As we countdown to kickoff in September, we’re going to be doing a team-by-team opponent preview each week over the summer. This week, we’re previewing Syracuse’s matchup with Ohio on Sept. 4 with three major storylines.
ALBIN TAKES OVER
Ohio is coming off a Covid-shortened 2020 season in which they went 2-1 with decisive wins over fellow MAC East division foes Akron and Bowling Green.
Following the 2020 season, long time head coach Frank Solich stepped down after 16 seasons. Solich, who was famously fired from Nebraska after a 9-3 season, went 115–82 at Ohio, most wins ever in the MAC, and won his last three bowl games prior to the pandemic.
The Bobcats promoted offensive coordinator Tim Albin, who arrived with Solich in 2005.
Albin led the Bobcats to seven of the top ten offensive scoring seasons in Ohio University history. He also has an NAIA Football Coach of the Year award for his time as the head coach of Northwestern Oklahoma State, earning an undefeated record and an NAIA National Championship in 1999.
BATTLE CONTINUES FOR STARTING QB
The leader of Albin’s offensive attack comes down to a battle between Armani Rogers, the electric dual-threat transfer from UNLV, and Kurtis Rourke, the younger brother of three-time All-MAC Quarterback Nathan Rourke.
Neither player had a chance to show much in the three games that were the 2020 season, though Rourke took the majority of the snaps and finished with 386 yards and three touchdowns on the year. Meanwhile, Rogers threw for 48 yards and a score.
Though Rogers is a former four-star recruit and started 18 games at UNLV, it appears that Rourke has the upper hand heading out of camp. Rourke underwent a rigorous offseason training regime designed to improve his strength and speed.
It’s paid off as he has taken most of the first teams reps, showing a good connection with receivers Isiah Cox, Cam Odom, James Bostic and Jake Neatherton.
Bostic will be an intriguing target for either quarterback. A redshirt senior, who transferred in from Vanderbilt, he has taken first team reps. Jerome Buckner has also caught some attention during camp.
DEFENSE SHOWING IMPROVEMENT
Ohio’s defense looked good in limited action last year. Although they gave up 30 points in the season opening loss to Central Michigan, they allowed just 10 points to both Akron and Bowling Green in the following two games.
While it was a small sample size, in the three games, the Bobcats surrendered 193.7 rushing yards per game. Ohio lost Austin Conrad from its defensive front, but every other starter from the front returns, including tackle Kyle McCracken (seven total tackles in 2020).
In the secondary, defensive back Jett Elad appeared poised for a breakout 2020, collecting two interceptions in three games. Safety Jarren Hampton is also looking to build on 2019 when he finished with 71 stops and five broken up passes.
The Orange is actually 1-point underdogs to the Bobcats according to www.bettingsites.ng, which means the game is essentially a coin flip, a rarity for a Power 5 team playing a Group of 5 conference.