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College Football Odds & Picks for Ohio vs. Central Michigan: Perfect Chance to Live Bet MACtion

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Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Cameron Odom (3).

  • In what should be one of the best games on Wednesday night's slate, Frank Solich and the Ohio Bobcats will take on Jim McElwain and the Central Michigan Chippewas.
  • With one side needing to replace a graduated quarterback and the other awaiting a decision from the NCAA, both air attacks will be questionable.
  • Stuckey takes all of that into account in his full betting analysis below.

Ohio Bobcats at Central Michigan Chippewas

Ohio Odds -3 [BET NOW]
Central Michigan Odds +3 [BET NOW]
Moneyline -137/+112 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 54.5 [BET NOW]
Time Wednesday, 7 p.m. ET
TV ESPN
Odds as of Wednesday afternoon and via DraftKings. Get up to a $1,000 sign-up bonus at DraftKings today.

Ohio Bobcats

Believe it or not, Ohio has not won a MAC championship since its 10-1 season in 1968. If the Bobcats can figure out their quarterback situation, they may have a shot to end that drought this season.

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Offense

So, let’s start at quarterback. Ohio will need to find a way to replace three-year starter Nathan Rourke, who led Ohio to three straight bowl victories. The dual-threat QB from Canada finished his collegiate career with just under 7,500 yards passing and over 2,500 yards rushing.

The two most likely replacements are UNLV transfer Armani Rogers and Rourke’s younger brother, Kurtis Rourke. Rogers has the speed and athleticism to give Ohio a vaunted rushing attack, especially with each of the top three running backs returning. O’Shaan Allison and De’Montre Tuggle each averaged over six yards per rush in 2019.

However, Rogers really struggled with accuracy at UNLV, which could hurt a passing attack that returns all five top receivers from last year, including senior tight end Ryan Luehrman and a pair of electric wide receivers, Isiah Cox and Shane Hooks.

On the other hand, Kurtis Rourke, while much less experienced than Rogers, has a cannon for an arm, which could give Ohio a more dynamic passing attack. If the younger Rourke does get the starting nod, he would become the first freshman starting quarterback at Ohio under Frank Solich (16 years).

If either Rogers or Rourke can step up to the plate, this Ohio offense will continue to light up the scoreboard. Last year, the offense finished as a top-20 overall unit, per S&P, ranking in the top 20 in both yards per rush (5.5) and yards per pass (8.6).

Don’t be surprised if Ohio rotates both quarterbacks on Wednesday. Solich has done that in the past.

The Bobcats did lose three offensive linemen who received All-MAC honors, which is worrisome. The interior will be fine with the returning experience and talent around center Brett Kitrell, but there are major questions at both tackle spots. Don’t expect Ohio to duplicate last year’s ranking of fifth nationally in Line Yards.

Defense

While the offense was explosive and efficient (12th nationally in Success Rate) in all phases last season, the defense really struggled, especially against the run. Ohio allowed 4.7 yards per rush (94th), and its defensive front couldn’t generate a consistent push, finishing outside the top 90 in both Standard Down Line Yards and Sack Rate.

Overall, the defense does bring back seven starters, along with 16-of-24 from last year’s two-deep. However, it must replace star safety Javon Hagan. The four-year starter, who received All-MAC honors every year in Athens, now sits on the Buccaneers’ practice squad. Ohio also received unfortunate news when two returning senior starters, cornerback Marlin Brooks and linebacker Dylan Conner, opted out of the season due to COVID-19 concerns.

The defensive front loses Cole Baker and Brian Arp, but both were part of a unit that got pushed around. I actually think the run defense could improve with the addition of highly-touted recruit Denzel Daxon, who became eligible this year. The 6-foot-2- 335-pound junior brings some much-needed bulk up front to pair with Kai Caesar.

Those two give the Bobcats just under 650 pounds of beef inside, which should allow linebackers. Jared Dorsa and Keye Thompson to roam free behind them. Will Evans and Austin Conrad also give Ohio a decent duo of returning defensive ends, but the overall defensive line depth is concerning with Marcus Coleman no longer on the roster.

If Alvin Floyd can help fill the void left by Hagan, the secondary could work out even after Brooks opted out. There’s a plethora of experience in the defensive backfield with safety Jarren Hampton and three talented corners in Jamal Hudson, Xavior Motley, and Ilyaas Motley. Those four have played in 126 games for the Bobcats.

Lastly, let’s talk special teams — an area of concern for the Bobcats. Ohio’s 2019 special teams actually rated in the top 30, thanks to the terrific trio of kicker Louie Zervos, punter Michael Farkas and long snapper Devin King, per S&P. Solich must replace all three, so we may see a precipitous drop in production from Ohio’s now inexperienced third phase.

