The Ohio Bobcats and Troy Trojans arrive in Mobile, Alabama, for the Dollar General Bowl fresh off of solid seasons where both teams nearly won conference titles. Their consolation prize is a trip to the Gulf Coast for what appears to be an underrated and hotly contested matchup between two of the finest programs in the Group of Five.
The Dollar General Bowl will feature a clash of styles, as Frank Solich's Bobcats subscribe to that stereotypical "rust belt" toughness — grinding out wins with a stingy defense and a consistent rushing attack. Troy head coach Neal Brown employs a more wide-open offensive style predicated on the big play. Defensively, the Trojans employ an aggressive, attacking approach that can be suffocating, but also leaves the door open for disciplined opponents to score on big plays of their own.
Dollar General Bowl: Ohio vs. Troy (Mobile, Ala.)
Kickoff: Friday, Dec. 23 at 8 p.m. ET
Where: Ladd-Peebles Stadium (Mobile, Ala.)
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Troy -4
Three Things to Watch
1. The Coaching Matchup: Old School vs. New School
Troy head coach Neal Brown is one of college football's youngest head coaches and a name to keep an eye on in the coming years when some high-profile jobs open up. As previously mentioned, he employs a "pin your ears back" style on both sides of the ball – an exciting brand of football that is sure to attract top-notch schools looking to re-energize their programs. For now, Brown needs to focus on facing one of the most seasoned head coached in the FBS ranks, Frank Solich. The Ohio Bobcats are a reflection of their coach — calm and calculated. Solich will have his team focused, disciplined and ready to pounce as soon at the Trojans take too big of a gamble on either side of the ball.
2. A Couple of Possible Future NFL Starters at Skill Positions
If you are looking for some future fantasy football "diamonds in the rough" or even some sleepers who could one day help your favorite NFL teams, this game has two players for you to keep an eye on. Ohio’s Sebastian Smith is your prototypical big-bodied No. 1 wide receiver. His size (6-3, 206) and leaping ability make him a nightmare to cover in the red zone, and his ability to win those jump balls could be the difference in this one.
When Troy has the ball, it won't be hard to notice Trojan running back Jordan Chunn. He's a big (6-1, 231), powerful back in the mold of LSU's Leonard Fournette. Chunn has no problem running over linebackers in the trenches and running past safeties in the open field. He'll be the x-factor for Troy against a physical Ohio defense.
3. Ohio Quarterbacks vs. Troy Secondary
We could see both Greg Windham and Quinton Maxwell under center in this game for the Bobcats. Regardless of who is taking the snaps and when, short, high-percentage passes are going to be Ohio's best bet for moving the ball through the air. Troy picked off 18 passes this season — seventh most in the FBS. The Trojans’ ball-hawking secondary will be foaming at the mouth for Ohio to take shots downfield and over the middle. It will all come down to the discipline of the Bobcats’ passing attack as to whether or not Troy can add a couple of more interceptions to their season total and change the momentum of what should be a close game.
This is going to be a fun game to watch on a Friday night, as two well-coached teams take turns delivering body shots. You get the sense, however, that Ohio might be on the defensive most of the time, trying to contain Troy's explosive offense and working too hard on not making its own mistakes when the Bobcats have the ball. That's not going to be a recipe for success against these Trojans, who are constantly attacking and playing to win by any means necessary. Look for a couple of early turnovers to be the catalysts that gives Troy the lead, allowing the team from the Sun Belt to control the rest of the game by feeding the ball to star running back Jordan Chunn.
Prediction: Troy 30, Ohio 20
— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. His work has appeared on SI.com, FoxSports.com, Yahoo! and Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.