December 18, 2010/9:00 pm Eastern
New Orleans, Louisiana – Superdome
This may not seem like an intriguing matchup on paper, but these two schools are usually strong contenders in their respective conferences. Both teams were right in contention for their conference championships this season.
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Ohio seemed to be destined to play in the MAC Championship game. The Bobcats got off to a sluggish 1-3 start, but reeled off seven straight wins before losing improbably to a below .500 Kent State squad. Their 28-6 loss led interstate rival Miami (OH) to claiming the MAC East crown and ultimately the entire conference.
As for Troy, they once again were in contention for the Sun Belt crown just like most years. The Sun Belt is in no way a good conference, but the Trojans have been a staple in bowl games for the past three seasons. Troy is battle tested having played both Oklahoma State and South Carolina in their non conference slate. Their surprising loss to UL Monroe led to them not winning the conference crown as Mario Cristobal’s FIU Golden Panthers swiped the title away from the Trojans’ grasp.
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- Ohio: A key problem for Ohio throughout the season was turnovers. They ranked 85th in the nation in turnover margin and their four turnovers against Kent State cost them a spot in the MAC Title game. Ohio’s QB Boo Jackson has had his fair share of turnover issues this season and he will have to take care of the ball if the Bobcats want to win the New Orleans Bowl. Jackson’s play usually influences how Ohio performs and they will need a solid game from him to win.
- Troy: Troy has a high powered offense led by their passing attack and WR Jerrel Jernigan. Jernigan was a 1000 yard receiver last season and while his numbers aren’t quite up to where they were last season, he still has big play ability and will not be an easy cover for Ohio’s suspect secondary. Troy needs to get the ball in Jernigan’s hands early and often throughout the game. I don’t believe Ohio has anybody that can cover him and he should put up some big numbers.
KEY POSITIONAL BATTLE
The matchup I will have my eyes on will be Troy’s passing offense against Ohio’s passing defense. The Bobcats ranked 61st in pass defense this season giving up an average over 200 yards per game. Troy’s main offensive philosophy is to throw the ball. They ranked 12th in the nation in passing offense averaging close to 300 yards per contest through the air. Corey Robinson the Troy QB has had a big year and he has a lot of weapons to throw the ball too – namely Jerrel Jernigan. If Ohio can slow down Troy’s air attack, then they have a shot at winning the game, but if Robinson and the Trojans’ offense have a big day passing, then expect Troy to win.
TALE OF THE TAPE
Turnovers: Both of these teams have minus turnover margins and the team that turns the ball over the least in this game will likely come out on top. I talked about Ohio QB Boo Jackson’s struggles with interceptions this season, but Troy QB Corey Robinson hasn’t been able to avoid the picks either. Both head coaches – Troy’s Larry Blakeney and Ohio’s Frank Solich will be stressing ball security to their teams in the weeks leading up to this New Orleans Bowl showdown. Turnovers have plagued both teams when they’ve been on the losing end of games this season and they are big reasons why these teams dropped games they should have won that ultimately cost them a conference championship.
It wasn’t the season either of these teams were expecting. Both had high hopes in the preseason and throughout the season of winning their conference championships, but neither team could get it done. Still, as teams in the non-AQ conferences, they should be happy to be where they are. If you look at this matchup, you might just brush it off, but both of these teams are solid and both were just one bad loss away from winning their conference or at least playing in the conference championship game. The difference in this game will be Ohio’s anemic offense. Troy just has too many offensive weapons and I don’t think the Bobcats will be able to keep pace with the Trojans in a sixty-minute contest.
PREDICTION: Troy 31, Ohio 23