Synopsis

I don’t see how either Rogers or the younger Rourke can replace what Nathan Rourke did both through the air and on the ground. Therefore, I expect this offense to take a step back, especially with questions at both tackle spots. The special teams should also regress hard from 2019. However, I actually think the defense will be improved in the second year of Ron Collins’ system.

The defensive numbers were ugly last season, but they started to show significant improvement toward the end of the year. I think Ohio could be a sneaky under team early in MAC play, starting with its opener on Wednesday night.


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Central Michigan Chippewas

What a remarkable turnaround it was for the Chippewas in 2019 when first-year head coach Jim McElwain took them from a 1-11 season to MAC West champions.

Offense

McElwain, along with first-time offensive coordinator Charlie Frye, completely revamped an anemic offense by transitioning it from an RPO-based scheme to a more pro-style one. And the results were astounding, as CMU doubled its scoring average in 2020 from the year prior.

The offense all started with the run with two 1,000-yard backs in Jonathan Ward and Kobe Lewis, who ran behind an offensive line that finished in the top 25 nationally in Line Yards. Ward is gone, leaving Lewis as the primary back heading into 2020.

The passing game flowed nicely from there, as the Chips had two first-team All-MAC receivers in JaCorey Sullivan and Kalil Pimpleton, who led the conference in receptions last season. While the Chips lost Ward (now on the Cardinals roster), they bring the other three back in addition to speedy slot Tyrone Scott.

However, Central Michigan will have to make do without tight end Tony Poljan, who transferred to Virginia this past offseason. Still, all of the skill position talent is there for this offense to get even better — if it finds a quarterback and the offensive line can effectively replace three starters. Those are two big “ifs.”

Last year, JUCO transfer and former Memphis product David Moore started the first four games before being suspended for one year for a banned substance. That opened the door for former Houston and Tennessee transfer Quinten Dormady, who started the rest of the season.

Well, Dormady graduated and Moore still has yet to receive clearance from the NCAA. If he doesn’t get cleared before the opener, CMU will turn to true freshman Daniel Richardson.

Sam Houston State transfer Ty Brock or a few other transfers could also get a shot. Regardless, expect some growing pains if Moore can’t suit up — especially after three offensive line starters graduated and Luke Goedeke (one of the best run-blocking tackles in the conference) was lost for the year due to injury. That leaves guard Derek Smith and four new starters — two of which may be a former tight end and defensive lineman.

Defense

Central Michigan was extremely stout against the run in large part due to a defensive line that finished 11th in Line Yards and No. 1 in all of FBS in Stuff Rate. Michigan transfer Deron Irving-Bey would’ve given this unit even more size, but he decided to opt out.

Still, most of the defensive line contributors are back in the mix for a very deep group featuring defensive tackles Robi Stuart, Tico Brown, Jacques Bristol and newly added Texas A&M transfer Mohamed Diallo. It’s a group that led the nation in tackles for loss percentage on run plays. The Chips are also in good shape at defensive end with LaQuan Johnson and Troy Hairston. They should once again be very stout against the run.

CMU did lose middle linebacker Michael Oliver, but budding star Troy Brown remains on the outside.

The secondary is the most intriguing unit, as CMU has completely overhauled its entire cornerback group and will rely on a trio of Power Five transfers. The cupboard was left bare after promising freshman Kyron McKinnie-Harper got kicked off the team after an arrest, while both Demarcus Governor and Montrae Braswell entered the transfer portal. On top of that, Darius Bracy, who started six games at cornerback last season, was moved to running back to help provide depth to a position that has troubling depth behind Lewis.

That leaves three new projected starters in Florida transfer Brian Edwards (who McElwain recruited to Gainesville), Iowa State transfer Richard Bowens III and JUCO transfer Dishon McNary, who did at least see the field in CMU’s bowl game after being academically ineligible for the fall semester. There’s a lot of experience and depth at safety, headlined by Alonzo McCoy and Willie Reid. But ultimately, this brand new unproven corner group could make or break CMU’s season.

On special teams, Pimpleton and Lewis are two of the better return men in the MAC.

Synopsis

The NCAA’s quarterback decision on Moore is huge in the second year of this staff. If he can’t go, the offense may sputter early. The defense has a chance to really take a step forward if the transfer cornerbacks work out, as the run defense should remain extremely stingy.

Game Breakdown

A lot of unknowns here at quarterback with CMU presumably rolling with a true freshman and Ohio still not announcing a starter.

It’s tough to project what Ohio’s offense will look like without knowing if it’s Rogers or Rourke under center, as I think Rourke actually gives the Bobcats the best chance to move the ball against a Chippewa defense that is stout against the run but vulnerable through the air.

There’s a good chance Ohio might rotate both. I’d personally like to see it roll with Rourke and might look to back Ohio live after seeing how it handles its quarterback rotation in addition to seeing how the true freshman looks in his first collegiate action for CMU. I make the Bobcats a 1.5-point favorite.

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