Michael Roth --
Ohio Football’s 2019 OOC schedule has similarities to 2018
Ohio football is back and before they try and win that elusive MAC championship, the Bobcats have four games to play. Last season, Ohio almost lost to FCS opponent Howard. The Bobcats then lost back to back games to Virginia and Cincinnati, with the latter one being heartbreaking with a late turnover at the goal line. Ohio then bounced back with a 58-42 victory against Umass.
The biggest difference last season was the defensive resurgence in the second half of the season. Some might’ve presumed it was due to facing easier offenses to stop in the MAC, but then Ohio blanked SDSU 27-0 in the Frisco Bowl.
So what does 2019 have in store for Ohio?
The Bobcats once again open up the season with an FCS opponent coming to Peden Stadium. This year it will be Rhode Island coming down to Athens. Rhode Island went 6-5 last season and lost to the only FBS opponent they took on last season in Connecticut.
I’d be surprised if Ohio got as much trouble with Rhode Island as Howard, but this isn’t a total cakewalk where Ohio can sleepwalk to a blowout.
Ohio then is scheduled to go on the road against an ACC school. If you remember last season the Bobcats were scheduled to face Virginia in the second game of the year, but that got moved due to weather. The Bobcats proceeded to fall in Nashville to the Cavaliers.
This year Ohio is facing the reigning ACC coastal champs, the Pitt Panthers. Pitt is projected to be around the middle of the pack in the ACC and returns 64% of production on offense and defense according to S&P+. Pitt is projected to have the 65th best offense and 53rd best defense in the country according to S&P+. This matchup could be the toughest of the season for the Bobcats. According to S&P+ Ohio is an 8.2 point underdog and have only a 32% chance of pulling the upset in Pittsburgh.
Last season in game 3 Ohio took on a highly rated in state G5 program in Cincinnati, this year they renew an old rivalry with Marshall. Ohio won the last meeting 21-10 in September of 2015 and leads the all time series 33-20. The Thundering Herd are coming off a successful 2018 with nine total victories. This year Marshall is again picked to be one of the top teams in Conference USA. Marshall is projected to have the 111th best offense and 37th best defense in the nation according to S&P+. Ohio and Marshall have very similar projected team strength and that is shown in the projected spread of this game. Marshall is projected as a 3.2 point favorite and most of that is due to home field advantage in this game. I’d expect this game to be just as competitive as Ohio’s 2018 battle with Cincinnati was.
Last year Ohio wrapped up non conference play against Umass, but will be challenged more in 2019. Ohio is taking on the reigning Sun Belt South division champs, the Louisiana Ragin Cajuns. After a 7-7 season last year, they signed one of the best recruiting classes in their history. This year they are projected to have the 56th best offense and 114th best defense in the nation according to S&P+. This game should be more tightly contested than the Umass game was expected to be. Ohio is a projected 7.8 point favorite and a 67% chance to win according to S&P+.
Overall this is a pretty difficult schedule for Ohio. I’d expect the Bobcats to win their opening game against Rhode Island, but after that each game could go either way. Ohio is about a touchdown favorite against Louisania and a touchdown underdog to Pitt. Expecting a 1-1 mark in those two games should be fair. The Marshall rivalry game will most likely be the one that determines how successful the non conference portion of 2019 is for Ohio. If Ohio can win, a 3-1 OOC should give Ohio momentum to MAC play. If Ohio falls to their rivals, they will likely finish 2-2 before opening up MAC play, the same record they had in 2018.
What do you think Ohio’s record will be in the non conference portion of the schedule in 2019? What should be the goal? What should the expectations be?