Opponent Breakdown: Ohio Bobcats

Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE

They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks, but Ohio coach Frank Solich adopted the spread offense at Ohio and has turned the Bobcats into a top team in the MAC.

Louisville will start it's bid for a second straight BCS game invite against the Ohio Bobcats of the MAC conference. The Bobcats are coming off a 9-4 season where they beat Penn State in Happy Valley. Former Nebraska coach Frank Solich took over the program after a solid run as the coach of the Cornhuskers. He relied heavily on the old school triple option attack there, but he has kept up with the times well and deploys a spread option attack in Athens.

OFFENSE:

You can't run a successful spread option without a capable quarterback. What made Ohio's offense so powerful last year, however, is the combination of quarterback Tyler Tettleton and running back Beau Blankenship. The duo combined for 380 of the 444 total yards the offense put up per game last year. That's not unheard of in college football, but it typically shows the limitations of the offense a bit. Florida had a similar issue last year. There wasn't a ton of versatility to the offense and it rendered it one dimensional at times. The major difference that we will see this weekend is much better quarterback play. Tettleton is capable of beating you with his arm if the run game isn't working. He is accurate, he has plenty of arm strength, and most importantly, he protects the ball. Tettleton only threw four interceptions last year and finished with eighteen touchdown passes. He will easily add his name to the long list of running quarterbacks that gave Louisville fits if he isn't contained in the read option. He's an experienced guy that knows exactly what read to make and exactly what angle to take to make sure he's getting positive yardage. He has the exact skill set you need to be a good read option quarterback.

Blankenship was one of the most productive running backs in the country last year. He ran for over 100 yards in all but four games and he was really only "shut down" by Marshall in a game Ohio won. He is a load of a guy that can gash a defense between the tackles or off tackle. He fits the spread option well because he is a north-south guy that runs behind his pads and has good acceleration. Louisville had nightmare moments last year against the spread and backs like Blankenship were the reason why. Backup, Ryan Boykin is no slouch either. He's a big back that can push the pile between the tackles.

Ohio pretty much lost all of it's depth at wideout from last year. Leading receiver Donte Foster returns, but the next two leading receivers have graduated. Foster is a possession guy that is utilized all over the field. He is used in motion a lot and is the primary target in most play action for the offense. He can rack up a lot of catches quickly if you don't key on him. The big surprise I noticed while watching some highlights and a couple of games is how big of a threat Chase Cochran is. To be pretty blunt, if you blitz, Tettleton will look to push the ball downfield and Cochran will more than likely get behind your defense. He averaged 17 yards per catch, and has genuine speed. We will see how effective he is with an increased role in the offense, as he was used mostly in the slot last year. The rest of the weapons Tettleton will have are somewhat of an unknown. He didn't have as big of a year last season without former star LaVon Brazil, so it will be interesting to see how productive he is without a proven stable of receivers.

Ohio will be replacing two starters on its offensive line just like Louisville. They battled injuries last season as well as some in the offseason. Tettleton's rushing numbers look suspect from last season mostly because the line gave up 27 sacks. The offense in general didn't have an enormous amount of negative plays, but for a quick strike type of offense, it had more than I'm sure they would've liked. Louisville was pretty much terrible at making plays behind the line last year, so Ohio has to make sure they take advantage of that and get the running game going early.

KEY PLAYERS: QB Tyler Tettleton, RB Beau Blankenship, WR Donte Foster, LT John Prior

DEFENSE:

Three of Ohio's 6 listed returning starters on defense are also listed as second teamers on their depth chart entering this season. The Bobcats were ravaged by injuries last year which has actually led to a decent amount of depth at cornerback. Starters Jamil Shaw and Travis Carrie both missed last season and still beat out last seasons starters this fall. That leaves the Bobcats with four experienced corners even with 2012 starter Larenzo Carter being suspended. So they do have some depth on defense, but they lost a lot of production from last year. The front seven returns only one true starter in Linebacker Keith Moore. Moore led the team in tackles and will key the defenses efforts in stopping Louisville's run game. He's not an unbelievably fast player, but he goes hard every play and he's a solid tackler.

Nose Guard Antione Crutcher was a very good rotation guy that I personally think is there best returning lineman. He's a big guy at 300 pounds and he's extremely active. He finished the season with 40 tackles as a backup, which is absurd as a backup at that position. He and Ty Branz are two guys to keep an eye on on the defensive line. There are no returning starters and no real impact guys to really key on, but Branz and Crutcher produced when given the opportunity and that can easily translate into breakout years for both now that they are starters.

Strong Safety Josh Kristoff is listed as the potential starter at both safety spots because Frank Solich is a next level troll, apparently. I honestly have no clue where he will line up, but because they like to play one safety deep at times, I expect to see Kristoff to stay in a position that saw him finish third on the team in tackles. Whoever lines up next to him will have game experience, but I'm not sure exactly who that person will be at this point.

Their base defense is a standard 4-3, but they like to play a versatile nickel as well. They can go with a 3-3-5 or a traditional 4-2-5 also. Its nothing elaborate, but nickel back Nate Carpenter gives them a lot of options, as he can line up in pass coverage or run support. Carpenter is an undersized guy at 5-9 and he plays like a guy that has to prove something. He's all over the place and makes plays wherever he ends up. He will have a huge task keeping up with Eli Rogers and Robert Clark, while also playing contain in the run game with B.J. Butler and Gerald Christian coming at him.

KEY PLAYERS: OLB Keith Moore, SS Josh Kristoff, CB Travis Carrie, NB/LB Nate Carpenter

Notes:

  • QB Greg Windham and CB Larenzo Carter were arrested on felony drug charges this week.
  • Beau Blankenship has or had dreadlocks at some point.
  • Tyler Tettleton is the son of former Major League Baseball player Micky Tettleton.
  • Blankenship and Tettleton were high school teammates.
  • Frank Solich fell off a tricycle this summer.
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