Dollar General pits dangerous Troy offense vs. Ohio's stout defense

Ohio and Troy meet on Friday night in the Dollar General Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala. It could just as easily be named the "Oh-so-close" Bowl.

Both the Bobcats (8-5) and the Trojans (9-3) nearly missed a couple of major upsets this season. Ohio was driving for the potential game-winning touchdown before getting intercepted and losing to undefeated Western Michigan 29-23 in the MAC title game at Ford Field.

Troy, meanwhile, nearly upset Clemson back on Sept. 10 in Death Valley, losing 30-24.

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Still, both programs have a lot to build on heading into the 7 p.m. ET contest that will be televised by ESPN.

The Trojans became the first Sun Belt Conference team to be ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 after an 8-1 start that featured the Clemson loss as its only blemish. Troy dropped out of the poll after a stunning 35-3 home loss to Arkansas State that featured five Trojan turnovers. They lost two of its final three games, but are headed to their first bowl game since 2010, quite a turnaround for a team that finished just 4-8 a year earlier.

"It's a huge accomplishment for this football team," second-year Troy head coach Neal Brown said. "You look at a team that was picked to finish in the middle of the Sun Belt, we only had two guys that were selected as preseason All-Sun Belt. So to turn that into a year that we get nationally ranked for the first time in school and Sun Belt history, play on national television three times and to finish 9-3, which ties the record for most wins in a season in Troy Division I history, is a great accomplishment for our staff and players."

Led by junior running back Jordan Chunn (1,232 yards rushing and a conference-best 13 touchdowns), Troy led the Sun Belt in scoring, passing and total offense with 49 touchdowns and 5,263 total yards.

The Trojans will be going up against an Ohio defense led by defensive end Tarell Basham, the MAC Defensive Player of the Year, that registered 43 sacks and ranks sixth nationally in rush defense allowing an average of 105.8 yards per game and 26th in scoring defense (22.2).

Basham led the MAC with 11.5 sacks and has 29.5 in his career.

"They've got a great recipe for success," Brown said. "They know how to run the football; they stop the run as good as anybody in the country this year. They can put pressure on the quarterback. We know we're going to have our hands full, and we're excited about that challenge."

This is the eighth straight year that Ohio has been bowl eligible under head coach Frank Solich. The Bobcats are still searching for their first MAC championship since 1968 but made things real interesting two weeks ago against Cotton Bowl-bound Western Michigan, which needed an interception by linebacker Robert Spillane on its own 30 with 51 seconds left to seal the win against the East Division champion Bobcats in the MAC title game in Detroit.

"We know we have a challenging opponent, obviously, in Troy," Solich said. "Great football program; had a tremendous season. Coach Brown is doing an outstanding job along with his staff. So it should be a great game."