Who: Western Michigan (6-4) at Ohio (4-5)
When: Tuesday, November 12
Kickoff: 6:30 p.m.
Radio: Bronco Radio Network
Spread: Ohio -1.0
Western Michigan football will look to get their first road win in five tries when they travel to Athens, Ohio to take on the Bobcats on Tuesday night in a critical contest for the Broncos Mid-American Conference title hopes.
If the Broncos wish to come out on top, they will have to do so in some blistering temperatures. The game was moved up an hour due to the wind chill being expected to reach single digits later on in the night.
But head coach Tim Lester and his team knows they will have much bigger things to worry about than the weather, as they face an Ohio team that is now desperate to stay alive in the MAC East after losing at home to Miami (OH) last week.
“I have a ton of respect for coach Solich and what they do and how they do it,” Lester said. “They’re solid in every phase and we’re going to have to play a great road game to keep our hopes going.”
Here is what to expect in the Tuesday night “MACtion” matchup between the Broncos and Bobcats.
Nathan Rourke is one of the more dangerous dual-threat quarterbacks in all of college football. He has thrown the ball for 1,876 yards this season and also leads the team in rushing with 625 yards on the ground. Between the aerial and ground game, he has accounted for 21 total touchdowns on the season and has thrown just five interceptions.
Outside of Rourke, the Bobcats have had some consistency issues on the offensive side of the ball. Overall, they rank 67th in total offense in the NCAA and average just over 407 yards per game. They do have two running backs that have averaged over five yards per carry in O’Shaan Allison and De’Montre Tuggle, who have combined to find the end zone nine times this year.
The passing game is where Ohio has struggled to find a consistent rhythm as they rank just 89th in college football through the air.
Sophomore Isiah Cox is their leading receiver yardage-wise with 26 catches on 442 yards, but has found the end zone just once. The bulk of the Bobcats wide receiving core consists of underclassmen as they had to replace a good amount of talent at that position coming into the season.
For Western Michigan’s defense, it will be critical to not give up big plays through the air like they have been vulnerable to on the road this season and make the Bobcats work for their yardage.
Statistically, Ohio and WMU are similar on defense, as Ohio ranks 93rd in the nation in total defense as the Broncos rank 94th.
Maybe the most concerning aspect of the Bobcats defense has been their inability to stop the run. They rank 101st in total rush defense and allow nearly 200 yards per game on the ground. That could be a recipe for disaster going against LeVante Bellamy, who currently leads the nation in rushing touchdowns with 20.
Against the pass they are a little better, ranking 72nd in the nation. The Bobcats have not been able to generate much of a pass rush this season as their 16 sacks ranks 89th in the country.
Ohio also is not turning many teams over, as their six forced turnovers ranks towards the bottom five in college football.
Safety Javon Hagan leads the team in tackles with 76 while linebacker Dylan Conner is second on the team with 57 total tackles.
Western Michigan has struggled mightily on the road this season. That is no secret. The Broncos have fallen short in these types of situations away from Waldo Stadium all season long.
But despite the road woes, I think they are better than this Ohio team. Outside of Rourke, the Broncos have a few more weapons on offense and the defenses are similar, but WMU has forced far more turnovers on the season.
If Western can even moderately contain Rourke they will give themselves a great chance. The key to the game may very well be which team can stop the run. WMU gave up far too many yards on the ground last week to Ball State and it nearly cost them the game. If both of these teams are able to run the ball at will, it will make for another shootout.
With Ohio coming off a loss, I think the Broncos have more to play for and therefore should be the more motivated team. That should be just enough for the Broncos to pull out a close win on the road.
WMU 38, Ohio 35