When we last talked about the Ohio Bobcats, we talked about how they hadn’t really been tested yet. Sure, the Bobcats played Purdue and beat Kansas, but last week’s matchup against Toledo featured the best opponent to date for Ohio. And they won convincingly. We’re still waiting for a line for the game against Akron, as we wait to see if Thomas Woodson will be back for the Zips. This game means a ton to both teams, so we should see a spirited affair with Ohio as a road favorite. A win for Akron would mean a tie atop the MAC East Division standings and a head-to-head tiebreaker going into next week’s game against Kent State. A win for Ohio would seal the deal and send the Bobcats to the MAC Title Game irrespective of what happens next week.
The Bobcats have been one of the best bets in the game this season. Frank Solich’s team has been very impressive with an 8-2 record straight up and against the spread. The Bobcats are 5-1 straight up and ATS against MAC competition and have won and covered in four straight. Passing last week’s test against Toledo should have opened some eyes. The line dropped from Toledo -6 to Toledo -3, but it never mattered what number bettors got because Ohio won 38-10. The Zips have been a good bet this season as well. Terry Bowden’s team is only 5-5 straight up, but is 7-3 against the number. A complete 180 from the Akron defense has played a big part, as nine of Akron’s 10 games have gone under the total.
We know Ohio has a good defense. We know Ohio wins games at the line of scrimmage. What the Bobcats have lacked the last couple of seasons is dynamism at the quarterback position. They’ve found it in JUCO transfer Nathan Rourke. He is a dynamic player in every sense of the word and has accounted for 31 total touchdowns this season. He has a 14/4 TD/INT ratio and has 7.4 yards per pass attempt. He also has 6.5 yards per carry with 17 scores in the ground game. AJ Ouellette has returned from his medical redshirt with a vengeance with 5.7 yards per carry and Dorian Brown has six yards per carry. David Burroughs, a junior change-of-pace back, has played sparingly, but has 10.5 yards per carry on his 15 attempts and had four carries for 61 yards last week against Toledo. We could see more of him going forward. The Bobcats rank 29th in yards per play with 6.4 and haven’t been above six yards per play since 2011. Ohio has scored 40.9 points per game this season, but has been more of a second-half team, in case you’re looking for a live betting angle in this one. The Bobcats have scored over 23 points per game in the second half this year.
The Ohio defense has been quite strong as well. On the season, the Bobcats have allowed 5.2 yards per play, but have scaled that mark down to just 4.8 yards per play against conference foes. Ohio held Toledo to 10 points and 316 yards last week, which is something that doesn’t happen to the Rockets. Toledo did move it through the air a bit, but only had 2.3 yards per carry. Stuffing the run has been Ohio’s strong suit on defense this season. The Bobcats have allowed just 3.6 yards per carry. Opponents do have more success throwing it with 12 yards per reception, but Ohio’s dominance in the trenches means that the Bobcats often win the time of possession and field position battles. This is the first road game for Ohio in a month, so we’ll have to see how the Bobcats respond to playing away from Athens.
Kato Nelson didn’t look bad for Akron in last week’s loss to Miami of Ohio, but getting Thomas Woodson back would certainly be a boost. Woodson was a late scratch for a violation of team rules and the Zips clearly missed him in their first of three cracks at bowl eligibility in a couple of seasons and just the third time in program history. Woodson’s status is up in the air for this week’s game as well. He has a 58.3 percent completion percentage and a 14/8 TD/INT rato. Nelson, a redshirt freshman, has completed just 51 percent of his throws with a 1/1 TD/INT ratio. Because Akron can’t run the ball, with just 3.3 yards per carry and Warren Ball and Deltron Sands done for the season, the quarterback position is extremely important as to whether or not the Zips move the ball. That was painfully evident last week when Akron had 1.8 yards per carry against Miami of Ohio. The Zips aren’t a particularly potent offense anyway with just 5.1 yards per play.
Defensively, Akron has some issues. The Zips have allowed six yards per play on the year. They have allowed 447.2 yards per game in conference play, but the bend, but don’t break style has suited them well with just 21.8 points per contest allowed. The Zips have played a lot of low-scoring games by forcing turnovers at opportune times and by buckling down as they get closer to the goal line. This is a big turnaround from last season, when Akron allowed 6.1 yards per play and nearly 34 points per game. On the other hand, Akron allowed 48 points to Toledo, the best offense that the team has faced since allowing 41 to Iowa State on September 16. The three real good offenses that Akron has seen have scored 52, 41, and 48 points. Ohio brings a very good offense to the Rubber City for this one.
College Football Free Pick: Ohio Bobcats
With Woodson, my numbers make Ohio around a touchdown favorite. That number would be double digits without him. The late news and the heavy steam drove Miami of Ohio up to a 12-point favorite at home with Gus Ragland back. Ohio was only favored by 6.5 against Miami of Ohio at home on Halloween and was only favored by 17 against Kent State on October 21. The markets have been very conservative on the Bobcats. This is a very good football team. Akron has played good defense against poor offenses, but Ohio has a great offense. Without a line, this is obviously a pick for pick’s sake to wrap up the preview, but Ohio for sure on anything under 10 and use your best discretion otherwise.
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