Western Michigan Broncos (1-2 SU, 2-1 ATS) vs. No. 1 Ohio State Buckeyes (3-0 SU, 1-2 ATS)
College Football Week 4
Date/Time: Saturday, September 26th, 2015, 3:30 pm EST
Where: Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio
TV: ABC, ESPN 2, DirecTV 209
by Badger, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: WMU +31/OSU -31
Over/Under Total: OFF
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One week after Ohio State survived a scare from a mid-major program out of the Mid-American Conference, this weekend the Buckeyes hope to eliminate the mistakes early when they host another strong contender out of the MAC, the Western Michigan Broncos, in a non-conference tilt in Ohio Stadium.
The Buckeyes highly acclaimed quarterback Cardale Jones finally had a lousy game as a college starter last week, going just 4-for-9 with two interceptions as Ohio State struggled to pull away from Northern Illinois, 20-17. Jones was so ineffective the past few weeks that the QB derby that wasted everyones time all offseason seems to be back on again, as head coach Urban Meyer has told the media he doesnt know who will start against the Broncos this week at QB.
Meanwhile, the Broncos will head into Saturdays game fresh off of their first victory of the season, a 52-20 drubbing of FCS-opponent Murray State. The Broncos, considered the front runner in the MAC this year, have been Jekyll and Hyde so far this year since they looked good in a close-loss in the opener to No. 2-ranked Michigan State (lost 37-24) in the opener, only to be embarrassed badly in week two in a huge upset on the road at Georgia Southern (lost 43-17). Even playing their best the Broncos may not be good enough defensively to stay in it against the Buckeyes, but this is their shot at the top-ranked team in football so its a game the Broncos shouldnt have trouble finding motivation to play.
With their wake-up call game against Northern Illinois presumably played last week, oddsmakers are figuring the Buckeyes wont play down to their competition this week so much as they set the opening point spread for the game with Ohio State as four-touchdown 28-point favorites. Early money is on Ohio State too, and it moved the betting line all the way up to Ohio State minus -31 at several sportsbooks on the Web. As of press time a total for the game has yet to be released.
With the quarterback position supposedly back on again, the one thing the Buckeyes can do to eliminate the Broncos early is hand the ball to Ezekiel Elliot. Elliot has a 5.4 yards per carry average through three games already, and considering the Western Michigan defense is currently allowing 5.9 yards per carry against a plethora of far-lesser quality running backs than Elliot, Ohio States plan of attack should be a no-brainer.
Its the other side of the ball, the offense, that the Broncos should be able to hang with the Buckeyes. Junior quarterback Zach Terrell has hit on 70 percent of his throws for 8.3 yards per attempt and is already approaching a 1,000-yard season (947 through 3 games), but hes been a little sloppy with the ball (8 TDs, 5 INTs) which has been the Broncos problem so far in 2015. Running back Jarvion Franklin could be an x-factor if the Broncos dont find themselves down by too many scores too quickly on Saturday, but the chances of the Buckeyes defense letting that happen are slim as they are currently 5th in FBS in passing yards allowed (119 ypg) and 12th in points allowed at (12.5).
A scan of the betting trends for both teams shows that Western Michigan has had their problems against Big Ten schools in the past, going 4-10 ATS versus the power-5 conference teams over the years. However, the Broncos are a solid 6-2 ATS in their last eight on the road and 5-1 ATS in playing non-conference games in September. Ohio State has struggled at home of late (1-4 ATS in L5 at home), but they usually cover the non-conference games (5-2 ATS in L7) they play at home in the Horseshoe in September (7-3-1 ATS in Sept.)
Badgers Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Theres little to no chance for the outright upset here, not after the Huskies took the Buckeyes to the wire last week. But Western Michigan and Terrell can throw the ball better than anybody the Buckeyes have played already, so it should be a good gauge for how well prepared the secondary will be for the upcoming Big Ten season. Ohio State wins easily, but Western Michigan should cover the rather large 31-point spread. Im taking Western Michigan plus +31.
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