The bowl game previews continue with…
History: The New Orleans bowl marks its 10th anniversary this year by welcoming the Ohio Bobcats and the Troy Trojans to the Big Easy. The Trojans are no strangers to this particular bowl setting, having competed in the New Orleans Bowl in both 2006 and 2008, winning in their first trip and losing in the second. The universities from North Texas and Southern Mississippi are the most familiar participants in the bowl game, with both having made visits on four occasions. North Texas played in the first four New Orleans bowls but was only victorious in one of the contests. Interestingly, the “estimated economic impact” of the game is $15 million, and I’m sure New Orleans continues to appreciate every bit of it.
The game is played in the Louisiana Superdome, which will play host to the Sugar Bowl and another team from Ohio is just a few short weeks, namely our beloved Buckeyes.
The Bobcats are experiencing what could be considered a surge of success in recent years under coach Frank Solich, who leads Ohio into its second straight bowl appearance. Things started out poorly for the Bobcats this season, as they won their opening game but then dropped three straight, including a 43-7 drubbing in Columbus. However, the team rebounded and went on to win all of its remaining games until reaching the final game of the season, which went into the books as a defeat at the hands of Kent State, thus preventing the Bobcats from competing for the MAC title.
Under Solich, Ohio’s offense has patterned itself after the option template of Solich’s days in Nebraska. Last year the Bobcats lost in the Little Caesars Bowl to Marshall, and remain without a win in bowl appearances, but quarterback Boo Jackson and his supporting cast hope to reverse those fortunes. Although Jackson tied the school record for career touchdown passes this season, Ohio is not a powerhouse on offense. However, the team does have a decent running game (their second-leading rusher is back-up quarterback Phil Bates), and the team will put a staunch defense on the field that hopes to slow down the Troy offensive attack.
Ohio/OSU connections: The foremost connection between the Buckeyes and the Bobcats is the aforementioned game earlier in the season. Two years ago the teams faced each other in a closer game that saw the Bobcats leading into the fourth quarter before the Buckeyes pulled out the victory. Of course, the connection between the schools (aside from the fact that they are both in Ohio) will now be highlighted by the shenanigans pulled by the Bobcat mascot this year.
Troy enters the game coming off a more back-and-forth season than Ohio experienced. The Trojans finished the season on a high note, winning their final two games to claim another bowl berth. The Troy offense ranked 12th in the country in passing yards per game, so they do have a talent for moving the ball. However, their defense typically gave up far more points than Ohio, so they trade off defense for offense to some extent.
Troy’s record in bowl games stands at 1-3, so like Ohio they will have something to prove in New Orleans. Freshman quarterback Corey Robinson hopes to lead the team to a bowl win that would further strengthen the resume of coach Larry Blakeney, the school’s all-time leader in wins. A key player to watch on Troy’s side is wide receiver Jerrel Jernigan, who led the team in receiving while also picking up significant rushing yards and even throwing for a few completions and a touchdown. Robinson was named the Sun Belt Freshman of the Year while Jernigan and defensive lineman Jonathan Massaquoi picked up All-Conference First Team honors.
Troy/OSU connections: The Trojans also visited Columbus two years ago, and also fell to Ohio State 28-10 in a game that saw the first touchdown pass of Terrelle Pryor’s career.
Who are we picking?
Ohio is the popular choice for us. While it’s possible there’s some home-state bias, it’s more likely that the Ohio defense is expected to limit Troy’s offense enough to claim their first bowl win.