The 23rd-ranked Ohio University Bobcats are set to put their perfect record on the line when they face the Miami-Ohio RedHawks at Yager Stadium in the 89th edition of the Battle of the Bricks.
The series between these rival Buckeye State schools began in 1908. Miami holds a 51-35-2 edge in the history of the series, but Ohio has won the last six encounters, including a 21-14 triumph in 2011 in Athens.
Ohio is ranked in all three major polls for the first time in school history after its impressive 7-0 start to the season. The Bobcats have not had a better start since 1968 when they finished 10-0 on the way to their fifth MAC championship.
Coach Frank Solich saw his team come up just short last season when Northern Illinois buried his Bobcats with a game-winning field goal in the MAC Championship game. Ohio began the season with a road upset of Penn State and later followed up with victories away from home over Marshall and Massachusetts. Ohio's three previous outcomes have been decided by a touchdown or less, but it should have new life after last week's bye.
"I see the MAC as a strong conference," said Solich. "We've just got to find a way to win it"
Miami was defeated by Cincinnati (52-14) and Bowling Green (37-12) in consecutive games before last week's much needed bye. The RedHawks' wins this season came over Southern Illinois of the FCS, UMass, and Akron. Despite being below .500 overall, Miami will punch its ticket to the MAC Championship game if it manages to win out. Coach Don Treadwell and his team need a miracle turnaround for that to happen, as they have been outscored by 14.6 points per game.
The Bobcats have one of the top offenses in the MAC, ranking second in rushing (217.3 ypg) and fourth overall (448.1 ypg). Ohio does not put up stunning numbers on a regular basis, but it is incredibly efficient with only three total turnovers on the season.
Junior quarterback Tyler Tettleton has guided the precise attack by passing for 1,343 yards and 12 TDs with just one interception in six games. He has completed 60.8 percent of his attempts (108-of-179) and produced a pair of rushing touchdowns as well.
Tettleton keeps the opposition guessing consistently by spreading the ball around evenly. Eight different Bobcats have at least 100 receiving yards with Donte Foster leading the pack with 264 yards and five TDs on 24 receptions.
The Bobcats have relied heavily on Beau Blankenship to move the chains this season. The junior tailback is third in rushing with 951 yards on 198 carries. Blankenship was kept out the end zone his last time out, which left him with six rushing and seven total TDs heading into the bye week. Ryan Boykin has emerged a viable number two option in OU's rushing attack.
"It's good having someone fresh out there," said Blankenship on Boykin. "We have very different styles and they complement each other."
Boykin has picked up 160 yards and three scores on 25 attempts in the team's past two games.
The Bobcats were a strong team defensively early in the season, but they have given up averages of 489.3 yards and 31 points per game in their three league games, which were against the bottom dwellers of the MAC.
Junior linebacker Keith Moore has been the heart and soul of the defense and has recorded a team-best 58 total tackles. Neal Huynh is an aggressive lineman and has compiled six tackles for loss. Jelani Woseley has made two of the team's seven interceptions.
Miami's offense relies on its aerial attack, which is the second best in the MAC with 283.4 ypg. Zac Dysert delivered a pair of inspiring performances by following up his 500-yard passing and 100-yard rushing game versus Akron with 303 yards and two touchdowns on 25-of-49 passing at Cincinnati. However, Dysert was picked off three times by Cincy and twice by Bowling Green in his most recent action. Now in his fourth year as the team's starting QB, he has passed for 10,444 yards with 62 touchdowns to 47 interceptions his career.
Dawan Scott has emerged as one of the elite receivers in the MAC this season. Despite missing the team's last outing, he has tallied a team-high 501 yards and five touchdowns on 32 receptions. Andy Cruse is the top possession wideout on the team with 49 catches after reeling in seven passes for 54 yards against Bowling Green's stingy defense.
While the RedHawks are blessed with dependable pass-catchers, the running game has been less stellar with Jamire Westbrook (198 yards) leading the way and Dysert (175 yards) right behind him for the worst rush offense in the MAC.
A reason Miami's rushing attack is so poor is because it is often trailing on the scoreboard which forces the pass. The defense has allowed its six FBS opponents to gain an average of 525.3 yards of total offense per game. During their current two-game losing slide, the RedHawks have been outscored 89-26.
Chris Wade is the team's leading tackler with 75 on the season including 4.5 for loss. Mike Johns (6.0 TFL) and Mwanza Wamulumba (5.0 TFL) supply pressure from the line. Pat Hinkel is also talented tackler (47), while also collecting three interceptions.