Historically, the Central Michigan Chippewas (2-3, 0-1 MAC) have usually had the upper hand on the Ohio Bobcats (4-1, 1-0 MAC) when it comes to meeting on the gridiron.
In 32 meetings since 1972, the Chips have won 25 of those matchups in this cross-divisonal rivalry, including the most recent three matchups (2013, 2014 and 2016.) Alas, that’s what the history books say.
Fast-forward to 2017 and Ohio is in prime position could snap the three-game skid against CMU and claim their first victory since 2001 over the Maroon and Gold.
Ohio met former conference partner and MAC East for UMass for a wildly entertaining 58-50 win, where new starting quarterback Nathan Rourke collected four total touchdowns en route to the team’s third-straight victory.
CMU didn’t have as good of a time on Saturday, taking a 2-0 lead on a game-opening safety before falling by a final score of 28-8, due in part to a multitude of special teams miscues and untimely, game-changing penalties.
They’ll meet in Athens, Ohio for the first time sine 2013 in what will be a statement game for both squads.
When CMU has the ball
The offense for the Chippewas, in a word, is decimated.
Eric Cooper and Cameron Cole, who weren’t featured on CMU’s initial two-deep, are starters in the slot and right outside positions, respectively. Zach Crouch and Jonathan Carson, the third and fourth-string tight ends respectively, are moved up to one and two. Clayton Walderzak, who was a tight end last season, is now the starting right tackle.
Tony Poljan, the backup quarterback, was CMU’s leading receiver vs. Boston College. It’s been a tough start to the season, to say the least.
Shane Morris, who has thrown for three touchdowns and seven interceptions over the last three games, will lead an anemic CMU offense on the field, which has gone through a lot of growing pains in its transition from a pro-style multiple to a spread look under new offensive coordinator Chris Ostrowsky.
The team has found some decent success running the ball, as new second-stringer Kumehnnu Gwilly picked up 61 yards and a rushing touchdown vs. Boston College to be a power compliment to Jonathan Ward’s explosiveness.
The key for the CMU offense will be to make plays. With so many injuries, CMU will have to be creative and rely on raw talent in order to gain yards.
The Ohio defense has proven to be a bit susceptible, ranking 84th in total defense with 403.4 yards allowed per game, allowing 17 touchdowns by opponents so far this season. The Bobcats are especially vulnerable in the passing game, allowing 12 of those 17 total touchdowns through the air on a 112-of-202 completion rating.
The Bobcats’ bread and butter has been in rushing defense, where they’re 34th in the nation. They’ve only allowed 610 rushing yards on the year in that department, keeping opponents to an average of 3.5 rushing yards per attempt. Look for Quentin Poling and the rest of the Bobcats to stuff the gaps and force CMU to go one-dimensional to favor the passing game.
When Ohio has the ball
The Bobcats offense has been on fire since Nathan Rourke took over starting quarterback duties full-time, going undefeated over the last three games, including a conference tilt with EMU.
Rourke is a true duel-threat quarterback, with a deadly arm and quick legs that are sure to make linebackers think twice on any play. The numbers prove as much: appearing in all five games this season, Rourke has completed 62.5 percent of his passes for 813 yards and seven interceptions, with no interceptions. On the ground, he’s scored six touchdowns on 48 carries for 187 yards.
Behind him is a decent running corps of AJ Ouelette and Dorian Brown, who have combined for six rushing touchdowns so far this season. Ouelette has returned to his freshman year form, accumulating 477 yards over five games, averaging 6.7 yards per game as the primary back for the Bobcats.
On the outside, the Chips will meet a receiving trio of Brendan Cope, Andrew Meyer and Cameron Odom. Cope has proven capable as a deep threat and reeives the majority of the targets for this Bobcat squad, with 19 receptions for 283 yards and two touchdowns. Odom and Meyer have virtually identical statlines and give the offense enough of a passing threat to open up the playbook for this run-based attack.
The Bobcats will have a fairly interesting matchup with the Chippewas, especially in the passing game. CMU is tied for second in the country with nine interceptions as a unit, allowing 237.6 yards per game. It will be one of the more difficult defenses the Bobcats have had to deal with at this point in that aspect. Amari Coleman, Josh Cox, Darwyn Kelly and Da’Quaun Jamison have proven to be excellent in coverage so far this year and will try to force Ohio to stick to the ground.
The Chips have had mixed results in rushing defense, ranking 97th in that category so far this season. They haven’t been able to generate a lot of chaos behind the line, but it could be worse. CMU allows an average of 4.3 yards per rush and has been scored on 10 times on the ground, although it should be noted they did play Boston College and Syracuse, who scored half of those touchdowns.
Chris Kantzavelos, who was out for the BC game, should be back as a run stopper for CMU to help out Joe Ostman and Mitch Stantizek at the end spots.
Where and when: Saturday, Oct. 7 at 2:00 p.m. EST at Peden Stadium in Athens, Ohio
Weather: Sunny and clear, 84 degrees at 43 percent humidity with winds at 10 MPH, according to the Weather Channel. No chance of precipitation.
TV/Streaming: ESPN3, WatchESPN and the ESPN App. Check your local cable or satellite provider for more information.
Odds: Ohio is a 10-point home favorite, with the O/U set at 55, per OddsShark.