This weekend will see a continuance of an annual tradition as the Sun Belt and MAC will meet up in bowl action. It starts this Saturday at 5:30 pm ET/4:30 pm CT in the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl live from Montgomery, Alabama. The games features the Appalachian State Mountaineers and the Ohio Bobcats.
In anticipation of this contest, Underdog Dynasty and the Hustle Belt got together to offer a Q&A for both sides regarding the game.You can catch the App State end of things at HustleBelt.com.
For the Ohio side of the story, we talked to Kaleb Carter (@Kaleb_M_Carter), Ohio student and Bobcat writer at the Hustle Belt.
TK: What would you say were the expectations before the season and looking back, how do the Bobcat fans feel about going 8-4, 5-3 and finishing 2nd in the MAC East?
Kaleb: Coming into this year, I'd say the expectations were for Ohio to be better, but I don't know that anybody expected there to be any type of big jump. There wasn't so much a lot of offensive firepower last year or this year, but Ohio did return a lot of its skill-position players and its entire line of starters from a year ago. I'd say winning this and going 9-4 would make this season a great success, despite the fact that it already has been.
TK: Ohio had a tough stretch where they got blown out in three straight games, but managed to rebound and win their final three games including the upset at Northern Illinois. What main factor would you attribute that turnaround to?
Kaleb: The reestablishment of the run game was HUGE for that stretch. Ohio battled some injuries, which included an injury to the best player on the team (sophomore linebacker Quentin Poling) and really struggled defensively in that stretch. In the Bowling Green game, we saw hints of the run game coming back to life and being made a priority once more. It really worked out for us after that. In all, three of those wins Ohio ran for at least 230 yards (NIU was the low total), and in the BG loss plus the subsequent two wins over Kent and BSU, the 'Cats ran for over 300 yards. So returning to health and the re-emphasis on the run game have been the main factors.
TK: Could you explain the Ohio quarterback situation this season if possible?
Kaleb: I'll admit, I have been very critical of the coaching staff and its seeming inability to make the jump to become champions. Given the poor history of this Ohio program, there has been a concurrent existence of people who are either completely happy with Ohio's current place in the MAC or who have been spoiled by recent success and expect even better. After those three straight losses I was feeling pretty distraught, but these last couple wins have me believing that this team can reach new heights. Who knows. The stability is there. Ohio can expect a .500 mark at least, and a bowl win is never out of reach. Maybe that's good enough...
TK: Looking at the match-up, how do you think Ohio has success in the game?
Kaleb: My heart says that Ohio should have success. This doesn't mean the Bobcats will dominate in any facet. I think that Ohio can run the ball effectively and make big plays. With a (mostly) healthy squad, this Bobcats team can shut down some pretty effective opposing offenses. Why not against App State?
I can see why App State is the favorite, but I see Ohio's healthy and rested defense coming through when it matters as the run game pushes it ahead for the W. I have Ohio winning 34-31.