Saturday will mark just the second time that the Virginia Cavaliers (1-1) and Ohio Bobcats (1-0) meet on the football field, with the Cavaliers winning the lone matchup 41-7 in 1993. Due to the impending weather because of Hurricane Florence, the game has been moved to Nashville and moved up to 4:30 p.m. ET to avoid any potential concerns.
Virginia is coming off a heartbreaking loss last week against Indiana where the Cavs had moved the ball deep into Indiana territory on the final possession of the game before quarterback Bryce Perkins sailed an incomplete pass through the back of the end zone to give the Hoosiers the victory. The Cavs had trouble stopping the run all night long, allowing Indiana freshman running back Stevie Scott to rush for 204 yards on 31 carries.
The Bobcats had a week to readjust after their narrow 38-32 victory on opening weekend over FCS opponent Howard. While the struggles at quarterback garnered the headlines, it was the defense that was the major issue, allowing more than 600 yards of total offense to the Bison.
With the weather not expected to be an issue in Nashville, we could have a good, old-fashioned shootout on our hands Saturday.
Ohio vs. Virginia (Nashville, Tenn.)
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 15 at 4:30 p.m. ET
Where: Vanderbilt Stadium (Nashville, Tenn.)
TV: ACC Network
Spread: Virginia -3.5
Three Things to Watch
1. What’s wrong with Nathan Rourke?
For those who aren’t aware, Ohio QB Nathan Rourke was a college fantasy football stud last season with 2,203 passing yards, another 912 yards on the ground, and a combined 38 touchdowns with just seven interceptions. So when it came to projecting Week 1 against Howard, you expected another big performance from the junior quarterback. Instead, Rourke was benched one quarter into the opener after completing just 2-of-8 passes for 44 yards. Last year’s opening day starter and current backup Quinton Maxwell filled in admirably the rest of the way, throwing for 233 yards and two touchdowns, leading Ohio to the comeback victory. When asked about who will start this week, head coach Frank Solich reiterated that Rourke will get the nod against Virginia. The question now is how will Rourke perform against an ACC opponent as opposed to Howard, and will both quarterbacks see playing time?
2. Defending Bully Ball
Virginia lost both starters from last year along the interior of the defensive line, and that inexperience showed up last week as Indiana gashed the Cavs with more than 230 yards on the ground, including 204 to true freshman running back Stevie Scott. That doesn’t bode well in the matchup against Ohio — pending that Rourke is at quarterback — as the Bobcats can throw at you a dual-threat QB and a former 1,000-yard rusher in senior A.J. Ouellette. Both players are at their best running in between the tackles as well, right where Virginia appears to be most vulnerable.
3. Containing Bryce Perkins
Easier said than done, but for Ohio to pull off the mild upset, priority number one is containing Perkins, Virginia’s dual-threat quarterback. The former Arizona State and JUCO transfer has now had two consecutive 100-yard rushing performances after gaining 123 yards on 25 carries in the loss to Indiana last week. Until proven otherwise, the best course of action at this point for opposing defenses might be to force Perkins to throw the ball. While Perkins does have a 4:1 TD-to-INT ratio in two games, he is completing just slightly above 50 percent of his passes and hasn’t been the most accurate of quarterbacks. That said, Ohio gave up more than 400 passing yards to Howard quarterback Caylin Newton in Week 1. Imagine what Perkins could do potentially if the Bobcats didn’t use the bye week to shore up those defensive woes.
The Bobcats are routinely one of the better teams in the MAC, and despite a shaky opening performance, they had a week off to prepare for the showdown with Virginia this Saturday. If Ohio gets the 2017 version of Nathan Rourke, this will be a highly competitive battle between two excellent dual-threat quarterbacks. On the flipside, if the Bobcats are forced to utilize two QBs, or failed to fix the defensive issues that plagued them in Week 1, it could be a long day trying to contain this explosive Virginia offense. The Cavs squeak out a narrow victory in the end.
Prediction: Virginia 24, Ohio 21
— Written by Mike Bainbridge, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bainbridge is a graduate of Northern Illinois University. Follow him on Twitter @MBainbridgeCFF.
(Top photo courtesy of Ohio University Athletics)