Two years ago, Ohio lost to Western Michigan 29-23 in the 2016 Mid-American Conference Championship Game at Ford Field.

On Thursday, the two teams will face off for the first time since that cold December night in Detroit. Many of the key characters from that game are gone, such as then-WMU coach P.J. Fleck and then-Ohio quarterback Greg Windham. Still, enough Bobcats on this season’s team remember the loss to then-No. 17 WMU. 

Ohio’s focus Thursday won’t be on redemption. Instead, it will center around the first of the four most crucial games of Ohio’s 2018 season. 

If they win four straight, the Bobcats will have their ticket punched for a return trip to Detroit. 

Lose? The odds of making the MAC Championship become close to nonexistent and the focus adjusts to winning games for bowl game contention. 

Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. in Kalamazoo at Waldo Stadium, and the game can be watched on ESPNU. 

Below you’ll find a guide to gameday with how to follow along, depth charts, who has the edge, a reading guide and our predictions.

Following along

How to watch: Thursday’s game marks Ohio’s second midweek MACtion game — its first on an ESPN network — this season. It can be seen on ESPNU or online here. Dave LaMont and Ray Bentley will have the call.

How to listen: The game can be heard on the Ohio IMG Sports Network — as always, Russ Eisenstein and Rob Cornelius will be behind the mic. The broadcasts are available online through OhioBobcats.com and TuneIn.com/OhioBobcats

How to find stats: Click here for stats. 

Depth charts



The Edge

When Ohio has the ball…

Ohio is 21st nationally in offensive yards per game (468.6) and 22nd in points per game (38.3). Nathan Rourke continues to be one of the best quarterbacks in the MAC, and he’s been one of the best in the country the past two games. Ohio’s rushing attack has had more than 800 yards on the ground in its past two games.

WMU’s defense has struggled lately. The Broncos gave up 515 yards of total offense to Toledo last week, and the Bobcats’ offense is better than the Rockets’.

Edge: Ohio

When Western Michigan has the ball…

WMU will start true freshman Kaleb Eleby, who is getting his first start after first-stringer Jon Wassink was injured against Toledo after just four pass attempts. 

Earlier this season, Eleby might have had an easier time with Ohio’s defense. But now, the Bobcats have seemed to find their stride, especially up front.

The Bobcats’ front seven, which features linebacker Evan Croutch and a stout defensive line, has been one of the MAC’s best during conference play. They’ll try to make Eleby’s life difficult. But Eleby will have redshirt senior running back Jamauri Bogan, who has had an illustrious career for the Broncos, to help him. Ohio will have to contain Bogan.

Edge: Draw

Reading Guide

Predictions

Sports Editor Spencer Holbrook (6-2 this season): I think Ohio’s defense will continue to ride its wave of improvement it found at home in the past two games. Western Michigan’s offense will start slow with a true freshman quarterback, which will allow Ohio to bottle up Jamauri Bogan. Ohio’s offense is up there with Buffalo for the title of “best in the MAC,” and it will prove that. Ohio wins 45-28.

Asst. Sports Editor Pete Nakos (6-2 this season): Hate to be Johnny raincloud, but here I go: Ohio’s two-game win streak comes to a halt as the quality of opponents trends up. The Bobcats’ defensive woes return, but they don’t struggle putting points on the board. Bogan returns to his 2016 MAC Championship Game level, and the “finish” Ohio’s been looking for isn’t there. Western Michigan wins a close one, 35-24. 

@SpencerHolbrook

sh690914@ohio.edu

@Pete_Nakos96

pn997515@ohio.edu