The Central Michigan Chippewas (5-5, 3-3 MAC) head southeast to take on the Ohio Bobcats (7-3, 3-2 MAC) with things to work for on both sides.
CMU is coming off a tough road loss to bitter rival Western Michigan where the Broncos, fueled by two turnovers, rallied in the fourth quarter for the 38-28 win. The tough loss puts Central Michigan’s bowl game aspirations in jeopardy, as CMU needs to win versus either Ohio or MAC West champs Toledo in the next two games to reach bowl eligibility.
Ohio is still in the MAC East division race for at least one more week, but rival Miami RedHawks can clinch the crown with a win over Buffalo. A loss to the Chippewas would also eliminate Ohio from division contention.
With all that said, let’s take a look at where each program stands heading into this one.
- Time and date: Wednesday, November 15th, 2023 at 7:00PM Eastern
- Network: ESPNU (A valid cable subscription is required)
- Location: Frank Solich Field at Peden Stadium in Athens, Ohio
- Gambling considerations: Ohio is favored by 10 with an over/under of 46, per DraftKings
- Last Time: CMU took a narrow win against an ailing Ohio squad by a final score of 30-27 on Oct. 9, 2021.
- All-time series and streak: CMU has a commanding lead with a 27-5-2 record, with the Chips winning the last six contests dating back to 2013.
When Central Michigan Has The Ball
CMU’s offense has exploited a few opponents through the air this year but has predominantly favored the rushing attack with approximately a 60-40 mix of run to pass.
The ground game has leaned heavily on running back Marion Lukes lately with over half of his season rushing yard totals (349 of 609) coming in the last two weeks versus Northern Illinois and Western Michigan.
If CMU wishes to continue its ground pound, it will need to add some wrinkles or hit some explosive plays to make it work as Ohio’s defense is ranked 11th nationally in run defense, allowing less than 100 yards a game.
Figure QB Jase Bauer to possibly get into the act too, as he has had some success running against some solid MAC defenses in Akron and NIU, piling up over 160 yards on the ground and three scores versus those opponents.
It will be interesting to see if CMU tries to mimic the approach Buffalo took against Ohio last week when the Bulls brought in backup QB CJ Ogbonna for several series with some success rushing with 50 yards and a touchdown.
The Chips also have a good young running quarterback in Bert Emmanuel Jr. who is a load at six-foot-three and 220 lbs. and has rushed for over 600 yards and nine touchdowns in his first two seasons. He saw his first action since late September in last week’s game against Western, registering a handful of carries.
Ohio’s defense has not typically allowed sustained drives this season but has surrendered an explosive play or two per game in the last four weeks so a couple of romps by Lukes, Bauer, and/or Emmanuel Jr. would help the cause.
When Ohio Has The Ball
Offensively, the question for Ohio is can they get to about 20 points? If the answer is yes, then the Bobcats will likely win.
The ‘Cats defense has faced four of the MAC’s top six scoring offenses this year (BGSU, NIU, WMU, and Miami), allowing on average about 19 points per game. The Bobcats will face the MAC’s sixth-ranked scoring offense in the Chips this week, so if Ohio’s defense plays its average game, then 20 points by Ohio on offense should do the trick given the patterns.
Based on what we have seen from CMU’s defense so far, Ohio looks capable of reaching that goal, as the Chips are ninth in the MAC with 30 points allowed per game and are dead last in yards allowed on average (415 per game.)
Ohio strives to be balanced between run and pass but have relied more on the pass out of necessity than run to move the ball with the passing game ranked third in yardage in the MAC and the run ranking eighth.
The straw that stirs the drink in the passing game is still quarterback Kurtis Rourke, who has thrown for almost 1,800 yards and 10 touchdowns. Rouke is also third on the team with almost 200 yards rushing so when the offense is moving look for the ‘Cat QB to be legging out some critical first downs.
Ohio is best offensively when it can get some contributions from the running game too as shown last week versus Buffalo. After scoring zero points in the first half, the Bobcats found some running room in the second half leading Ohio to 20 points.
Another key to an Ohio win is ball security on offense. The Chips come into the contest ranked 120th nationally in turnovers gained with only eight forced turnovers generated in 10 games. The last thing the ‘Cats want to do is see CMU get healthy in that area in this one and compromise its defense in the process by giving the Chips’ offense short fields or easy points.
Although CMU has some fine offensive skill players who are fully capable of hitting for a couple of explosive plays, they will probably find it difficult to sustain regular drives against the ‘Cats’ stout defense.
Ohio’s offense should find the points it needs at home to win this one. The Bobcats offense hit 20 points recently against Buffalo and WMU so it stands to reason they should be able to do the same or better versus CMU’s defense, which is near the bottom of the MAC in points allowed per game. CMU has also struggled at times in pass defense and the Bobcats are near the top of the league in passing offense. Bobcats 27-19.