Lukas Moore --
After what seemed an eternity, football will finally be back at Peden stadium this Saturday. Peden was a fortress for Ohio a year ago, the Bobcats finished 6-0 on their home turf. That 6-0 mark was one of many impressive numbers the talented 'Cats have produced in back-to-back seasons. However, missing out on Detroit has created a sense of urgency for the Bobcats. The pressure is on for Ohio, they're proverbial favorites to win the MAC, and falling short this year would sting.
Entering Peden to open the season is an FCS opponent, Rhode Island. The Rams went 6-5 last season, and they feel genuinely excited about the future of their program. Jim Fleming and the Rams will come to play, and have their eyes on an upset. But, when Frank Solich plays the FCS, victory has been a guarantee. Solich is 13-0 vs the FCS, with the closest contest coming a year ago in a 38-32 win against Howard.
The Bobcats still have to execute to win, but a tally in the win column isn't the only goal for a team with eyes on a MAC title.
How will the interior defensive line play?
Senior and former Juco transfer Cole Baker is the only returner on the interior who saw meaningful time in 2018. The only other upperclassmen at the position is RS senior Brian Arp, who will need to prove himself this season after barely seeing the field in 2018.
This leaves two RS sophomores, Marcus Coleman and Kai Caesar, to try and give depth at a position where depth is crucial. Saturday's contest should give Ohio a chance to see Arp, Coleman, and Caesar at game speed.
The Bobcats have talent on the edge of the defensive line, but that talent will go to waste if the interior falters. This is the position group new defensive coordinator Ron Collins needs to develop if he hopes to improve on Jimmy Burrow's 2018 unit.
How well will the offensive line play?
The Bobcats lost three all-conference offensive lineman from their 2018 team. One of those players was left tackle Joe Lowery, who was arguably the best player in the MAC last season. Austen Pleasants appears to be a solid replacement for Lowery, and he will need to lead the Bobcats line this season.
It's going to be nearly impossible for the 2019 offensive line to match the 2018 offensive line. But, they don't need to be the 2018 line to win the MAC. If they can just be 90% of 2018, they'll still be the best unit in the conference.
Rhode Island presents a great opportunity for the new Bobcats line to get their feet wet in 2019. If they struggle protecting Nathan Rourke in this one, it could be a long season of watching Rourke magically avoiding pressure.
Who is going to be the backup QB?
Frank Solich did not make it clear on Monday who the backup quarterback was going to be in 2019. Saturday will provide an excellent opportunity to see the Bobcats thought process with their quarterbacks. It's between the experienced Joe Mischler and the young but highly-talented Kurtis Rourke.
The new redshirt rule adds an interesting wrinkle for Ohio. Under previous circumstances the Bobcats would obviously redshirt Rourke to save a year of his eligibility. But, Rourke could play in 4 games and still maintain his redshirt season.
Hopefully the Bobcats will have a big enough lead that either Mischler or Rourke can showcase some of their talents against an FCS opponent.