With a win under their belt already, this season looks to be better than last by miles. With a suddenly optimistic look on the season, it’s time to look ahead to the next opponent for our Kansas Jayhawks: the Ohio Bobcats. To help with that, I reached out to Anthony Allocco over at Hustle Belt, the SB Nation community that covers the MAC. He was kind enough to answer a few questions for me.
RCT: Tell us a little bit about the Ohio Bobcats. About the only experience Jayhawk fans have with the university is when the basketball teams met in the 2012 NCAA tournament.
HB: The Ohio Bobcats are a team led by head coach Frank Solich who is entering his 12th year at the school. His no-nonsense demeanor probably stems from his playing days as an undersized fullback at Nebraska from 1963-1965. OU lies between the rolling Hocking Hills in the middle-of-nowhere Athens, meaning the whole town revolves around the school and its athletics; after all Ohio University is the largest employer in Athens County.
Ohio will spread teams out with formations to create more lanes for the zone read-option scheme with some bigger backs in Maleek Irons and Dorian Brown as the feature backs. Ohio lost AJ Ouellette, the starting running back, on the first drive of the season against Texas State which doesn't help since they were already breaking in new starting quarterback Greg Windham. Defensively, inexperience on the back end will be Solich's main concern here early on in the season.
RCT: What are the expectations for this season for the Bobcats? Finishing 8-4 and second in the East Division of the MAC before losing to Appalachian State in the Camellia Bowl on a last second field goal seems respectable, but is this a team on the rise or are they taking a step back this year?
HB: I projected Ohio to go 7-5 in my season preview but that included a win over Texas State. I still believe they could reach that mark by picking up a win against either Bowling Green or Buffalo later in the season, but Ohio will need to figure out the defensive issues to have a shot against either team. Realistically, the 5-7 or 6-6 range is about where Ohio should end up after seeing the opening week of action. Look for Ohio to be in plenty of shootouts this season with a high power offense and inexperienced defensive backfield.
RCT: What can we expect to see when Ohio is on offense? Losing in triple overtime while scoring 54 points seems to indicate this team has some weapons we can expect to be on display Saturday.
HB: When Ohio is on offense look to see them in the shotgun over 90% of the time with Greg Windham taking the snaps. He will almost always be joined by at least one running back, usually Dorian Brown or Maleek Irons who split carries, and three receivers will be out wide for him. If you are looking for big play potential, No. 4 Papi White will be in the slot and you aren't going to want to blink because this man is quick. After week one, White is in the top 25 nationally for all purpose yards (178) and will often times get 5-8 carries any given game.
Ohio will want to get the ball to tight-end Troy Mangen more as the season goes on. Mangen is a preseason Mackey Award Watch List tight-end who was only targeted once in the first week. On the outside, the team's top wide reciever Sebastian Smith has been limited coming off of a groin injury in camp, so Jordan Reid has stepped in to take over the role as top target for Windham while Smith eases back in. Windham impressed in week one behind center putting up huge numbers but fumbled at a crucial moment with less than 2:00 to play in regulation that ultimately gave Texas State the chance it needed to force overtime.
RCT: How about on defense? Giving up 56 to Texas State, a team that wasn't expected to be an offensive juggernaut this year, seems to indicate that there are some serious defensive holes. Where do you expect Kansas to hit hardest?
HB: Defensively, Ohio is baffled at giving up 56 points. Returning nearly everyone from the front seven, the defense was supposed to keep Ohio in games this season. Tarell Basham is the leader in the trenches and currently sits tied for the school career sacks record. The line-backing core of Quentin Poling, Chad Moore and Blair Brown are all returners from last season led undoubtedly by Poling. Poling was Ohio's leading tackler a year ago despite missing three games in the middle of the season due to injury.
The real problem for the Ohio defense is the secondary. The Bobcats lost all four starters from a year ago to graduation and the new starters have very little experience. Although it sounds impressive, it's concerning for Ohio that starting safety Toran Davis is currently 4th in the nation with 17 total tackles, meaning runners from Texas State reached the third level quite often. The inexperience in the secondary is likely why Texas State attempted 56 passes week one while only running the ball for 106 yards. Of the 42 rush attempts from Texas State, 19 were from QB Tyler Jones and the majority, if not all, were scrambles as he averaged just .6 yards per "carry" and was sacked six times.
RCT: Prediction Time! Does Ohio come in and steal one to send Kansas back into the football desert, or do the Jayhawks protect the home field?
HB: I think Kansas, in Kansas is too much for Ohio this week. I think we can both agree this should be a high scoring, new-school spread offense football game that takes three and a half hours or so. I believe Windham throws for 300 for the second straight week and adds on three more touchdowns. White returns a punt for a score, and Brown and Irons pick up one on the ground each. Kansas should, however, have a field day with the Ohio secondary as long a the Jayhawks can prevent the dominant Ohio front seven from reaching home in their many blitzing schemes. This one should be around 52-45 Jayhawks.
RCT: Which would you prefer to have, a personal assistant or a personal chef?
HB: Personal assistant no question. Growing up in an Italian household with two parents who can cook well, I picked up the trade and can cook well myself. During the fall with football and playoff baseball going on, there just isn't enough time to get all the things done I need to AND watch the games so a personal assistant could come in handy.
A big thanks goes to Anthony for his help this week. Be sure to check out all the MAC coverage over at Hustle Belt.