Bobcats release framework of 2021 schedule

Ohio University announced its 2021 football schedule on Friday, or at least the framework for the makeup of games next fall.

The Bobcats hope it’s an accurate approximation of what to anticipate this fall, unlike in 2020 when the pandemic forced all MAC schools to come up with new plans in September.

Ohio’s 2021 season, the 17th for head coach Frank Solich in Athens, is scheduled to begin on Saturday, Sept. 4 when Syracuse visits Peden Stadium for a non-conference bout.

Ohio head coach Frank Solich is expected to return for season No. 17 with the Bobcats in 2021. Photo courtesy of Ohio Athletics/Midge Mazur

The rest of non-con slate includes a home game against Duquesne (Sept. 11), and road games at Louisiana (Sept. 18) and Northwestern (Sept. 25).

In the MAC, Ohio will host East Division rivals Kent State and Miami and West foes Central Michigan and Toledo. Road conference games include trips to Akron, Bowling Green, Buffalo and Eastern Michigan. Dates for conference matchups will be released at a later date.

Start times and broadcast information for the entire schedule will be announced later this spring.

Ohio was 2-1 in 2020, as three of six scheduled games (Miami, Kent State, Buffalo) were canceled due to COVID-19 issues.

The schedule, as announced, has few surprises. The five MAC East games simply flip locations from last season, OU played at CMU last season so a return trip from the Chips was due.

The only non-conference change is Ohio will play Duquesne in 2021; a matchup with Gardner-Webb was previously scheduled to fill the FCS slot on the slate.

To this point, Ohio has given no indication if there has been any resolution to the non-conference games on the 2020 schedule that were wiped out due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Before the advent of a six-game, MAC-only slate, OU had non-con games set against N.C. Central (FCS, at home), at Boston College, at Texas State and versus Marshall.

The Marshall and Texas State games were the back-ends of home-and-home series. The trip to BC was a ‘buy’ game for the Bobcats, and OU typically schedules one ‘buy’ game of their own every season against an FCS opponent – with NC Central filling that role a year ago.

As currently constructed, Ohio’s future non-conference schedules have no openings until 2025.

2021 non-conference opponents

Vs. Syracuse

The Orange were 1-10 in 2020, and finished 1-9 in Atlantic Coast Conference play. Syracuse was regarded as one of the worst FBS teams in the nation last fall, and was outscored 360-196 over the 11 games played. The only win came, at home, against Georgia Tech.

Head coach Dino Babers, who won back-to-back MAC titles at Bowling Green, will be entering his sixth season. Despite four losing seasons in five years, Babers (24-36 at Syracuse) got a vote of confidence last month that he is not on the proverbial hot seat. Babers signed a contract extension after a 10-3 season in 2018.

Ohio is 0-2 all-time against the Orange, but the last meeting was 100 years ago (1921). The game is the first of a home-and-home set, with the Bobcats visiting upstate New York in 2024.

Vs. Duquesne

The Dukes did not have a season in 2020 as the Northeast Conference postponed the fall sports season on July 30, 2020. The NEC is holding a winter sports season, however, and the league hopes to play a four-game football slate this spring beginning on the weekend of March 5.

Duquesne was 6-5 in 2019 and competes at the FCS level. The two programs have just one prior meeting, despite Pittsburgh’s proximity, and Ohio won that matchup way back in 1948. Solich is undefeated at Ohio against FCS competition.

At Louisiana

The Ragin Cajuns were overshadowed by Coastal Carolina in the Sun Belt in 2020, but had a season equal to their conference rivals. Louisiana finished 10-1, 7-1 in conference, and capped the year with a bowl win (First Respoder’s, 31-24 vs. UTSA). The Cajuns ended the year ranked No. 15 in the country by the AP.

Head coach Billy Napier, a ‘hot’ name during the carousel season, is still attached to the program. The Cajuns missed out on a chance to claim the Sun Belt title outright when the title game at Coastal Carolina was canceled due to COVID-19 issues for the Chanticleers.

Ohio is 2-1 all-time against Louisiana, which was previously known as Louisiana-Lafayette, and posted wins in 2007 (31-23, at Lafayette) and 2010 (38-31) to sweep a home-and-home contract. The game is the second part of a new two-year agreement, with Louisiana winning the first match 45-25 in Athens in 2019. The Cajuns are 21-4 over the last two years.

At Northwestern

The Wildcats (7-2) were a Big 10 surprise in the fall and played CFB Playoff finalist Ohio State tough in the Big 10 championship game before ending the year with a 35-19 win over Auburn in the Citrus Bowl. Northwestern finished with a rare top 10 ranking, earning No. 10 honors in the final AP poll.

Head coach Pat Fitzgerald is reportedly mulling offers and/or generating interest from the NFL but at this point is still leading the program. His tenure is nearly as long as Solich’s as he assumed head coaching duties in Evanston, Ill. In 2006.

Ohio is 1-3 all-time against Northwestern, and Ohio has played at Northwestern twice with Solich in Athens. OU lost in Solich’s debut (38-14) in 2005, and missed an upset bid at Northwestern (16-8) in 2008. Those two games were part of a two-for-one deal Ohio signed under a previous administration. The 2021 matchup will be a one-off, or buy game.

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