For fans of the football program, last year now feels like a shrimp cocktail with the main course about to be served. A grand total of 19 starters are back as conference champions, led by arguably the top quarterback in the country in Teddy Bridgewater. The junior signal caller is the centerpiece to guide the offense, with a strong command of what his coach Charley Strong expects. All three top receivers are back including Devante Parker, who led the Cardinals in yards (744), touchdowns (10) and yards per catch (18.6).
Those who study college football schedules know ninth-ranked Louisville has a chance to run the table after an 11-2 campaign, with only potentially treacherous road games against Kentucky (September 14th), Connecticut (November 8th ) and Cincinnati (December 5th).
The Cardinals were sent out as three touchdown home favorites by college football odds makers against Ohio U. Sunday afternoon on ESPN and they have hovered around that number since with the total at 58.
What do the Bobcats present as a challenger?
Ohio U. was briefly in the national spotlight after a 7-0 start, being called by one national TV pundit, “The Boise State of the MAC”. This wild exaggeration turned out to be false, as the Bobcats played very uncomfortably as the wins mounted and lost four of their final five regular season contests and was 1-7 ATS to close the season before the Independence Bowl.
Offensively, the Bobcats present challenges with quarterback Tyler Tettleton and eight other starters returning. Ohio quietly ran the pigskin very effectively last season, ranked 27th nationally at 203.3 yards per game. Senior running back Beau Blankenship carries the load, having rushed for a school-record 1,604 yards and finding the end zone 15 times.
Let’s not lose sight Louisville permitted 148 yards a contest on the ground and were far from dominant up front as the secondary supplied three of last year’s four top tacklers.
If the Cards defenders need to cheat in the box, the Bobcats senior QB Tettleton is healthy after a painful abdominal injury curtailed his effectiveness in 2012 and he can locate open receivers.
Bridgewater looks to exploit Bobcats defense
A few of the college football preseason magazines have Ohio winning the MAC East, but most have them coming in second place behind Bowling Green. The reason is the Bobcats are greener on defense than the school color, because head coach Frank Solich has to incorporate nine new defensive starters.
Only LB Keith Moore (leading tackler in 2012) and safety Josh Kristoff are back, however, cornerback Travis Carrie returns from injury and the senior has next-level ability. Nevertheless, Carrie can only cover one Louisville pass catcher at a time, opening up other possibilities for Bridgewater to examine.
Keys to look for
Nobody realistically expects Ohio to even be a reasonable money line sports pick, yet they could be intriguing at around +21 points.
The Bobcats must establish the run to shorten the game and average four yards a carry to move the chains. This takes the crowd out of the game, which is important, since this just the Bobcats second Top-10 matchup in over 20 years. Ohio has to be efficient when they reach the Cardinals 30-yard line and be effective in scoring touchdowns and not settling for field goals.
Having been to three consecutive bowl games, the thought might be the ‘Ville has arrived, but astute football bettors are aware the Cardinals are 3-7 ATS when doling out double digits and are 0-3 ATS if the number is 20 or higher.
Facing such an inexperienced defense, Bridgewater will likely take deep shots early and if he connects, this contest might be over early.
Louisville will focus on taking away the run and trust their talented secondary to slow Ohio’s passing game.
With a line like that, things may seem dicey for our college football picks, but Ohio has enough offense to hang around the number and lose 38-20, covering the spread.
NCAA FB Pick: Bet the Ohio Bobcats +20.5 on the spread at 5DimesExcited for the upcoming college football season? Share your picks on our forum!