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Ohio vs. Northwestern Football Prediction and Preview

Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern Wildcats Football

Pat Fitzgerald's Wildcats will look to get back on track at home on Saturday against the Bobcats from the MAC

This week's college football schedule features a Midwestern inter-conference matchup between two teams looking to pick up the pieces of their seasons when Northwestern (1-2) hosts Ohio (0-3) on Saturday.

The Wildcats are coming off a 30-23 loss at Duke, in which the scoreboard was not an indicator of how ugly that game actually was. As for the Bobcats, they've lost all of their games by a combined 57 points. Now these teams are looking to get back on track with a win in the fourth all-time meeting between these schools.

Ohio at Northwestern

Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 25 at 12 p.m. ET
TV: Big Ten Network
Spread: Northwestern -14.5

When Ohio Has the Ball

Kurtis Rourke has completed 65.3 percent of his passes for the Bobcats for 432 yards and three touchdowns this season. Although he's only averaging 6.0 yards per attempt (fifth-worst nationally), Rourke has taken just one sack and owns a 126.6 passer rating. Tyler Walton (14 rec., 118 yds., 2 TDs, 8.4 ypr) and Jerome Buckner (7, 102, 14.6) are Ohio's leading receivers. The Bobcats also have some talent in the backfield, as O'Shaan Allison (5.2 ypc) and De'Montre Tuggle have combined for 289 rushing yards. 

OU will be lining up against an uncharacteristically poor Northwestern defense. The Wildcats rank 10th in the Big Ten in scoring defense (24.7 ppg), are 12th in total defense (412.7 ypg), and sit tied for last in interceptions (1). Against Duke last week, this unit gave up 558 total yards to the Blue Devils.

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When Northwestern Has the Ball

Northwestern has a quarterback issue on its hands heading into this game. That's because they needed to use three signal-callers against the Blue Devils last week. Hunter Johnson started the game but was pulled after throwing three interceptions. Andrew Marty replaced Johnson and was responsible for all three of NU's touchdowns (two passing, one rushing), before suffering an upper body injury. South Carolina transfer Ryan Hilinski would end up finishing the game. 

In the end, all three men combined to complete just 19 of 39 passes for 260 yards. Johnson is averaging a paltry 5.7 yards per attempt this season (worst nationally among qualified QBs), and he's been sacked seven times. Marty's performance at Duke was reminiscent of his gusty performances of 2019, but I would like to see more of Hilinski. Especially since he completed 58 percent of his passes and threw for 2,391 yards and 11 touchdowns in 13 games at South Carolina. So the first question that needs to be answered is: Who will start this game?

This may be a game where the Wildcats might want to lean on their run game more. Evan Hull has rushed for 262 yards, 126 of which came two weeks ago against Indiana State, and is averaging 6.4 yards per carry. The Bobcats have already given up 761 yards on the ground through three weeks and are allowing 5.5 yards per attempt (120th nationally). They're among the nation's worst defenses and are giving up 35 points per game.

Final Analysis

The Wildcats are 3-1 all-time against the Bobcats and won the last meeting with them back in 2008. NU is 19-12-1 all-time against the Mid-American Conference but just 2-2 in its last four games against the league. Ohio has lost its last two games against Big Ten opponents (Purdue in 2017, Minnesota in 2015) and is 9-43-1 all-time against the league. Northwestern gets its ground game going to get back in the win column.

Prediction: Northwestern 28, Ohio 14

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— Written by Gabe Salgado, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He can also be heard on WGN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.