Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#345 Ohio U vs.
#346 Northwestern
Saturday, September 25, 2021 at 12:00pm EDT
Written by Nathaniel Reeves

The Ohio Bobcats will look to get in the win column with an upset over the Northwestern Wildcats on Saturday afternoon at Ryan Field. Ohio is off to an o-3 start after getting hammered 49-14 by the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns last Thursday as a 19.5-point road underdog. Northwestern is also struggling at 1-2 (0-1 Big Ten) after dropping a 30-23 decision over the weekend to the Duke Blue Devils as a 2.5-point road favorite.

These teams last met in 2008, when Northwestern won 16-8 in Evanston. Northwestern leads 3-1 all-time, with Ohio's lone win coming back in 1973.

Ohio falters in fourth quarter for another loss

There were at least some bright spots through three quarters against a good Louisiana team, but Ohio is still searching for its first win of the season after the game got away late last Thursday. A 25-yard touchdown pass from Kurtis Rourke to O'Shaan Allison kept Ohio in the game late in the first half and Ty Walton scored on a 21-yard reception to make things interesting, only for the Ragin' Cajuns to put together three long scoring drives in the fourth quarter.

Rourke got the most snaps in Ohio's two-quarterback system, completing 12 of his 22 pass attempts for 122 yards and two touchdowns. Allison carried the ball 11 times for 48 yards while adding two receptions for 44 yards and the score. Ohio couldn't compete in the end, as Louisiana finished with a 562-250 advantage in total yards.

"I felt like offensively we had some opportunities to put some heat on (Louisiana), the two long drives that we had the missed field goal and then the turnover in the redzone," head coach Tim Albin said via Ohio's website."We can't do that against a good football team. We all know that they have a good football team. We had a chance to crank it up and make it a game, and didn't get it done."

Ohio is also off to an 0-3 start against the spread, as it lost as an outright favorite to both FCS Duquesne and the Syracuse Orange earlier in the year. Overs are 2-1 for the Bobcats, with each of their past two games going over the betting total.

The Bobcats now rank bottom 15 in scoring on both sides of the ball, including an average of 16.3 points on 301 yards per game offensively. Opponents are putting up 35.3 points and 436.5 yards per game against the struggling Ohio defense.

Rourke has completed 47 of his 72 pass attempts for 432 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Walton is Ohio's top target with 14 catches for 118 yards and two touchdowns. Alvin Floyd has made some plays for the Ohio defense with 25 tackles, one forced fumble and one interception.

Wideout Isiah Cox, the team's leading receiver in both 2019 and 2020, is expected to make his season debut on Saturday after serving a suspension. Jerome Buckner, who was a bright spot in the season opener against Syracuse with seven catches for 102 yards, is also probable after missing two games with a shoulder injury. It's unclear when linebacker Keye Thompson will return from a knee injury suffered in training camp.

Northwestern's huge rally falls short

An awful start last Saturday proved to be too much to overcome for the Wildcats, who are still searching for their first win over an FBS team this year after losing by a touchdown at Duke. The Blue Devils' advantage got as large as 27-0 late in the first half, and while touchdown receptions by Jacob Gill and Marshall Lang plus a short scoring run by Andrew Marty would make it a one-score game late, Duke was able to get a couple of first downs to run the clock out.

After starting quarterback Hunter Johnson turned the ball over three times and was benched early, Marty completed 11 of his 16 passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns while adding seven carries for 44 yards and a score before leaving with an injury of his own. Bryce Kirtz made some big plays with three catches for 72 yards. The Wildcats were outgained 558-417 and lost the turnover battle 5-3 in a sloppy game all around for both teams.

“We need to stop doing what losing teams do,” head coach Pat Fitzgerald said to The Daily Northwestern. “Losing teams turn the ball over. Losing teams have self-inflicted wounds. Losing teams give up explosive plays. Losing teams have communication issues.”

Northwestern is 0-3 against the spread in the early going with outright losses to Duke and the No. 20 Michigan State Spartans as a slight favorite. Overs are 2-1 for the Wildcats after their late score helped last Saturday's game clear the betting total of 50 points.

The Wildcats are struggling to generate offense with an average of 22.7 points and 364 yards per game so far. Northwestern's defense grades out slightly better, with opponents putting up 24.7 points and 417.7 yards per contest.

Johnson has struggled under center, completing 45 of 75 pass attempts for 424 yards, four touchdowns and four interceptions. Evan Hull has been effective running the ball with 41 carries for 262 yards and two touchdowns while adding seven catches for 51 yards. A.J. Hampton has recorded six pass breakups already, in addition to 10 tackles and a forced fumble.

It's unclear what the quarterback situation will look like on Saturday, as Marty is questionable with an upper body injury. Running back Cam Porter and offensive lineman Zachary Franks, two key contributors, were lost for the season in training camp with lower body injuries. Reserve wide receivers Berkeley Holman (head) and JJ Jefferson (undisclosed) are yet to play this year.

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Full-Game Side Bet

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While Ohio definitely is not a good team, it's hard to trust Northwestern to cover a big spread given the uncertainty at quarterback heading into the weekend. Northwestern has lost a lot of NFL-level talent in recent years which is starting to show this season, and the methodical Wildcats offense won't pull away enough to win by more than two touchdowns.

If Marty is sidelined by his injury, the quarterback job will fall down to Johnson, who turned the ball over four times in just one half last weekend, or Ryan Hilinski, who completed just two of his seven pass attempts for 34 yards. The Northwestern defense also isn't what it once was after allowing a miserable 6.7 yards in the games against Duke and Michigan State, both limited offenses, as the Wildcats haven't been able to stop anyone on the ground.

Ohio's offense can be better than it has shown so far as Rourke has had a solid career while Armani Rogers can make plays with his legs in the series he is under center, and the return of a very talented receiver in Cox is huge news for the Bobcats. This might not be a particularly close game but anything over two touchdowns is too much, as Northwestern's offense has typically had problems scoring enough to cover these big spreads for a few years now.

Prediction: Ohio +14.5

Full-Game Total Pick

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Rating:

Even if the Bobcats show some improvement on offense and are not a good defense, they will play more low-scoring games thanks to a consistently slow pace that typically hovers around 65 plays per game, right near the bottom of the national leaderboard. Fitzgerald is a good enough defensive coach to get that unit turned around at some point, and the fact that Ohio only scored nine points with 346 yards of total offense doesn't bode well for this matchup against a power conference team.

Given the problems at quarterback, Northwestern will choose a run-heavy game plan that plays it safe without many shots deep down the field. With how methodical both offenses are, this will be a defensive slugfest.

Prediction: Under 48
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Written By Nathaniel Reeves , "Nathaniel Reeves"

Nathaniel Reeves is an avid sports fan with degrees in journalism from the University of Washington and statistics from Western Washington University. He's always had a passion for applying statistical analysis to sports betting and has successfully handicapped college football, college basketball, and Esports for years. Nathaniel has endured being a lifelong fan of the Seattle Mariners, along with the Seattle Seahawks, UW Huskies and soon to be Seattle Kraken. He has been a very successful sports bettor the last several years and we are thrilled that Nate has chosen to bring his talents to us here at Winners & Whiners. You would be very wise to follow him daily.