No. 23 Ohio tries to extend best start since '68

No. 23 Ohio tries to extend best start since '68

OXFORD, Ohio (AP) The last two weeks have been quite a time in the town of Athens, Ohio - a presidential campaign visit that brought national attention, a move into the Top 25 college football poll that gained more notice.

It's been a long time since Ohio University had such a spotlight. And it's time for the Bobcats to see how their hometown excitement plays on the road.

No. 23 Ohio (7-0, 3-0 Mid-American Conference) moved into the Top 25 on Oct. 14, its first national football ranking since it finished the 1968 season at No. 20. The Bobcats followed their ascendance in the polls with a bye week that included President Barack Obama's visit to the southeast Ohio campus.

The attention could end abruptly on Saturday, when they visit rival Miami University (3-4, 2-1) in the southwest corner of the state with everything on the line.

``We are appreciative of where we're at,'' coach Frank Solich said. ``But we also know how we've gotten there. We've gotten there by not getting excited about things.

``But I think it's obvious when your program gets highlighted the way it is highlighted, the players, coaches and fans do take some pride in that fact. With that said, they want to continue to play well and continue to be recognized. The challenge will be there with Miami.''

It's been one of the MAC's edgiest rivalries for decades. Miami has the overall lead, 51-35-2, and more historical prominence as the ``Cradle of Coaches.'' Ohio has taken control of the rivalry lately, winning the last six games, including three in a row in Oxford.

Not since 2003, when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger led the RedHawks deep into the national rankings, has one of these rivalry games had so much at stake for either of them. This time, it's the RedHawks looking to get notice for knocking off a ranked rival.

Ohio's success has brought more attention not only to the rivalry but to the conference as well.

``I think that's tremendous for our conference,'' Miami coach Don Treadwell said. ``What they're getting now is deserving, and it helps all of us.''

A win in Oxford would take the Bobcats to some very unaccustomed places. Ohio is trying to go 8-0 for the first time since 1968 and only the sixth time in school history. The Bobcats have won eight in a row since the final game of last season, tied for fourth-longest winning streak in school history.

Their offense gets most of the attention. Quarterback Tyler Tettleton has run a balanced offense flawlessly, throwing only one interception with 12 touchdown passes. He's already the school's career leader with 40 career touchdown passes. Last year, he threw for three touchdowns and accounted for 314 yards overall in Ohio's 21-14 win over Miami in Athens.

Tettleton also is a threat to run, which puts a lot of stress on defenses.

``I don't think you can stifle anything,'' Treadwell said. ``They do so many things so well. They have one of the most dangerous dual-threat quarterbacks in our conference with Tettleton. It's not one thing you take away and hope for the best. He can do both. He's just dangerous. He knows how to win. He's the catalyst for what they do offensively.''

He's half of a dangerous duo. Junior running back Beau Blankenship has topped 100 yards in six of the seven games this season and ranks third nationally at 135.8 per game. He ran for 269 yards in a win at Massachusetts on Sept. 29, the third-highest total in school history. The Bobcats have run for 200 yards in three of their wins this season.

They'll be facing one of the nation's worst defenses. The RedHawks are giving up an average of 37.6 points per game, having allowed 56, 39, 49, 52 and 37 points. They've given up an average of 500 yards per game, ranking 115th nationally.

The RedHawks held down Ohio in their game last year and will be inspired to do it again.

``Last year was a great ballgame, where we hung on to win at the end,'' Solich said. ``I think it will be similar to that.''

In order to keep it close, the RedHawks also will need a better performance from senior quarterback Zac Dysert. The RedHawks have the MAC's second-ranked passing attack, but haven't scored a lot of points lately because of turnovers. They're coming off a 52-14 loss at Cincinnati and a 37-12 loss at Bowling Green that included five Dysert interceptions, his worst two-game stretch since 2010.

If Dysert gets going, there could be another close finish.

``I see them as a team that's capable of putting it all together,'' Solich said. ``I see signs of them doing that.''


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Want the Stanley Cup? Five ways the Caps can beat the Golden Knights

Want the Stanley Cup? Five ways the Caps can beat the Golden Knights

The Caps stand just four wins away from winning their first Stanley Cup. To get those four wins, however, they will have to beat the Vegas Golden Knights.

