Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Ohio, The State University

By Tiger Fan

Like many MU fans, I had a fleeting moment of terror the first time I looked at Sept. 23 on this year’s schedule and saw the word Ohio: “Oh crap, we’re playing the Buckeyes?” Upon further review, I was relieved to see that it was the Bobcats coming to town, not the No. 1 team in the nation. Not to belittle the Bobcats, but I think most anyone would rather play Ohio, the state university, than The Ohio State University.

It was after recovering from that scare that I realized how fun this game could be. You see, I have a bit of an extra stake in this one. I grew up in Cincinnati and roughly a third of my high school class went to OU, including several close friends of mine (one of whom will be in Columbia on Saturday). In fact, one of my friends once tried out to play quarterback for the OU football team. I know all about the O-Zone cheering section. I’m well-versed in the Shaq of the MAC. I’ve been to Athens, OH, several times (a fun town and a beautiful campus, but I’d recommend avoiding the Ruby Tuesday’s. Just trust me.). In fact, I even won a video game national title with the Bobcats on NCAA ’06.

These facts aside, playing OU offers a myriad of jokes. For starters, check out the definition of a bobcat. That’s right, their ferocious mascot is only slightly larger than your average house cat: 36 inches long and 16 to 30 pounds. Advantage: Mizzou. Then there’s the whole Frank Solich drunk-driving date-rape thing. It’s probably best that all the writers here at The Zou have graduated… because I can only imagine what inappropriate saying would be painted across the front of the Tiger’s Lair if we were still there. But enough about all that. There’s a game to be played.

Coaches

Tiger fans should remember Frank Solich from his days at Nebraska. Solich coached the Huskers from 1998-2003 and compiled an overall record of 58-19 during that time, including a 5-1 mark against the Tigers. Of course, the last time Solich coached in Columbia, Mizzou beat Nebraska for the first time in 25 years and the goalposts came down. Solich is now in his second season at Ohio. The Bobcats finished 4-7 last season, but did score a major non-conference victory over Pittsburgh on national television in the first home game of the Solich Era. His arrival has also brought increased interest in the program, including more donor money and a record crowd of 24,545 at the Pittsburgh game (yes, roughly half the size of the crowd we had for Murray State). Unfortunately, the biggest news of his tenure has been less than flattering: Solich was arrested for DUI in November of last year. Solich tried to fight the charges by pointing to evidence of GHB (a date-rape drug) in his system, but this was unsuccessful… not to mention even more embarrassing than the original incident. Still, Solich has a clear track record of success on the field. He was the Big XII Coach of the Year in 1999 and 2001 and has a career winning percentage over .700. Pinkel has none of these things… yet.

Advantage: Ohio

Defense

The Bobcats rank 17th in the nation in pass defense, which could be a concern for Mizzou fans because of the Tigers’ pass-happy spread attack. However, this ranking is inflated by the fact that Ohio’s last two games have been against Northen Illinois and Rutgers, two teams that love to run the ball. In those two games, opposing running backs racked up 196 and 195 yards, respectively. Tony Temple could have a big day if he hangs on to the ball. The more telling stat is that the Bobcats rank 46th overall in total defense. While Rutgers is a program on the rise, the Bobcats have yet to face an offense with Mizzou’s athleticism… and they definitely have not faced this kind of passing attack. Ohio is led on defense by senior linebackers Matt Muncy and Tyler Russ. Muncy is a third-year starter, a Lombardi Award candidate and a preseason All-MAC selection. He’s the one to watch on defense. The test will be how these linebackers can match up with Rucker and Coffman. My guess is that they won’t (mainly because the Tiger attack was able to completely neutralize preseason All-American Patrick Willis of Ole Miss), but I could be wrong… after all, I’ve never seen these guys. Still, you’ve got to give the defensive edge in this one to the nation’s No. 2 defense (that’s Mizzou) until someone proves otherwise. The Tigers have only given up three offensive touchdowns this season and all three have come in garbage time.

