For the first time this season, I'm returning to a well that ran dry.
Back in Week 10, I took Frank Solich's Ohio University Bobcats, giving 6.5 points to Eastern Michigan. Alas, Ohio won 16-10. And I said: argh.
But I still love the story over in Athens. The Bobcats just clinched the MAC East, and will play Central Michigan for the overall MAC title next week. Just winning their division gave Ohio their first football title of any kind since 1968. All those people who thought the University of Nebraska were morons for dropping Solich after some pretty successful years can feel smart; In just his second season at the Bobcats' helm, Solich has led this program to heights not even Jim Grobe (currently winning raves as Wake Forest's head man) reached here in the late 1990s.
All that's left for the Bobcats before the title game is some unfinished business with their archrivals, Miami of Ohio.
This has not been much of a rivalry of late. The RedHawks have won six straight over the Bobcats, and 11 out of 12. But this season, the tables have turned. Miami (OH), a perennial MAC powerhouse over the past decade and the former home of Ben Roethlisberger, has suffered a bevy of injuries, and will post its first losing season since 1994: they're 2-9 overall, and 2-5 in the MAC. Meanwhile, Ohio is 8-3 overall and 6-1 in the conference, their first winning season since 2000. The Bobcats are a superior team, but the question is: with nothing but pride to play for, will Ohio rest its best players just six days away from the MAC title game?
Solich says no. He and the Bobcats want to win this game badly. Star running back Kelvin McRae has a six-game streak of 100+ yards rushing, and he wants it to continue. Ohio also has a four-game streak of preventing 10 points or fewer to opponents, and a six-game winning streak overall. And most importantly, there's the fact that this is a game against Miami, a school that's absolutely waxed the Bobcats over and over the past decade. Check out the last five scores: 38-7 (2005), 40-20 (2004), 49-31 (2003), 38-20 (2002), 36-24 (2001). If this really is going to be a dream season in Athens, Ohio University has to beat Miami of Ohio, and beat them soundly.
Even better, Ohio's strength, running the ball, matches up perfectly with Miami's greatest fatigue. The Bobcats average 148 yards rushing per game; the RedHawks allow 162 a game. What Miami has done best is stop the pass, but you will not see Ohio try and throw more than, say, 15 or 20 times all game. And while Miami is an extremely pass-happy offense (35 attempts per game), the Bobcats have allowed just 160 passing yards per game, second-best in the MAC and 12th-best in the nation. Solich's team dominates time of possession with its running game, rarely throws to the wide receivers, lets the quarterback …