Western Michigan Broncos (4-3, 2-1 MAC)
Waldo Stadium 2 p.m. ET
By Justin Holbrock
An upset win over the second place Akron Zips last Saturday puts the Ohio Bobcats right back in the thick of the MAC East division race with only four games left in the season.
After Bowling Green lost to Western Michigan at home, the ‘Cats are just one game in back of the Falcons. Head coach Frank Solich, however, must make a quick decision on Ohio’s starting quarterback.
Captain Derrius Vick, who hasn’t played since injuring his knee in the second quarter of week four, is back to full health, but he must compete once again with sophomore J.D. Sprague for who will lead Ohio to take on the surging Broncos.
Ohio topped Akron 23-20 on a late 22-yard field goal by Josiah Yazdani. That kick was set up by a Devin Bass forced fumble at the 50-yard line and returned nearly 30 yards by linebacker Javon Johnson. Yazdani connected on three field goals in the game, and the 23 points scored by Ohio is the second most that Akron has allowed all season.
Western Michigan, meanwhile, registered what was hands down the best victory for the Broncos this season as WMU downed the Bowling Green Falcons, 26-14. The top ranked offense in the MAC was held to a season-low 14 points, all in the first half, while Western Michigan had the ball on offense for 21 minutes in the second half.
Five -- that’s the number of times the Bobcats have held opponents under 150 yards rushing. Four of those occasions have been under 100 yards as the ‘Cats rank fourth in the MAC in run defense, giving up 142.63 yards rushing a game.
Western Michigan, however, poses a deep threat to Ohio’s run defense for one reason—Jarvion Franklin. The Broncos starting running back not only leads the entire nation with 16 rushing touchdowns, but he has also won MAC West Offensive Player of the Week three times through seven games.
Franklin isn’t the only WMU offensive threat, either. Sophomore wide receiver Corey Davis, who is averaging over 100 yards receiving a game, makes for the perfect compliment for Franklin because he keeps opposing defenses honest and doesn’t allow them to focus all of their effort on preventing the run.
While Western Michigan has a working formula for its offense, the Bobcats are back to starting quarterback uncertainty with the return of Vick.
Much like the very first week of the season, don’t be surprised if Ohio decides to utilize both quarterbacks in a game that should provide plenty of MAC-madness for two teams looking to extend their winning streaks this Saturday.
“I think they [Western Michigan] are a football team that has a good combination of things,” Solich said. “They have themselves the kind of runner that you look for to establish a running game, and they have the kind of thrower you look for. They have two corners that are lock down corners (and) that allows them to play a lot of man coverage.”
“We think their [Western Michigan’s] running game is going to be physical but we’re going to be physical as well,” defensive tackle Cameron McLeod said. “We’re going to try to take over the line of scrimmage early and get it done.”
· Ohio has not won a game against Western Michigan since Oct. 7, 2006
· After racking up 120 yards on 11 penalties, Solich said, the Bobcats will need to clean up their recent propensities for flag miscues. “It [penalties] played a huge role in the Bowling Green game and it could have been a deciding factor in this [past] game, but we were able to overcome it,” Solich said. “You don’t overcome it all of the time or most of the time, so we have to get much better than what we did these last two games.”
· The Bobcats and Broncos last met on Oct.4, 2008, when the Broncos defeated OU 41-20 in Kalamazoo.
· Ohio is 4-0 this season when leading at the end of the third quarter and have not lost a game with the lead entering the fourth quarter since 2011
· After suffering a concussion three weeks ago at Central Michigan, true freshman linebacker Blair Brown is cleared to practice and will be ready for Saturday’s game
· Wide receiver Brendan Cope and offensive lineman Jared McCray are listed as questionable for Ohio’s game against the Broncos
· The game-changing forced fumble by redshirt junior Devin Bass was his first career forced fumble
· Place kicker Josiah Yazdani was named MAC East Special Teams Player of the Week for the second time this season for his performance against the Zips in which he made three field goals including the 22-yard game-winner late in the fourth quarter
· The Broncos rank fourth in the MAC with nearly 33 points per game, compared to the 11th ranked ‘Cats, who are scoring just 18.8 points a game
· Running back Jarvion Franklin is the number two leading rusher in the MAC averaging 141.71 yards a game, just two shy of Central Michigan running back Thomas Rawls who ran for 229 yards against the ‘Cats
· Franklin was named MAC West Offensive Player of the Week for the third time this season after he rushed for a career-high 37 carries for 149 yards and one touchdown against the Falcons
· Franklin also leads the entire nation with 16 rushing touchdowns and is just three shy of the Western Michigan single season record
· Sophomore Corey Davis is averaging 101.5 yards receiving a game, good enough for second highest average in the MAC
· Western Michigan is on a two-game winning streak, with both victories coming on the road