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New Orleans Bowl
Teams: Ohio (8–4) vs. Troy (7–5)
Date: Dec. 18, 2010, 9 p.m. Eastern
Location: Superdome, New Orleans, La.
Two solid but under-the-radar programs with similarly unsung coaches clash in the Superdome. Frank Solich’s Ohio Bobcats are playing in bowl for the second consecutive season — a first in program history — after a second-place finish in the MAC East, while Larry Blakeney’s Troy Trojans are one of only five programs in the nation to win five consecutive conference titles.
Despite a recent history of success for these two, there’s still a degree of hunger that should add some intensity to the matchup. The two schools are woefully short on postseason success, having combined for a record of 1–8 in bowl games. Ohio is seeking its first bowl win in its fifth appearance, while Troy is 1–4 in its postseason appearances.
When Ohio has the ball
What the Bobcats lack in explosiveness, they compensate for with balance. Ohio just might be the most balanced offensive team in college football; the Bobcats are averaging 168.8 yards on the ground and 168.5 yards through the air, meaning that Troy can’t focus on one at the expense of the other. Senior quarterback Boo Jackson (a school-record 35 career TD passes) and senior wideout Terrence McCrae (a school-record 19 TD catches) present a formidable pass-catch combo, while the Bobcats can also turn to running specialist Phil Bates at the quarterback position. However, Jackson's status for the game is a question mark due to academic issues. Even if Jackson is unable to play, the Ohio offense should be in good hands with Bates under center.
Troy’s defense has proved vulnerable this season, ranking 93rd nationally in total defense (418.3 ypg) and 92nd in scoring defense (31.0 ppg). But the Trojans do have a weapon in sophomore end Jonathan Massaquoi, who led the Sun Belt with 17½ tackles for a loss and was tied for seventh nationally with .92 sacks per game.
When Troy has the ball
The Trojans bring a potent spread attack to New Orleans keyed by quarterback Corey Robinson, who led the Sun Belt with 3,320 passing yards. Troy racked up a conference-best 441.1 yards per game, including 303.6 through the air, and scored 30 or more points nine times, including three times in a losing effort. In their most recent appearance, the Trojans scored 30 first-half points against FAU and piled up 483 yards of total offense.
They’ll get more than token resistance from an Ohio defense that surrendered only 332.7 yards per game. Still, Robinson figures to find some success against a Bobcat secondary that allowed Ohio State’s Terrelle Pryor to complete 16 straight passes at one point in a 43–7 Buckeye win.
The Trojans possess an effective all-purpose weapon in receiver-returner Jerrel Jernigan, who ranks eighth nationally in all-purpose yardage with 165.08 and helps the Trojans enjoy a decided advantage on special teams. Jernigan took a kickoff back for a score against Oklahoma State earlier this season.
Troy NCAA Rankings (out of 120 teams)
Rush Offense: 64 (151.3 ypg)
Pass Offense: 12 (289.8 ypg)
Scoring Offense: 27 (32.9 ppg)
Rush Defense: 80 (170.8 ypg)
Pass Defense: 101 (247.6 ypg)
Scoring Defense: 92 (31 ppg)
Turnover Margin: 66 (-.17)
Ohio NCAA Rankings (out of 120 teams)
Rush Offense: 39 (169.2 ypg)
Pass Offense: 105 (158.4 ypg)
Scoring Offense: 53 (28 ppg)
Rush Defense: 14 (115 ypg)
Pass Defense: 61 (217.7 ypg)
Scoring Defense: 34 (21.8 ppg)
Turnover Margin: T-85 (-.42)
Troy by 3