The Ohio Bobcats became bowl eligible with a shutout of Kent State last week. Ohio is out of the running for a Mid-American Conference (MAC) title, but a bowl appearance this season would be the seventh of head coach Frank Solich's tenure and by all accounts signify a fairly successful season. There are still two games left to play, the first of which is against Ball State.
Ball State visits the Bobcats on the back of losing a 54-7 blowout to Western Michigan. In that contest, the Cardinals allowed 711 yards of total offense while only putting up 152 of their own. Of the two remaining games on their schedule, Ohio appears to be the last chance for the Cardinals to get a win and salvage what they can from what has been an extremely disappointing season.
Ball State at Ohio
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Tuesday)
Spread: Ohio -9
Three Things to Watch
1. Can Ball State slow down Ohio's offense?
You could argue that the Bobcats have more weapons on offense than Western Michigan. That doesn't bode well for Ball State. Head coach Pete Lembo's Cardinals are giving up more than 500 yards of offense per game — only nine other FBS teams allow more. They have offensive talent — led by freshman quarterback Riley Neal. You may hear Neal's name called on Sundays in a couple of years, but right now, the talented gunslinger is carrying the weight of a putrid defense, dealing with the constant pressure of trying to keep pace with the opposition. For Ball State to have a chance in this one, the defense needs to make a few stops to allow Neal and the Cardinal offense to regroup on the sideline and be in a position to win a close one in the end.
2. Can Derrius Vick keep it going?
Vick was a man on fire last week against Kent State — both through the air and on the ground. He's the heartbeat of the Bobcat offense and he should have a field day against a fairly weak Ball State defense. Look for Vick to attack the Cardinals through the air early — targeting Sebastian Smith and Jordan Reid in an effort to build a comfortable lead before taking over with his legs.
3. The Scoreboard
In the 20 combined games these two squads have played this season, at least one of the teams put up 30 or more points. Neither defense is dominant, and both offenses have the ability to hang points in a hurry. The weather conditions appear to be nearly perfect at kickoff — especially considering it's mid-November. If you like high-scoring football games, this Tuesday night contest is right up your alley.
I don't see any way this ends well for Ball State. Ohio, starting with Derrius Vick at quarterback, is simply too dynamic on offense for the Cardinals to slow them down. The Bobcat receivers are going to demand attention early and often, which will soften the box for the Ohio running backs and designed runs for Vick. I do think Ball State can score on Ohio, and you'll likely see flashes of brilliance and what the future holds for freshman quarterback Riley Neal. That said, look for Ohio to control this one from start to finish.