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Syracuse opens its 2021 season in Athens, Ohio, against a Mid-American Conference team after tying the worst record in program history last year. Head coach Dino Babers said in a press conference that he felt more confident in this year’s group, and that this year’s team would “get after” last year’s.
Ohio, on the other hand, played just three games last season due to the pandemic. Here’s everything you need to know about the Bobcats before Syracuse plays its fourth-consecutive season-opener on the road:
Syracuse leads 2-0.
Last time they played
Syracuse beat Ohio 38-0 at Archbold Stadium on Oct. 1, 1921 — the second of four consecutive wins for the Orange that season. They defeated Hobart 35-0 in the 1921 season-opener and then beat Maryland and Brown by a combined score of 70-0. The Orange finished that season 7-2.
Babers has played Ohio twice when he was the head coach of Bowling Green, also in the MAC. Babers won both the 2014 and 2015 matchups.
The Bobcats report
Ohio went 2-1 during the shortened 2020 season, falling to Central Michigan on a late field goal in the Bobcats November season-opener, then defeating Akron and Bowling Green by 14 points and 42 points, respectively. The Bobcats went 7-6 in 2019, including losses to ACC-foe Pittsburgh as well as LSU.
Babers paid tribute to longtime Ohio head coach Frank Solich, who retired this July, and wished former offensive coordinator Tim Albin luck during his debut as Ohio’s new head coach. “I wish the best of luck to coach Albin, but hopefully not this week,” Babers said laughing.
Babers described Albin’s team as “the old Nebraska without the option.” The offensive linemen are big and physical, and they have veterans who understand the scheme and running backs who know how to get downhill and north-south.
“There’s not a lot of wasted movement,” Babers said of one of Ohio’s running backs. “When he sees a crack, he goes and hits it. It’s old school football, and I can appreciate that.”
In 2019, Ohio’s De’Montre Tuggle and O’Shaan Allison were both among the nation’s top-30 in yards per carry (6.4 and 6.3, respectively). Both return to the Bobcats in 2021. Ohio ranked No. 7 in the nation in yards per carry and No. 8 in average rushing touchdowns in 2019. Syracuse offensive lineman Aaron Servais said they’re good at stopping the run, too .
On Monday, Ohio announced that redshirt sophomore Kurtis Rourke would start at quarterback. Rourke played all three games in 2020, throwing for 386 yards, scoring three touchdowns and never being intercepted. The Bobcats also have quarterback Armani Rogers, who had two rushing touchdowns in 2020.
How Syracuse beats Ohio
The formula is quite simple for Syracuse: stop the Bobcats’ rush and find success rushing the ball itself. Like Babers mentioned, Ohio is a run-heavy team. Defensive lineman Josh Black called Ohio “physical as hell,” citing the way that their offensive line is “blowing people off the ball” with their blocks.
“They run the ball downhill, and they’re washing everything down with them,” Black said.
If Syracuse can stop the run, Ohio’s offense will likely be too one-dimensional to continue producing. On the other side of the ball, Babers said he feels much more confident in this group of offensive lineman. They’re healthy and the position has more depth. Behind sparks from running backs Sean Tucker and Cooper Lutz last season, the Orange’s development into a strong running team could begin week one.
Stat to know: 223.8 rushing yards per game
Ohio averaged 223.8 rushing yards per game during the 2019 season. Three of its top four rushers from that season are back, too. Although 2020 is a very small sample size to draw from for the Bobcats, they averaged 217.1 yards per game on the ground during the shortened year.
Player to watch: De’Montre Tuggle, running back
The story of Ohio is its running game, and Syracuse will need to find a way to contain De’Montre Tuggle. Two of his best career games came during the shortened 2020 season when he rushed for 139 yards and two touchdowns against Akron and 185 yards and three touchdowns against Miami (Ohio).
The post Opponent preview: What to know about Ohio before Syracuse’s season-opener appeared first on The Daily Orange.