Here are the keys to the series that will give the Caps the win.

Figure out how to beat Marc-Andre Fleury

No player has been as important to his team this postseason as Fleury is to the Golden Knights. He is reason No. 1, 2 and 3 why they have made their improbable run to the Stanley Cup Final in the team’s inaugural season.

Fleury’s personal numbers are staggering. Through 15 games, he has a .947 save percentage and has recorded four shutouts.

Vegas has been a middle of the pack team in terms of offense this postseason scoring 2.87 goals per game. They have lost only three playoff games thus far, but, as dominant as they have been, they certainly are not blowing away the competition. Of their 12 wins, ten of them have come with a margin of victory of two goals or less.

This shows you just how important Fleury is to their success. They are not scoring opponents into submission, rather they are relying on Fleury to keep opponents at bay.

Fleury is the absolute key to the Golden Knights’ success. It’s easier said than done, but if the Caps find a way to beat him consistently, Vegas becomes exponentially more beatable.

Win the neutral zone battle

Much of this series will be determined between the blue lines. The Golden Knights are an incredibly fast team.

Just to get to this point, the Caps had to beat two other speedy teams in the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Tampa Bay Lightning. They did it primarily by slowing down the offense in the neutral zone with a 1-3-1 trap. With so many bodies defending in the neutral zone, opponents have struggled to break the puck cleanly into the Caps’ defensive zone. The Caps are cutting off passing and skating lanes, creating turnovers and generating odd-man breaks in the other direction by catching opponents’ defensemen playing too aggressively on the rush.

As fast as the Penguins and Lightning were, however, the Golden Knights are even faster. Will the trap be as effective against Vegas?

Limit obstruction penalties

When playing against a team with speed, penalties often become a major issue. When trying to defend against fast players, if you get caught flat-footed or out of position, this tends to lead to obstruction penalties like tripping and hooking. When a player realizes he’s been beat, he does everything he can to prevent that from costing his team, leading to those type of penalties.

Vegas’ power play has not been lights out by any means with a success rate of only 17.6-percent this postseason, but you cannot continually give the opposition chances to score by frequently having a player sent to the penalty box.

Positioning is going to make all the difference in the world in this series to make sure a player is not forced into taking an obstruction penalty just to slow down the Golden Knights.

Get off to good starts

Vegas is 10-1 in the postseason when scoring first. Their secret to success is a mix between goaltending and speed.

Fleury has been phenomenal in net and the Golden Knights are a quick breakout team. It is very hard to get much sustained offensive pressure against them because once they get the puck, they are going down the ice at a million miles an hour.

Having to play from behind against a team like Vegas is not a recipe for success. Just getting the puck and keeping up with them is exhausting. Having to then find a way to then beat Fleury when he has a lead to protect is all the more daunting.

Strong starts will be vital to ensuring the Caps are not frequently having to play from behind.

Depth scoring

Vegas head coach Gerard Gallant likes to roll his four lines. It makes sense since there drop-off between his top line and fourth line is not as dramatic as it is on most NHL teams.

Consider how this team was constructed. The expansion draft did not give Vegas access to superstar players, but they also did not have to take any fringe NHL/healthy scratch players to fill the fourth line either. They filled their roster with the best players available to them which gives them four lines of much more comparative strength than most NHL teams.

While this means the Caps have a stronger top six, it also allows Vegas to roll four lines and take advantage of other teams’ bottom six.

You can never take a shift off against Vegas. There is no weak line to exploit. The Golden Knights come at you with four lines and relentless pressure and forecheck for 60 minutes.

Washington will probably get more production from its top six than Vegas will, or at the very least it will be a push. The question is what kind of production will each team get from the bottom six? If the Caps have the edge in depth production as well, they will be in good shape.




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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: What happens in Vegas....


Capitals Faceoff Podcast: What happens in Vegas....

It's almost here.

After a lengthy break between the conference finals and the Stanley Cup Finals, the Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights are set to meet on Monday for Game 1.

Who will hoist Lord Stanley's Cup?

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir give their keys to the series and their predictions for the Stanley Cup Final. Plus, JJ speaks with several member from the local media to get their insights and predictions.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.