Advantage: Mizzou

Offense

After three games, the 2-1 Bobcats enter Saturday’s contest ranked 103rd in total offense and 67th in scoring offense. On paper, that doesn’t seem to match up well with the Tigers, who are averaging 485 yards a game, good enough for 5th in the country. So far this season, Mizzou has already scored five more touchdowns than Ohio. But that doesn’t mean the Bobcats are completely without weapons on offense. Senior QB Austen Everson started all 11 games for the Bobcats a year ago and has thrown for four touchdowns this season, including three against MAC rival Northern Illinois. Running back Kalvin McRae was a preseason All-MAC selection but so far this season, he has only rushed for more than 100 yards in one game. The Bobcat offense has been inconsistent: They struggled against Div. I-AA foe Tennessee-Martin but then racked up 510 yards of total offense against Northern Illinois. As evidenced by the offensive numbers, it looks like the Bobcats rely on a solid defense for not only field position, but also for putting points on the board. Quite frankly, they simply fall short of the Tigers athletically. Rumor has it that the Ohio O-line may be the team’s biggest weakness. If so, it’s going to be a long day going up against Brian Smith and Co.

Advantage: Mizzou

Special Teams

We all know that Mizzou’s special teams can be a little bit… well… special. Our net punting average is 32.8 yards per punt, which ranks the Tigers 86th in the country. That’s more than five yards per punt shy of OU’s average. Also, the Bobcats have one of the top 20 return games in the country, averaging more than 15 yards per return. Nothing jumps out about the Ohio placekicking game on paper, but we all know Mizzou’s is nothing to write home about either. The good news for the Tigers is that the Bobcats struggle to protect on kicks, as they had a punt and field goal blocked last week. The big guys up front for the Tigers have already shown a propensity this year to block kicks, so don’t be surprised if they come up with another big play on Saturday.

Advantage: Even… and completely unpredictable

Bottom Line

Ohio may be the best team the Tigers have played so far this season. They knocked off a tough Northern Illinois team on the road that hung with the Buckeyes for a while in the opening week of the season. Don’t be surprised if the Bobcats make some noise in the MAC this year and finish with a winning record. Solich has things headed in the right direction. That being said, I can’t see the Tigers losing on Saturday. They just have too much offensive firepower and too much speed and athleticism on defense. The Bobcats may hang around for a while, but I’m guessing Mizzou will eventually wear them down and win big, 31-10.

7 comments:

YSG said...

I was feeling good about this game until you said they beat Northern Illinois on the road. My grandfather taught there, so I know about their team. Those guys are good. This could be the non conference trap game now.

Rocky Mountain Tiger said...

SOLICH SUCKS AS DRUNK DRIVER...
That's 28 characters but lacks the typical subtle nature of the Tigers' Lair jabs.

Rocky Mountain Tiger said...

SOLICH A BIG DRUNK CHEATER!!
FRANK: IT'S LIQUOR BEFORE BEER (though that one would call for someone to be a colon and someone else to be an apostrophe. This is my favorite one so far, however.)

LDelaveris said...

As an O-Zone alum, I just wanted to point this one out. Now tell me you're not intimidated.

OHIO TIGHT END LOGAN FINED FOR PUNCHING HORSE

ATHENS, Ohio -- An Ohio University football player who authorities said punched a police horse pleaded no contest to disorderly conduct Wednesday in Athens and was fined $100.

Corey Logan of Columbus also has been ordered to perform 20 hours of community service.

Police say that Logan, a 22-year-old senior tight end, punched a horse ridden by an officer outside a bar in April. Logan denied that he punched the horse, saying he put his hand on it when the animal's head ran into him.

Logan said that football officials told him the case wouldn't hurt his status with the team.

Tiger Fan said...

Oh no! How could I forget about the horse-punching tight end?

But in all seriousness, I hear Martin Rucker once punched a shark...

PWILL said...

I think this is a definite trap game, however I feel differently about this Mizzou team than in years past. Chase Daniel gives me great comfort because he's not one dimensional, no offense Brad Smith. I've heard several national sports commentators say that Ohio is a better MAC team that Toledo, so that worries me a bit. I'll remind you that Toledo almost beat Iowa State in Ames and then as we all know thankfully beat Kansas. However, since Pinkel comes from the MAC, I'm hoping he makes sure his team respects Ohio. If so, I'm saying Mizzou wins 31-10.

jdb said...

After seeing the tail-end of last week's OU game when their offense simply ceased to be productive, I doubt there's much for Mizzou fans to fear. Except for the horse puncher. That's scary.
In that spirit, how about this for the Lair:
MIZZOU DONKEY PUNCHES BOBCATS
http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=donkey+punch