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Ohio will try and use last year's last-second bowl loss as fuel for this season. The Bobcats lost 31-29 to Appalachian State after allowing the Mountaineers to go 70-plus yards down the field in less than two minutes for a game-winning field goal. With a good amount of talent returning, there's no reason this team can't be better and fight for the MAC East title.
Of course, Ohio will have to figure out its starting quarterback before considering winning the MAC. The battle is between two guys with limited experience in JD Sprague and Greg Windham. Sprague has more experience, but had offseason surgery and didn't practice in the spring, while Windham tossed four interceptions in just 40 pass attempts last year. Either way, it's not like last year's starter (Derrius Vick) was a game breaker.
The Bobcats are more of a run-focused team and things should remain that way with running back A.J. Ouellette (687 yards, 6 TDs) returning and he'll be flanked by the dynamic Papi White. The question will be along the offensive line where three starters are gone. They return two guys on the right side, but have a few questions on the left.
As a bonus for whoever gets the starting QB gig, all of the top receivers return. Sebastian Smith (64 receptions, 775 yards, 7 TDs) leads the way with Jordan Reid (616 yards, 5 TDs) and Brendan Cope (510 yards, 2 TDs). Not many teams can beat that kind of experience in the MAC.
Ohio's main faults came on the defensive side last year. While the overall numbers were good, allowing 25.3 points per game, the Bobcats allowed 49 to Western, 41 to Buffalo and 62 to Bowling Green in three-straight games. Obviously, those all led to losses.
With injuries being part of that problem, Ohio returns a decent amount of experienced players from that group. The line is mostly set with three full-time senior starters in tow, but also multiple other guys that have playing experience. Linebacker is the same situation, with Quentin Poling being one of the best defensive players in the league. Blair Brown and Chad Moore, two more players that won't be overwhelmed, join him.
The biggest question comes in the secondary where Ohio loses its top four corners from a year ago. The only returning starter is safety Toran Davis. Inexperience is filtered around him.
The Bobcats should match last year's non-conference record of three wins as long as they can win at Kansas. Otherwise, a road trip to Tennessee will be their only early loss. The MAC schedule isn't too bad as they host Bowling Green and Akron, their two main challengers in the East. Outside of that, road games at Toledo and Central will be Ohio's toughest conference games.
Eight wins are once again on the table for Ohio, but definitely not a certain. They could easily drop four conference games in the ones listed above. To no one's surprise their over/under at 5Dimes is at 7.5 with the over coming in at -165 in July. However, eight wins won't be easy with a new quarterback, offensive line and questionable secondary.
2016 Ohio Bobcats Football Schedule
Sept. 3 vs. Texas State
Sept. 10 at Kansas
Sept. 17 at Tennessee
Sept. 24 vs. Gardner-Webb
Oct. 1 at Miami (OH)
Oct. 8 vs. Bowling Green
Oct. 15 vs. Eastern Michigan
Oct. 22 at Kent State
Oct. 27 at Toledo
Nov. 3 vs. Buffalo
Nov. 15 at Central Michigan
Nov. 22 vs. Akron
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