EVANSTON, Ill. - After a nine-day break, Ohio will take on its second Power 5 opponent of the season, Northwestern, for the final game in its nonconference schedule.
The Bobcats (0-3) are coming off their toughest loss of the season to Louisiana. The Wildcats (1-2) are also struggling, with their only win coming against Football Championship Subdivision opponent Indiana State.
Kickoff is slated for noon EDT (11 a.m. CDT local) at Ryan Field. Big Ten Network will televise the game.
Below is a guide to gameday with how to follow along, depth charts, what to watch for, who has the edge, a reading guide and our predictions:
How to watch: The game will be broadcast on Big Ten Network. Chris Vosters, Jeremy Leman and Michelle McMahon will be on the air.
How to listen: The game can be listened to via Learfield’s Ohio Sports Network. Russ Eisenstein and Rob Cornelius will be on the call per usual.
How to find stats: Stats are provided here.
Provided from each team’s game notes.
Ohio Defense and Special Teams
Three things to watch for
Ohio’s performance in the second half:
The Bobcats have struggled in the second half this season. In their first three games, they’ve allowed 62 points after half time. To make matters more difficult, Northwestern has been a second half team in 2021; 58% of its points have come in the second half this season, and it nearly mounted a comeback against Duke last week.
Coach Tim Albin said in his Monday press conference that preventing defensive burnout is a top priority, and Northwestern is a prime example as to why.
Can Ohio take advantage of Northwestern’s defense?
The Wildcats have ranked in the bottom half of the Big Ten Conference for team defense this season and have given up 30 points or more against both of its Football Bowl Subdivision opponents. The Bobcats haven’t had the red zone success they’ve wanted this season, but touchdown passes to O’Shaan Allison and Ty Walton against Louisiana showed their potential.
With the return of wide receivers Isiah Cox and Jerome Buckner, Ohio might finally be able to put up the passing game it’s been looking for.
Northwestern’s quarterback battle
The Wildcats haven’t decided on a starting quarterback prior to gameday. Their original starter Hunter Johnson struggled against Duke, getting picked off three times and only throwing six completions.
Johnson was pulled at the end of the first half for fellow senior Andrew Marty, who exited in the fourth quarter with an upper body injury after going 11-of-16 with 151 passing yards and two touchdowns.
Both Johnson and Marty are listed as the first-stringers on Northwestern’s depth chart, so Ohio has had to prepare for both quarterbacks in the event either one gets the start Saturday.
When Ohio has the ball: Ohio’s offense is in the midst of figuring itself out, but it also saw flashes of potential against Louisiana. The Bobcats have begun to get creative, and it’s paid off in some moments.
Quarterback Armani Rogers saw more playtime against Louisiana, and Albin has stated he wants to get Rogers more time on the field. However, Ohio’s offense has proven too shaky on third down and in the red zone to stress Northwestern’s defense. It still needs to come up with a plan for consistent success.
When Northwestern has the ball: Although it will also be deciding between quarterbacks heading into Saturday, Northwestern is more stable on offense. Its running corps, led by sophomore Evan Hull, rushes for over 150 yards per game on average. Ohio has been unsuccessful with run defense this season, allowing an average of 253.7 yards on the ground.
- Tim Albin’s weekly press conference
- Northwestern scouting report
- Evaluating Week 3 performances in the MAC
- Stock watch following Ohio’s loss to Louisiana
- Jerome Buckner is playing with newfound confidence
Sports Editor Jack Gleckler: Ohio has stumbled through its first three games. Its defense has routinely failed to stop the rushing attack and often burns out in the second half, and Northwestern is above average in both those areas. Unless Ohio has an ace up its sleeve to counter Hull and last a full four quarters, it’ll be canoeing upriver without a paddle. Northwestern wins 27-10.
Assistant Sports Editor Eli Feazell: Saturday will be a test for both teams. Ohio could get its first win of the Albin era, whereas Northwestern will have an opportunity to prove it’s above its 1-2 start. Northwestern has an advantage with a proven rushing attack going against a shaky Ohio run defense. It’s likely Fitzgerald will lead his team to victory with more experience at the helm and with a more developed roster. Northwestern wins 28-14.