The Massachusetts Minutemen will be trying to remain on the winning track when they visit the Ohio Bobcats at Peden Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Massachusetts halted a three-game losing streak with a victory over Charlotte last weekend. The Bobcats are coming off consecutive setbacks at the hands of Virginia and Cincinnati.
Massachusetts head coach Mark Whipple is dealing with a pair of quarterbacks who have been plagued by injuries. Both Andrew Ford and Ross Comis were listed as day-to-day with upper-body injuries and they did not play in this past Saturday’s 49-31 home win over Charlotte. Enter junior Michael Curtis, who is third on the depth chart after transferring from Trinity Valley College. Curtis completed 12 of 19 passes for 189 yards and two touchdowns without throwing an interception. He also rushed for two scores in his first start and second appearance on the heels of a backup role at Florida International.
“I feel better about our quarterback position than ever because I know [Ford and Comis] can play,” Whipple explained. “I thought Michael did a really good job. I was nervous the whole game. I didn’t want to put him in harm’s way. Like anybody going in the first time, you never know how they’re going to do. We wanted to give him some easy throws and move him around. I liked his progress.”
Curtis now has three touchdowns and two interceptions on the year, which gives him better numbers than Ford (two TDs, three INTs) but not as clean of a sheet as Comis (three TDs, no INTs). Both Ford and Curtis are completing better than 61 percent of their passes, while Comis has a 56.8 completion percentage.
Ohio probably should be 2-1 instead of 1-2, but it threw away a golden opportunity to get the best of Cincinnati last weekend. The Bobcats jumped out to a 21-0 lead and led 24-7 at the half, but the Bearcats clawed back with 27 second-half points to earn a 34-30 victory. On the bright side, Ohio is back at home (where it is 1-0 with a win over Hawaii) following two losses on the road (also to Virginia, 45-31 on Sept. 15). The Bobcats also endured a roller-coaster ride in that contest, battling back from a 35-7 second-quarter deficit to make it a 10-point game with less than 10 minutes remaining in the third quarter. Ohio’s defense could not quite keep the team close enough, as Virginia churned out 552 yards of total offense.
As for the Bobcats’ offense, sophomore receiver Cameron Odom enjoyed a breakout performance at Cincinnati with his first career 100-yard game (114 yards) on five catches. Ohio has boasted at least one receiver with 100-plus yards in four straight games dating back to the 2017 Bahamas Bowl. Senior wideout Papi White recorded his third consecutive performance of at least 100 receiving yards when he had 131 yards on six receptions against the Wahoos.
The Ohio Bobcats are:
- 4-1 ATS in their last five home games
- 15-5 ATS in their last 20 non-conference games
- 5-1 ATS in their last six games following a loss
The Massachusetts Minutemen are:
- 0-4 ATS in their last four home games
- 2-9 ATS in their last 11 games against the Mid-American Conference
- 2-5 ATS in their last seven non-conference games
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
Ohio quarterback Nathan Rourke got off to a slow start this season, going 2-of-8 for 44 yards in just one quarter of work in the opener against Howard. Since then, though, he has completed 28 of 58 attempts for 424 yards and three touchdowns with only one interception. Rourke has also run for 137 yards and a touchdown over the last two games. In last Saturday’s loss to Cincinnati, he finished 12-of-27 for 178 yards with one touchdown and one interception and also ran for a season-high 96 yards and a touchdown on nine keepers. Count Ohio among the teams with a turnover reward (in its case a belt), and the prop appears to be working. Ohio’s defense has produced eight takeaways through the first three games of the 2018 season and owns a plus-four turnover margin.
Prediction: Ohio Bobcats
Full-Game Total Pick
Rourke currently ranks seventh in Ohio program history with 22 career rushing touchdowns and is tied for seventh with 20 career passing TDs. Massachusetts, meanwhile, is giving up 39.6 points per game. The over is 19-6 in the Minutemen’s last 25 overall, 9-4 in their last 13 on the road, 16-5 in their last 21 non-conference contests, 4-1 in their last five against losing opponents, and 6-1 in their last seven following a win. It is also 4-1-1 in the Bobcats’ last six overall, 8-1 in their last nine non-conference contests, and 3-0-1 in their last four against losing opponents. Look for this one to go over the total.
Half-Time Side Pick
Massachusetts’ defense has been an unmitigated disaster for the most part this year, especially in first halves. That is bad news as they prepare to face an Ohio team that has scored at least 30 points in all three of its outings–including 24 of its 30 points against Cincinnati during the opening 30 minutes.
Prediction: Ohio Bobcats -7
Half-Time Total Bet
Massachusetts pushed this spread by itself last week, abusing Charlotte to the tune of 35 first-half points. The Minutemen have not been able to stop anyone–except Charlotte–this season, so their offense better click once again if they want to keep pace with Ohio. UMass gave up 52 first-half points to Boston College, 17 second-quarter points to Georgia Southern, and 42 first-half points to Florida International.
Prediction: Over 35