Ohio (3-3, 1-1 MAC East) comes into the contest riding high off a huge homecoming win over Akron 55-34 last weekend. The Bobcats’ 21-point victory was the result of a virtually unstoppable offense that scored touchdowns on seven of nine drives. The offense didn't do it alone though, as the defense forced some key stops while returning a fumble for score.
WMU (2-4. 1-1 MAC West) comes into this one after getting steamrolled by EMU last weekend, who cruised to a 35-7 halftime lead in route to a 45-23 victory. WMU got a few things going in the second half and looks to build on that coming into this one versus Ohio.
The game figures to be another big MAC contest, with both squads needing a win to keep within striking distance of the leaders in the conference standings. MAC East leader Buffalo is off to a 3-0 start in conference play and MAC West leader Toledo who is off to a 2-0 conference start.
We take a look at both teams heading into this game, but first, some notes.
- Time and Date: Saturday, October 15, 2022, at 3:30 PM ET
- Networks: CBS Sports Network (subscription required)
- Radio/Streaming: Both teams can be heard via the Varsity Network App.
- Location: Waldo Stadium, Kalamazoo, Michigan
- Weather: Partly Sunny, 54 degrees. 13% chance of rain. Wind W 13 MPH per Weather.com
- Spread/Total: Ohio is a 1.5-point favorite per ESPN.com
- Last Meeting: WMU took home a 37-34 win in overtime the last time these two teams met on November 12, 2019.
- Special Event: WMU’s Homecoming
Previewing the Ohio Bobcats
The game features some interesting matchups beginning with Ohio’s offense versus WMU’s defense during the course of which we will find out who's good is better. The Bobcats offense leads the MAC in yards gained (2,675) and faces off against a Broncos’ defense that is among the stingiest in the league, ranking fourth in yards allowed (2,309).
The ‘Cats offense brings a balanced attack to Kalamazoo and go from there as the situation dictates.
Ohio features the most productive passing game in the MAC, featuring as the only squad over 2,000 passing yards (2,004).
QB Kurtis Rourke is playing as well as any MAC quarterback, if not as good or better than most in the FBS. Rourke has completed over 70 percent of his passes for 1,994 yards and 14 touchdowns against only two interceptions, with a passing efficiency of 167.4, which ranks 16th in the FBS.
As good as Rourke is, another big problem for WMU’s pass defense is the sheer number of weapons that Rourke has at his disposal. Ohio has nine players with at least nine catches this year and four receivers with at least 250 yards. For context, compare that with the Broncos who have three receivers with nine or more catches and one player with more than 250 yards receiving.
With all those targets, expect Rourke and company to exploit any defensive weaknesses in the passing game.
And as good as the passing game is, Ohio will try to keep the Broncos honest with a heavy dose of the rushing attack led by current MAC East Offensive Player of the Week RB Sieh Bangura. Even though the Bobcats set a program record last week against Akron for second-most passing yards in a single game (427), Ohio actually had more rushing attempts (31) than passing attempts (27).
Defensively, how the Bobcats game plan unfolds will be interesting to watch. With multiple injuries in the secondary last week versus Akron, Ohio played largely to keep things in front, preventing the big play. The ‘Cats plan was effective because although the Zips’ QB DJ irons compiled a massive amount of passing yards (418), the Bobcats did not surrender a passing touchdown and had some critical stops.
This week the Bobcats face a WMU QB in Jack Salopek who, in just his sixth career start, is far less experienced than Irons so the question is will Ohio be content to sit back and risk the Broncos QB getting into a rhythm with some easy throws or, with the return of a few secondary starters, take more chances to put early pressure on the Broncos QB at the risk of some explosive plays?
Whatever the game plan, figure some front seven defenders who have been heating up during conference play to take center stage. Last week at Akron, defensive end Jack McCrory and linebackers Keye Thompson and Bryce Houston combined for 23 tackles and multiple explosive plays, including a strip sack by Houston that McCrory returned for a score and an interception by Thompson.
Previewing the Western Michigan Broncos
Another interesting matchup in this one will be how WMU’s offense, which is last in the league in yards gained (1,807), fares against a Bobcats defense that is last in the league in yards allowed (3,367).
The Broncos come into this one looking to get into a rhythm on offense and may be able to do that against Ohio’s defense based on the number of yards they have surrendered this year.
Focusing on the games WMU has played in conference, the offense to date has run hot and cold.
For instance, In the first half of the EMU and Ball State games the Broncos combined for 21 points but almost doubled that output (40 points) in the second half of those games.
The Broncos feature some top-level MAC talent in guys like RB Sean Tyler who can help establish that consistency or at least generate some explosive plays. Expect WMU to get the ball into Tyler’s hands in any way possible and see what he can do. Tyler has shown he is a threat on offense and special teams, having rushed for over 2,000 yards in his career, with 38 catches for 313 yards, and a combined 22 scores (19 rush, 3 pass).
Tyler is also a special teams ace with three career kickoff return touchdowns.
WMU has a playmaker at receiver in Corey Crooms. Coming off a successful 2021 campaign including 744 yards receiving and six scores, Crooms is WMU’s leading receiver with 365 yards and three scores in 2022.
Defensively, the Broncos have been pretty solid, ranking in the middle of the pack in the MAC with 30.7 points on average per game but are looking to bounce back from a game against EMU last week where the Eagles exposed the Broncos for five first-half touchdowns.
The Bobcats offense is rolling towards a special season and if they take care of the ball and execute as they are capable, they should come out of Waldo Stadium with their first road win of the season.
Ohio 38, WMU 24.