Dollar General Bowl: Ohio Bobcats vs. Troy Trojans
Date: Dec. 23, 8 p.m. ET on ESPN
Location: Ladd-Peebles Stadium | Mobile, Alabama
Best moment: There was nothing flashy about it. In fact, there wasn’t even a touchdown scored. But the division-clinching victory that capped the regular season was fitting for a team that leads with its stingy defense, and the 9-3 win over Akron provided a nice reminder of just how difficult it can be to score on the Bobcats.
Lowest moment: The loss might not look quite as bad in hindsight given Eastern Michigan’s massive improvement this season. But given the historic struggles of that program and the fact the game was at home, Ohio dropping a 27-20 decision to the Eagles still probably qualifies as the one outcome the Bobcats would like to erase from memory.
Key player: There is no shortage of defensive talent to choose from, but Tarell Basham is where everything starts for the Bobcats. The senior lineman was the MAC defensive player of the year after racking up 10 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss, and he’ll no doubt be looking to add to those totals in the last game of his career.
Motivation level: Average. The Bobcats have been no stranger to the postseason under Frank Solich, who has built the program into an annual contender in the MAC and a regular in the bowl lineup. But that also means there’s probably nothing truly special or unique about this particular trip, which can make it hard to predict what kind of performance the Bobcats will deliver. -- Austin Ward
Best moment: This was big. This was history. After beating Appalachian State late in the season, Troy broke into the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time in school history. In fact, it became the first Sun Belt team to be ranked. And why not? At the time, Troy was 8-1 with its only loss a 30-24 defeat on the road at then-No. 2 Clemson.
Lowest moment: History is a heavy thing. Sometimes it weighs you down. Such was the case the very week Troy became ranked for the first time. At home, against a 6-5 Arkansas State team, the Trojans got absolutely destroyed. Thanks to five turnovers, they lost 35-3 and failed to score a point in the second half. “They came in as champions and they’re leaving as champions,” Troy coach Neal Brown said after the game. “We haven’t earned that yet.” It was the right word to use at the time -- “earned” -- because while Troy had come so far, losing in such deflating fashion showed just how far there was left to go.
Key player: Brandon Silvers picked up right where he left off as a sophomore last season. The 6-foot-2 righty from Orange Beach, Alabama, completed 64.2 percent of his passes for 2,945 yards, 22 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. What’s more, he ran for 150 yards and four scores. All told, he’s up to 7,276 total yards and 63 total touchdowns in his career -- and he has one more year of eligibility after this season.
Motivation level: It took only a few days to fall out of the rankings, but maybe a win at the end of the season might be enough to creep back in. After all, with a 9-2 regular season and a six-point loss to a great team in Clemson, the resume is there. Winning big in a bowl game might be enough to justify a ranking in the low 20s, and that would be huge for a program looking to break through under Brown. -- Alex Scarborough