It wasn't that long ago when Ohio was ranked in the Top 25. Back on Oct. 27, an undefeated Bobcats squad lost at a 3-4 Miami (OH) team. Since that day, Ohio has lost four of their five games with their only win coming against 2-10 Eastern Michigan. They get to face one of the five schools from the Sun Belt conference that made it to a bowl game, Louisiana-Monroe.
The Warhawks started the season with three tough games. They beat Arkansas in overtime, lost to Auburn in overtime and then took Baylor down to the wire in a 47-42 loss. Even though those two SEC teams had bad seasons for their standards, it's still impressive that LA-Monroe was able fight in each of them. Their only other two losses of the season came against Arkansas State and LA-Lafayette who are both at the top of the conference standings. Two of their most important wins came on the road against Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky, two schools playing in bowl games.
As for the Bobcats, they had one really good win to start the season at Penn State, but haven't done anything else to impress since then. Their four conference wins are over opponents with a combined 8-40 record. Against the top teams in the MAC, they didn't really compete. They lost by 25 points at Ball State and 22 points at Kent State to finish the season.
Behind a Top 25 scoring offense, the Warhawks come in as 7-point favorites.
Quarterback Kolton Browning does everything for their offense in his third year as the starter. On the season, he has thrown for 2,830 yards, 27 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. In addition to that, he leads the team in rushing with 441 yards and seven TDs. Their only two conference losses came when Browning was hurt if that says anything about his importance. LA-Monroe has three different receivers with at least 50 receptions, but Brent Leonard leads the way with 97. To go with that, Leonard has 1,042 yards and 10 TDs. He has at least eight catches and 93 yards in five straight games. Their running game has been a problem all season due to season-ending injuries, mainly to former starter Jyruss Edwards. Monterrell Washington has stepped in, but he still hasn't done much. His season-high is 62 yards and in the final game of the season he led the team in rushing with five carries for seven yards. If that happens again, this could easily be a close game.
Ohio's defense has had trouble against some of the better teams and even against some of the bad teams. They gave up 34 and 28 points to two 1-11 teams, Massachusetts and Akron.
The Bobcats know they will need to score in this game which is something they've had trouble with lately averaging just 16 points in their last three contests. Even with these scoring deficiencies, their numbers aren't all that bad. QB Tyler Tettleton doesn't have eye-popping numbers, but he has 16 TDs compared to only three INTs. He doesn't throw games away and when you have a 1,500-yard rusher, that's very important. Beau Blankenship has been the spark in the Bobcats offense. He has hit 100 yards in eight of 12 games this year to go with 11 TDs. However, if they get behind early, Tettleton will need to throw more which isn't always a good thing. He'll look early and often to wide receiver Donte Foster who leads the team with 56 grabs and seven touchdowns.
We have more methods of looking at a game that suggest Ohio is the right side here, however, we are going to hang our hats on our model using season to date data that suggests UL Monroe wins this one by two touchdowns or more. We simply can't back a team coming into a bowl game having lost 3 in a row and 4 of 5 and that's against the weakest schedule in the nation. UL Monroe -7