Ohio (3-2) at Central Michigan (2-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 4, 3:30 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Kelly/Shorts Stadium (45,000) -- Mount Pleasant, Michigan. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: Ohio 2-0, Central Michigan 1-1. Away Record: Ohio 1-2, Central Michigan 1-2. Neutral Record: Ohio 0-0, Central Michigan 0-0. Conference Record: Ohio 1-0, Central Michigan 0-1. Series Record: Central Michigan leads, 22-5-2.
GAME NOTES: Following two straight wins to open the 2014 season, the Central Michigan Chippewas have dropped three consecutive contests, and will seek to put an end to that losing streak as they host the Ohio University Bobcats in a Mid-American Conference battle at Kelly/Shorts Stadium in Mount Pleasant on Saturday.
Ohio, unlike Central Michigan, was out to a relatively rough start in 2014. The Bobcats needed a last-second field goal to defeat Kent State in the season opener, and then dropped two straight contests to Kentucky and Marshall in back-to-back weeks. But now Ohio is on a two-game winning streak, and will seek to make it three in a row on the road.
The Chippewas have been hit by a pretty severe injury bug early this season, losing running back Thomas Rawls and receiver Titus Davis for multiple games. Central Michigan is hoping a game in which the team returns home from a two- game road stint will help iron things out moving forward.
Central Michigan has been dominant in the all-time series against the Mid- American Conference foe, leading Ohio, 22-5-2, in a series that began back in 1972. The Chippewas won last year's meeting, 26-23, in Athens.
Ohio took on FCS program Eastern Illinois this past weekend, and showed it was going to be a one-sided contest right from the start. The Bobcats dominated in the ground game, scoring four combined touchdowns with 229 rushing yards. A.J. Ouellette was the team's leader in the category, taking 11 carried for 87 yards with a pair of scores, while quarterback J.D. Sprague carried the ball 12 times for 69 yards and two more touchdowns. Ouellette tops the team this season with 288 yards on the ground and four touchdowns.
Sprague was the sole man under center in last Saturday's win, after the Bobcats spent the first few weeks trying out carious options. Sprague was relatively ineffective through the air, passing for 143 yards and a pair of interceptions in the win. He only has one touchdown pass in four games played for an offense averaging 207.6 passing ypg.
Landon Smith is the top target should the Bobcats feel the need to go heavily to the passing game. Smith has pulled in 16 receptions through four games played, adding 150 yards and two touchdowns to his stat lint. Sebastian Smith has played all five games, with 156 yards and two touchdowns to this point in the season. As an offense, the Bobcats are averaging 20.8 ppg.
Non-conference play was a bit tough on the Bobcats to start the season. Ohio dropped consecutive contests to Kentucky and Marshall, surrendering a combined 64 points in the two games while managing just 17 of its own. Through five games, the Bobcats are giving up 450.4 total offensive ypg, 304.8 passing ypg, and 24.2 ppg to opponents.
Central Michigan generally mixes in a pretty even amount of run and pass plays to its offense, so Ohio will need to be ready in both aspects of the game. Blair Brown and Quentin Poling lead the team with 39 tackles apiece, with Poling entering the matchup sporting a team-leading three sacks on the year, adding a team-best three interceptions. He and Jovon Johnson are the team leaders with 3.5 tackles for loss.
The Chippewas ran up against a Toledo team that lost its starting quarterback in Phillip Ely for the season with an ACL tear, but were still playing exceptionally well behind the arm and legs of Logan Woodside. CMU managed a decent 386 yards of offense in the contest, but allowed the Rockets to rack up 543 yards in the loss. Quarterback Cooper Rush passed for 291 yards and two touchdowns, throwing an interception in the process. This season, Rush and the Chippewas' passing game is averaging 199.4 ypg.
Rawls returned to Central Michigan's lineup last Saturday, and was rewarded with 17 handoffs that he took for 65 yards and two touchdowns. He's missed two games this season, but still leads the team with 341 yards and five rushing scores on an impressive 73 carries (the next closest CMU rusher has 22 carries). He'll be welcomed back the rest of the way as he tries to improve the team's 107.8 rushing ypg mark.
Davis returned to the Central Michigan lineups after missing every game since a Week 1 injury knocked him out. The pro-prospect receiver hauled in six receptions in the loss to Toledo for a team-high 128 yards. Teammate Jesse Kroll caught two touchdown passes, and now leads the team with three scoring receptions this season. Although Davis missed more than three games, he ranks third on CMU with 139 receiving yards this year.
Since the team's offense is only averaging 19.8 ppg through five contests, the defense has a lot to make up for. CMU is giving up an average of 27.8 ppg to its opposition, including at least 40 points in two of the team's three losses. Opponents are just shy of the 400-yard mark per game as well, notching 391.6 total ypg.
Linebacker Justin Cherocci can't do everything by himself, although he's certainly trying. Cherocci has by far the most tackles on the team through five games with 56, adding 1.5 tackles for loss and a sack to his resume. Jason Wilson is the next closest to Cherocci's total with 32 stops. Brandon Greer and Tony Annese, who each have a pair of interceptions so far, will try to force Sprague into making careless errors this weekend.
With healthy key players like Davis and Rawls back in the lineup, Central Michigan can be one of the better teams in the MAC this season if everything comes together. But the team fell short defensively in non-conference play, and has an opportunity to turn it around as full-time conference play begins. Ohio will make it tough on the Chippewas, and will challenge them to stop the run game. With an added swagger by the re-additions of Davis and Rawls, CMU should start to increase its scoring totals.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Central Michigan 28, Ohio 20
10/01 10:35:47 ET