Start Time: Saturday, September 3rd - 2:30 PM CST
Location: Peden Stadium, Athens, Ohio
TV: CBS Sports Network
Stream: CBS Sports Network
Radio: Free audio via txstatebobcats.com
Betting Line: Ohio -21, O/U 60
Series Record: First Meeting
Ohio Coverage: Hustle Belt
It’s definitely a game of firsts in Athens this weekend. Not only will Texas State play their first game with head coach Everett Withers at the helm, it will also be the first ever FBS match up between two programs with Bobcat mascots. Underdog Dynasty Dot Com, your source for the most pressing statistics in college football, folks.
While Ohio has been a model of consistency this decade they will be breaking in a new starter under center. Fifth-year senior Greg Windham Jr. will finally have an opportunity to lead his Bobcats’ offense after taking a tragic and twisting route through his college career. Windham’s perseverance and faith is inspiring in an era flush with playing time demands and frequent transfers.
Despite the injection of a new starter at quarterback, things remain the same for the program overall. Ohio has been bowl-eligible through the past seven seasons under Frank Solich and this season doesn’t project to be anything out of the norm. Leading rusher A.J. Ouellette returns after rushing for six touchdowns and 687 yards in 2015. Windham Jr. will also have four towering targets returning in the passing game. Sebastian Smith, Jordan Reid, Brendan Cope, and Troy Mangen all check in at 6’2” or taller. These options should help the offense overcome the loss of three starters on the offensive line without too much heartache.
Ohio’s main concern will be on the defensive side of the ball where Solich will seek to replace the entire defensive backfield. The Bobcats did get a nice boost in that regard this offseason when safety Kevin Houchins Jr. transferred to Athens from Louisville. Houchins graduated from UL so he’ll be eligible to play against Texas State.
The Bobcats may be inexperienced in the secondary but the linebacker and defensive line are in pretty good shape. Linebackers Quentin Poling, Blair Brown, and Chad Moore return, accounting for 22% of the defense’s tackling output in 2015. Ohio also returns plenty of beef on the line including defensive ends Kurt Laseak and Tarell Basham. The duo combined for 17 tackles for loss and 9 sacks last season.
Texas State Outlook
With Texas State set to begin the Withers era, questions are abundant. After a grueling offseason program sent a multitude of players packing, Withers will be forced to find ways to win this season with scholarship numbers near what he had to work with at James Madison.
Texas State has an explosive yet inconsistent senior quarterback leading the offense in Tyler Jones. He’ll have some great running backs to work with in Stedman Mayberry, Tyler Siudzinski, and Tyler Tutt but the rest of the offense has a lot to prove. Not a single wide receiver on the roster has caught a pass in a game at the collegiate level. The starting offensive line looks to be a strength but will be in dire straights if a second-string player needs to step in as the unit’s reserves average out to just 270 pounds.
Defensively the Bobcats will be moving to a three man front on defense as they seek to combat the proliferation of the spread offense. The defensive line will be bracketed by two freshmen defensive ends in Dean Taylor and Jordan Mittie. Taylor will be particularly interesting to follow as he only played one year of varsity football in high school after growing up as a Californian skateboarder (really). Texas transfer Easy Anyama earning a starting spot at outside linebacker and should be a disruptive force blitzing off the edge.
Ohio will definitely seek to do most of their damage on the ground but they will have a size advantage over Texas State’s cornerbacks should they seek to exploit it. At 5’10” and 5’11”, Brandon McDowell and Clarence Guidry III will need to play off the receivers eyes and attack their hands through the pass in order to prevent aerial fireworks from Ohio.
Simply put, this is a really, really poor match up for Texas State in their first game under Withers. Ohio is big, tough, experienced, and ready to compete. Some mental mistakes from Ohio quarterback Greg Windham Jr. could keep this game close but they should be able to control the tempo on the ground for a comfortable victory at home. If Tyler Jones is able to regain the accuracy he displayed in the 2014 season then Texas State could cover a large point spread.
Ohio 42 Texas State 24