Following a tough nonconference schedule, Ohio is set to face its first Mid-American Conference opponent, Akron, on Saturday.
Neither the Bobcats (0-4, 0-0 MAC) nor the Zips (1-3, 0-0 MAC) have had the starts they wanted. The Bobcats have had consistent issues week after week they’ve failed to fix, whereas the Zips have only beaten a Football Championship Subdivision team so far. In all three of their losses, the Zips were defeated out by at least 21 points. Saturday’s game is an opportunity for both teams to turn their seasons around.
Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. at InfoCision Stadium in Akron. The game will be shown on ESPN3.
Below is a guide to game day 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 ESPN3. Jason Ross and Marcus Ray will have the call.
How to listen: The game can be listened to via Learfield’s Ohio Sports Network. Russ Eisenstein and Rob Cornelius will be behind the mic.
How to find stats: Stats are provided here.
Depth charts and starting lineups
Provided from each team’s game notes.
Akron starters, week-by-week
What to watch for
Akron quarterback DJ Irons will be one of the most athletic quarterbacks Ohio has gone up against so far this season. He leads the team in both passing and rushing yards. The last true dual-threat quarterback Ohio has gone against this season was Louisiana’s Levi Lewis. In Ohio’s loss to Louisiana, Lewis went 21-for-29 for 212 yards passing and added 61 yards on the ground.
Ohio coach Tim Albin mentioned in his Monday press conference that Irons’s playstyle is what the Bobcats look for when recruiting quarterbacks of their own. They appreciate and are familiar with quarterbacks with the ability to extend plays.
Fixing the regular mistakes
Ohio’s mistakes have been consistent in each of its four losses. It has repeatedly struggled to convert on third down, take down ball carriers on first contact and finish drives when it gets downfield. These issues, among others, are what cost the Bobcats points and let their opponents drive down the field.
The Bobcats are more used to MAC opponents than their nonconference slate and have beaten the Zips in their last three meetings. In what might be a more comfortable environment, the Bobcats have as good a chance as ever to clean up their play.
Ohio’s kicking unit has battled inconsistency through its first four games. Redshirt senior Stephen Johnson has only made half of his field goal attempts this season, and redshirt sophomore Tristian Vandenberg missed his only attempt against Northwestern.
Albin stated that the kicking situation was being evaluated following Ohio’s loss to Northwestern. Vandenberg has been listed at the top of the depth chart for Saturday, so he’s likely been given another chance to show what he can do. Whether or not Ohio’s kicking improves against Akron remains to be seen, however.
When Ohio has the ball: Ohio has a chance to iron out its flaws on offense against one of the weakest defenses in the MAC on Saturday. Akron has allowed 45 or more points against each of its Football Bowl Subdivision opponents this season, and it allows an average of 453.3 total yards per game. Ohio’s offense has its problems, but it also has the potential to improve Saturday. Its wide receiver unit is looking the deepest it has all season, with Cam Odom, Isiah Cox and Ty Walton all listed as starters.
When Akron has the ball: Irons will be difficult to contain for the Bobcats, both on the ground and when passing. Ohio has failed to contain the rushing attack this season, and Irons might take advantage of that weakness. Irons has been sacked 13 times in four games, however, which might give Ohio a chance to set Akron back on a handful of drives.
- Tim Albin’s weekly press conference
- Stock watch following Ohio’s loss to Northwestern
- Jack Wilson’s journey from Australia to the U.S.
- Akron scouting report
Sports Editor Jack Gleckler: Ohio has the pieces it needs to win its first game of the season, but it’s fallen short in its previous four games. Its offense might still struggle like it has all season, but Saturday’s game might be where the real progress gets made. Akron is a litmus test for Ohio and its season. Will Ohio win? It's likely, but it won’t be a pretty win. Ohio wins 17-14.
Assistant Sports Editor Eli Feazell: Both Ohio and Akron had a rough nonconference schedule to start the season. While both need to focus on the MAC schedule in front of them, there’s plenty to have learned after beginning with a slate that included two Power 5 schools. Even with some injuries, the Bobcats still have plenty of talent with high-performance potential on both sides of the ball. If they finally learn from their mistakes after a brutal first four weeks, they can go 1-0 in MAC play. Ohio wins 27-24.