Ever wonder what happened to Frank Solich?
You remember that guy: He was a coach at the University of Nebraska for six seasons. He was the loyal lieutenant who took over Tom Osborne’s Cornhuskers, proof positive that it’s never good to be the guy who replaces The Guy. After compiling a 64-19 record as Nebraska boss, Solich was ruthlessly and controversially fired in favor of Beau Bridges. (Okay, no, it wasn’t Beau Bridges; it was Bill Callahan, who looked like Bridges.)
Solich took a year off, then in 2005 took over the moribund football program at Ohio University (which is, if I may digress, a long way in prestige, if not geography, from Ohio State University. ). Jim Grobe made Ohio a good, but not great, MAC team after taking over an 0-11 program in 1995, but Grobe jumped into Wake Forest after the 2000 season (and let’s face it, he didn’t exactly have the best Ohio record: 33-33-1). Between Grobe and Solich came four years of Brian Knorr, who undid almost everything Grobe did, to a tune of 11-35. Solich took office last year and went 4-7.
Things have been better in 2006. Ohio is 6-3 overall and 4-1 in the ever-exciting MAC, currently tied with Kent St. at MAC East (and owning the tiebreaker, having beaten the Golden Flashes on the road last). week). It’s not a great team by MAC standards, but it did win four in a row, the best of the conference, including an unexpected win at the University of Illinois just three weeks ago. What’s done the best for the Bobcats has been their defense: They are currently 15th in the nation in terms of passing yards allowed per game, and they have intercepted seven passes compared to allowing eight TDs. Ohio has traveled to Rutgers, Missouri, and Illinois (plus a silly game against I-AA Tennessee-Martin); If you only count the team’s five conference games, they have allowed just over 15 points and 278 total yards per game. On the typically high-flying MAC, that’s pretty cool. The Bobcats have eight returning starters on offense, and it looks like they’re rebounding too, especially on the field: During this four-game winning streak, Ohio is averaging 26.5 points scored and 210 rushing yards per game. At the same time, they have the 108th best passing offense in Division 1 soccer; this really is a mini-Nebraska around Three Yards And A Cloud Of Dust.
On the road against East Michigan this week, I think it will work. The Eagles rank 106th nationally in rushing yards allowed per game (a whopping 181), and they also give up 4.9 yards per carry. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a blinking red light. East Michigan allowed 178 rushing yards to West Michigan last weekend, 175 to Toledo before that, 159 to Bowling Green before that, 179 to Louisiana-Lafayette before that, 176 to Central Michigan … oh Hell, you get the point. This massive quick defense number is not an outlier – the Eagles are challenged on the defensive side of the ball. Also, offend, Jeff Genyk’s team has scored 16 points per conference game, the worst MAC. Three different quarterbacks have started for Genyk, Andy Schmitt, Tyler Jones and Dontayo Gage, but the team’s sacks and interceptions outweigh their touchdown passes. Overall, Eastern Michigan is 1-7 and 1-4 in MAC games.
Ohio has probably been better at home than on the road, although its only conference loss was in Athens. Eastern Michigan has only hosted two games so far this year and will play three of its next four at Ypsilanti. This line opened in Ohio by 4.5, but quickly approached 6.5. But the trends are looking good for the Bobcats, too. They are 4-0 against the spread during this modest winning streak, and 4-1 ATS in their conference games this year. Eastern Michigan, meanwhile, is 1-4 ATS against winning teams, and 2-5 ATS as a local underdog. Most of all, I like Solich’s running game, driven by Kalvin McRae and his 11 touchdowns, to dominate the clock and the scoreboard against East Michigan, challenged by the running defense. The march to the MAC title game continues this weekend, and I’ll take Ohio (-6.5) into eastern Michigan.
Last week: Ohio State didn’t even bother to make it interesting against Minnesota, shutting out the hapless Gophers, 44-0. Taking the Buckeyes and giving all 27 was the right thing to do, and that’s why I’m extremely glad I recommended that you do it. That coverage puts us at 6-3 against the spread so far this year.