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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 15, 6:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Joan C. Edwards Stadium (38,019) -- Huntington, West Virginia. Television: None. Home Record: Ohio 1-0, Marshall 1-0. Away Record: Ohio 1-0, Marshall 0-1. Neutral Record: Ohio 0-0, Marshall 0-0. Conference Record: Ohio 0-0, Marshall 0-0. Series Record: Ohio leads, 30-19-6.
GAME NOTES: The Ohio Bobcats and Marshall Thundering Herd will square off for the 56th time on Saturday in the Battle for the Bell rivalry game at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
Ohio comes into Huntington with a 2-0 record which makes it the only remaining unbeaten team from the MAC. The Bobcats began their season with a come from behind 24-14 upset victory of Penn State in Beaver Stadium. Ohio followed up its win over PSU by handling New Mexico State, 51-24, in its home opener last week at Peden Stadium. Head coach Frank Solich clearly has his team focused after it lost on a last-second field goal in last year's MAC Championship. The 'Cats have won eight of their last nine games dating back to last season. Ohio has not won its first two road games since the 1976 season.
The Thundering Herd returned to Huntington after their season-opening loss to West Virginia to play Western Carolina of the FCS. Marshall's offense gained 615 yards of total offense as it flew past the Catamounts for a 52-24 victory. Marshall also gained 545 yards of total offense in its 69-34 loss to the Mountaineers in the season opening Friends of Coal Bowl, but the defense allowed WVU to rack up 655 yards in the contest. The defense performed better in week two, but Ohio will present a much greater challenge than FCS foe Western Carolina. Doc Holiday, now in his third season as MU's head coach, can improve his record to the .500 mark with a win on Saturday.
As former conference opponents located just 66 miles away from one another, Ohio and Marshall built a rivalry known as the Battle for the Bell. The Bobcats dominated the Herd, 44-7, in last season's encounter to improve their all-time series lead to 30-19-6. Marshall had won the previous six contests, including the 2009 Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl in Detroit.
Ohio's offense rolled through its first two outings and leads the MAC in yards per game. The Bobcats could go through the entire regular season without a loss with Tyler Tettleton leading the charge. The junior quarterback is leading the MAC in total offense with an average of 323.0 yards per game. Tettleton has completed 71.8 percent of his passes, tossed four touchdown passes, and ran it in himself twice so far this season.
Junior WR Donte Foster has caught a team-high 10 passes for 89 yards and a pair of touchdowns in OU's first two games. Sophomore Landon Smith is a big play option and has 122 yards and two scores on just four receptions.
Ohio's offense is equally effective running the ball with Beau Blankenship lining up in the backfield. Blankenship is ranked seventh in the country with an average of 138.5 yards on the ground per game. Tettleton's mobility makes him the team's second best rushing option.
While the Bobcats have a balanced offensive attack, they have been just as successful limiting their opponents and rank first in the MAC in total defense. Ohio has been exceptional after halftime, outgaining its opponents, 578-167, in the second halves of its first two games.
Ohio has already registered four takeaways, six sacks, 10 tackles for loss, and one defensive touchdown.
The 'Cats may not be able to keep up the same success rate defensively this week as they crash into Marshall's sophomore sensation, Rakeem Cato. The second year quarterback is ranked fifth in the nation in total offense with an average of 402.0 yards per game. After throwing 15 touchdowns against 11 interceptions last year as a true freshman, Cato has totals of five touchdowns and just one interception so far in 2012.
Cato's array of weapons is highlighted by senior wideout Aaron Dobson. The Herd's go-to-guy has racked up 153 yards and a touchdown on 13 receptions in the first two games. Antavious Wilson and Tommy Shuler have both surpassed the 125-yard mark as well, while Eric Frohnapfel leads the team with a pair of receiving touchdowns.
MU's rushing attack features four different running backs with Travon Van leading the team with 26 carries and two touchdowns.
Marshall held WCU to 335 yards and scored a defensive touchdown on Devin Arrington's 18-yard interception return. A lack of pass rush has been noticeable in the team's first season without its former star DE Vinny Curry.
The Thundering Herd may have a slight edge offensively due to Cato's dramatic offseason improvement. However, Ohio's feature running back gives it a steady change of pace and the Bobcats' defense has been reliable so far. Marshall needs a new leader to emerge on the defensive side of the ball or it will have to spend another year without the Bell Trophy in its display case.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Ohio University 38, Marshall 35
09/12 10:37:41 ET