The Ohio Bobcats football program was established back in 1894, and in the team's 125-year existence, the Bobcats have posted a 581-567-47 record (.506 win percentage). As part of the Mid-American (MAC) Conference for the last 72 years, Ohio has won 5 conference championships and over 200 victories. Currently, the Bobcats are led by head coach Tim Albin in his first year at the helm of the Ohio program since longtime leader Frank Solich stepped down this past July; Solich's 173 wins as former head coach made him the winningest in the history of the MAC Conference. However, the Bobcats are not having that same luck so far this season, as they currently hold a 0-3 record and are the only MAC team yet to have won a game in 2021.
This Saturday marks the first time Ohio will face a Big Ten opponent since 2017, when they took on the Purdue Boilermakers. When facing B1G teams, the Bobcats hold a 9-42-1 record. Specifically, in the last matchup between Ohio and Northwestern–which took place back in 2008 at Ryan Field–the Wildcats edged out a 16-8 victory to increase their lead in the overall series to 3-1.
Notably, Ohio is starting the season 0-3 for the first time since 2008; in that year, the Bobcats went to 0-4 on the season after their contest against the Northwestern Wildcats.
The Bobcats offense has struggled, to say the least, thus far this season. Out of the 130 FBS teams, Ohio currently ranks 117 in total offense, tied at 120 for scoring offense, tied at 117 for third down conversion percentage at 30%, and are tied at 119 for Red Zone offense. The Bobcats are averaging 16.3 points and 301 yards per game, as redshirt sophomore quarterback Kurtis Rourke has completed 40 of 70 attempts with 416 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
According to Albin's most recent press conference, he and his Bobcats are fully aware that they have been struggling to finish drives offensively, especially on third and long. To make matters worse for Ohio, three starters on the offensive line went down in last week's game against Louisiana Lafayette, allowing several members of the Bobcats to make their first career start against a Power 5 opponent in the Wildcats.
Yet, despite those losses, Albin also pointed out that they do have a few bright spots they are looking forward to this Saturday, as redshirt senior and redshirt junior wide receivers Isiah Cox and Jerome Buckner are set to return for the Bobcats. In Ohio's three-game 2020 season, Cox led the team with 142 receiving yards. With such little starting experience on the offensive side of the ball due to injuries, the veteran leadership of both Cox and Buckner are sure to boost morale. Furthermore, Albin mentioned that the Bobcats are planning to add sixth-year senior quarterback/running back Armani Rogers into the mix as well.
However, considering the sheer physicality of the Northwestern defensive line, the Wildcats should have no problem shutting down the Bobcats, especially if they come out ready to play as they did in the second half against Duke.
As for the Bobcats' defense, they are known to run both three and four down linemen. According to Albin, Ohio is planning to prioritize the four down defense against the Northwestern run game due to the strength of the Wildcat offensive line. Albin also pointed out in this week's press conference that they are preparing for both Hunter Johnson and Andrew Marty at quarterback.
In last week's contest against Louisiana Lafayette, the defense was completely worn down by the second half due to the inability of the offense to extend drives. Seeing as Northwestern's offense has gotten off to considerably slow starts (such as last week's struggles against the Blue Devils), the Wildcats can look to take advantage of this in the second half and make some offensive gains.
In terms of rankings, the Bobcats are much more effective in defending the passing game than the rush, as they are ranked at 124 of 130 FBS teams for rushing defense compared to 35 for passing yards allowed with 182 and 86 for team passing efficiency defense.
RB O'Shaan Allison: The redshirt junior running back currently leads the Bobcats with 167 rushing yards. In the last full season for Ohio back in 2019, Allison led the team with a career-high in rushing yards (869 yards) and was second on the team in carries with 138. Considering he also has one receiving touchdown this season, look for him to be Ohio's go-to option.
WR Tyler Walton: Walton is a redshirt junior on this Bobcats squad, and he currently leads receivers with 14 catches for 118 yards and two touchdowns. Walton is averaging 8.43 yards per reception and seems to be the reliable connection for Rourke at quarterback.
LB Bryce Houston: Although the redshirt junior has only become a regular starter as of this season, Houston is tied for the team lead in total tackles with 27. He has also racked up nine solo tackles and two tackles for loss.
S Alvin Floyd: Floyd, a redshirt senior for the Bobcats, holds the tie with Houston for the team lead in total tackles at 27, with 14 of those being solo. Floyd is also responsible for causing one forced fumble as well as the only interception Ohio has recorded thus far this season.