2013 TEAM OVERVIEW
Conference: MAC (East Division)
Location: Athens, Ohio
Returning starters: 14 (8 offense, 6 defense)
2012 record: 9-4 (4-4 MAC)
Sept. 1 -- at Louisville, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Sept. 7 -- North Texas, 7 p.m. (ESPN3)
Sept. 14 -- Marshall, 8 p.m. (ESPN3)
Sept. 21 -- Austin Peay, 2 p.m.
Oct. 5 -- at Akron, 2 p.m.
Oct. 12 -- Central Michigan, 2 p.m.
Oct. 19 -- at Eastern Michigan, 1 p.m.
Oct. 26 -- Miami, 2 p.m.
Nov. 5 -- at Buffalo, 8 p.m. (ESPN2 or ESPNU)
Nov. 12 -- at Bowling Green, 7:30 p.m. (ESPNU/ESPN3)
Nov. 19 -- Kent State, 8 p.m. (ESPN2/ESPNU)
Nov. 29 -- Massachusetts, TBD (ESPNU/ESPN3)
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SEASON BREAKDOWN & PREDICTION (courtesy of USA Today's Paul Myerberg)
In a nutshell: Despite the returning pieces on offense, I don't think this quite as good a team as the one that stormed out of the gate to open last season before crawling to the finish line amid an onslaught of injuries. The issues are the interior of the offensive line, the depth at receiver, the question marks along the defensive line, the new look from the front seven and the kicking game. In a way, however, each of these issues can be addressed by the start of MAC play – seeing that we'll know much about each perceived concern after Ohio takes on teams like Louisville and Marshall in September. Beating either team might be difficult, let alone both, but this is obviously a team with the potential to sew up its issues in fall camp or during non-conference play – and don't sleep on this coaching staff to do just that.
On the other hand, I'd be extremely surprised if Ohio wins less than six games in MAC play. Missing the top three teams from the MAC West helps, of course, but this team's combination of a high-test offense and a potential-laden defense makes it an easy to pick to take home the East Division. Just how good is this offense? NIU is a bit more explosive, but Ohio's backfield combination, elite tackle play and solid top grouping at receiver could make this the most prolific offense in school history. Very few teams can match the Bobcats' reliability at quarterback at running back; fewer still can match this consistency while touting two all-conference offensive tackles. Put simply, the offense is going to roll.
And even if I've hedged my bets with this defense, there's no ignoring the Bobcats' talent and experience in the secondary. Returning cornerbacks like Carrie and Shaw, along with Wells and Fisher, give the Bobcats depth at the position unmatched – or even neared – by any rival in the MAC. It's this secondary that will make Ohio dangerous to every team on this schedule. So what's the bottom line? Anything less than eight wins would be a disappointment. Ten wins is easily in play. Eleven wins remains a possibility. This team has its flaws, true, but Ohio remains the class of the East Division and NIU's biggest threat for the MAC crown.
READ MORE of USA Today's Preview (courtesy of Paul Myerberg) by CLICKING HERE