ATHENS, Ohio - There'll be a blackout tonight in Athens, but not of the electrical variety.
Instead, the Ohio University football fans in attendance at tonight's 8 p.m. (ESPN2) Mid-American Conference game pitting the host Bobcats against Bowling Green are encouraged to wear black to ensure a Peden Stadium Bobcat Blackout for the visiting Falcons.
But it will take more than just the Ohio football faithful donning black gear tonight for the Bobcats (8-1, 4-1 MAC) to best Bowling Green (6-3, 4-1 MAC).
The game will match Ohio's potent offense versus a Falcon defense that tops the MAC in all four major defensive categories: points (15.2 per game), yards (290), rushing (104.2 yards per game) and passing (185.8).
"I think this will be probably the best defense we've played," said Ohio head coach Frank Solich. "That's saying a lot. Penn State had a great front seven. But these guys have played Florida very well. If you look at them the last four or five games, they've really shut people down. The last two games, I think they've given up something like three points. We're going to have to find a way to move the football, to move it with some consistency."
Leading the defensive charge for BG is tackle Chris Jones with 11.5 sacks among his 16 tackles for loss this season. The Falcons have 25 sacks on the season.
"He can cause you problems," said Solich about Jones, "You obviously have to be aware of where he's at. But the problem that you have is the other guys surrounding him are also very quick and good pass rushers. They do enough movement, with their quickness, to cause most offenses problems."
Linebackers Paul Swan and Gabe Martin are Jones' main defensive cohorts, leading the Falcons with 52 and 50 tackles respectively, plus Bowling Green's secondary also has caused problems with nine interceptions.
"They're very good in turnover margin - right at the top in the conference in MAC games. They have a great combination of things going for themselves."
On the flip side though, Ohio's offense should give Bowling Green a challenge as well as the Bobcats rank second in the MAC in points per game (35.6) and third in yards per game (462.2).
"We can't be one-dimensional, but they have not allowed teams to get things going on the ground,'' said Solich,
''They shut down the run first, but they've done a great job of forcing turnovers when you do throw. That's a huge problem. You're going to have a few opportunities. When they come, you got to take advantage of them."
And Ohio should be able to do just that as the Falcons, while excelling on defense, have not been so fortunate on offense, ranking in the bottom half of the league.
But still Solich said that ''there's a challenge in terms of what they're all about offensively. The fact that they run so many different sets, so many gadget or trick plays, they can get you out of alignment pretty easily. When you have a short week, that's an extra challenge added on to it," as Ohio played just last Thursday night, overwhelming Eastern Michigan 45-14 in front of the Peden Stadium home crowd.
Both Bowling Green and Ohio trail Kent State (8-1, 5-0) by a game in the MAC East standings, but both have yet to play the Golden Flashes. The loser between the Falcons and Bobcats will not be eliminated from division title contention, but their chances will be reduced to a minimum with only two conference games to go.
Ohio goes for a perfect 6-0 season at home tonight too. And with it being senior night and Bobcat Blackout night, Solich hopes a big crowd will give his team an advantage.
"This certainly is a big game for us,'' said Solich. "I don't think every MAC school has a home-field advantage. We're building that home-field advantage now. And that's really important in your steps of moving forward."