19
Ten Best Bobcat Players
RB Kalvin McRae, Sr.
2. DE Jameson Hartke, Jr.
3. DT Landon Cohen, Sr.
4. CB Mark Parson, Jr.
5. OG Matt Miller, Sr.
6. OT David Shelby, Sr.
7. SS Michael Mitchell, Jr.
8. FS Todd Koenig, Sr.
9. QB Brad Bower, Sr.
10. FB Mitch Morsillo, Soph.

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 7-5

Sept. 1


Sept. 8

at UL Lafayette

Sept. 15

at Virginia Tech

Sept. 22


Sept. 29

Kent State

Oct. 6

at Buffalo

Oct. 13

Eastern Michigan

Oct. 20

at Toledo

Oct. 27

at Bowling Green

Nov. 2


Nov. 7

at Akron

Nov. 24

Miami University

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2006 Record: 9-5

9/2 UT Martin W 29-3
9/9 at No Illinois W 35-23
9/16 at Rutgers L 24-7
9/23 at Missouri L 31-6
9/30 Bowling Green L 21-6
10/7 Western Mich W 27-20
10/14 at Illinois W 20-17
10/21 Buffalo W 42-7
10/28 at Kent State W 17-7
11/4 at Eastern Mich W 16-10
11/16 Akron W 17-7
11/24 at Miami Univ. W 34-24
11/30 MAC Championship
Central Michigan L 31-10
1/7 GMAC Bowl
Southern Miss L 28-7

Even so, give Solich credit for turning around the program and playing to its strengths. Kalvin McRae was one of the league’s most valuable players running behind a tough, physical line, while the defense was good all season long and positively dominant against the weaker offenses.

Now Solich has to show he can take the program to another level, and he and his coaches have to create some sort of offensive balance. That might be tough with McRae returning along with three starters on the line, while the team’s top receivers (Scott Mayle and William Norwood) are gone along with starting quarterback Austin Everson.

Defensively, the Bobcats take a huge hit losing the tremendous linebacking tandem of Matt Muncy and Tyler Russ, along with all-star corner T.J. Wright, but there are a slew of good producers returning to prevent much of a drop-off.

Everyone knows the pitch Ohio is going to throw, but can anyone hit it? Few teams execute like this rushing attack or are better coached. Don’t be shocked if Solich shows there’s still room in the college football world for a running team to win a championship.
What to watch for on offense: Brad Bower. The Illinois transfer only came in when the offense was behind and needed to start bombing away in a comeback attempt. While he’s not as mobile as former starter Austen Everson, he can run a little bit and is a better passer. Throwing one touchdown pass and seven interceptions last year might not inspire confidence, but as the year goes on he might make the offense more balanced.

What to watch for on defense: There will be plenty of plays in the backfield, but not at the expense of giving up the big play. Ohio was terrific at making things happen behind the line helped mostly by the great linebackers, and the formula should keep working. However, everything breaks down it the corners aren’t sharp meaning the replacement for T.J. Wright will have to good right away.

The team will be far better if … it can throw the forward pass. This doesn’t have to be the Middle America version of Hawaii, but Ohio does have to be efficient and keep the chains moving through the air. Defenses put everyone but the waterboy up to stuff McRae and the ground game, and Bower has to be able to take advantage of the single coverage and get the safeties and linebackers on their heels.

The Schedule: The likely East favorite has the schedule to repeat as long as it can get by Bowling Green and Akron on the road. At the very least, Ohio has to come up with a split and win home games against Kent State and Miami University. Going to Toledo as one West game isn’t a good break, but playing two of the final three games at home, and getting 17 days off before facing MU, helps. The non-conference schedule isn’t all that bad outside of the sure-loss at Virginia Tech. Wins over Garnder-Webb and UL Lafayette are almost certain, while Wyoming has to come to Athens.

Best Offensive Player: Senior RB Kalvin McRae. The team wins when he’s a 100-yard workhorse, it loses when he’s not. It’s that simple. He wasn’t just the running game, he was the offense with no real help from the rest of the backs last year. If that wasn’t enough, he was also the team’s leading receiver.

Best Defensive Player: Senior DE Jameson Hartke. The 6-4, 262-pound pass rushing terror is more than fine against the run, but makes his mark by camping out in opposing backfields. He was a bit overshadowed by the great 2006 linebacking corps, and now the spotlight will be all his.

Key player to a successful season: Bower. If he becomes an efficient, effective passer on a consistent basis, the pressure will be off McRae and the offense should be far more potent. If he struggles to make his average receiving corps shine, opposing safeties will continue to sneak up and focus just on tackling No. 5. 

The season will be a success if ... Ohio wins the MAC title. The East is the far easier of the two divisions and the Bobcats aren’t going to drop-off too much, if at all, from last year’s overall division champion. It’ll happen if the running game is as effective, there’s more effective passing, and the linebacking corps can patch the holes. Wins over Bowling Green and Akron on the road, or at least a split, would be a big help.

Key game: Nov. 7 at Akron. If Ohio is as good as expected, it should be able to get by Bowling Green on the road, the one East game it needs to worry about before November considering the Kent State game is at home. A win over the Zips on the road should either clinch the East or set up a home showdown with Miami for the title.

2006 Fun Stats: 
- Third quarter scoring: Ohio 71 – Opponents 48
- Punt return average: Ohio 11.2 yards – Opponents 3.6 yards
- Kickoff return average: Ohio 20.7 yards – Opponents 14.8 yards


Related Stories
2007 Ohio Preview - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  May 27, 2007
2007 Ohio Preview - Defense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  May 27, 2007
2007 Ohio Preview - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  May 27, 2007

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