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Dr. Bob says: Western Michigan is in for a fight

NCAA Football: Toledo at Western Michigan Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Bob Stoll of Dr. Bob Sports is one of the most seasoned, successful sports handicappers around. He was one of the first to use advanced analytics in sports handicapping after studying statistics and finance at U.C. Berkeley. You can find his historical college football performance here, and you can subscribe to his service here.

His Strong Opinions have a success rate of about 53.7% since 1999. You can find a Strong Opinion for free below. He has agreed to share some of his lengthy, from-every-angle game previews here.


Strong Opinion – Ohio (+18 ½) 22 Western Michigan 35

Western Michigan is unbeaten and will most likely receive the major bowl bid as the top rated group of 5 conference team with a victory. However, the Broncos are flawed. Western Michigan doesn’t defend the run well, as the Broncos have allowed 5.8 yards per rushing play to teams that would combine to average only 4.8 yprp against an average team.

Ohio is a capable running team that has averaged 203 rushing yards at 5.2 yprp this season and Bobcats’ quarterback Quinton Maxwell is a competent passer (6.6 yppp in 5 ½ games since taking over for injured Greg Windham, against teams that would allow 7.1 yppp to an average quarterback) that doesn’t make too many mistakes (only 4 interceptions on 161 pass attempts).

My math model projects 5.9 yards per play for the Bobcats in this game, which should net them over 20 points.

Ohio v Toledo
Ohio’s Greg Windham was injured against Toledo, but Quinton Maxwell has filled in admirably.
Photo by Andrew Weber/Getty Images

The task for Ohio will be to slow down an ultra-efficient Western Michigan attack led by quarterback Zach Terrell, who has an unbelievable 30-1 touchdown to interception ratio while averaging 9.1 yards per pass play against FBS teams that would allow 7.1 yppp to an average quarterback.

Ohio’s pass defense isn’t as good as they appear, as the 6.1 yppp the Bobcats have allowed have come against quarterbacks that would combine to average only 5.3 yppp against an average defense.

Terrell should have his usual great numbers in this game but Ohio can keep Western Michigan from running up the score when the Broncos turn to their running back with a comfortable lead late in the game. Ohio has allowed 4.2 yards per rushing play this season (to teams that would average 4.7 yprp against an average team) and they’re projected to limit the Broncos to a sub-par 4.8 yprp in this game.

Toledo v Western Michigan
Zach Terrell has been fantastic this year.
Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

Western Michigan will be able to move the ball through the air pretty easily but at some point they’re going to play to protect their lead by running the ball and that should allow Ohio to stay within the big number.

Historically, the team with the superior record tends to struggle against the spread in these conference championship games, as teams that have won 10 games or more are just 6-15 ATS against teams that have won 8 or fewer games, including 0-12 ATS if favored from 6 to 21 points (0-4 for unbeaten teams).

Ohio tends to play to the level of their competition, as the Bobcats are 1-5 ATS this season favored by 7 points or more and 2-0 ATS as a double-digit underdog, losing by only 9 points at Tennessee (as a 27 ½ point dog) and winning straight up as a 15 point underdog at Toledo.

I’ll consider Ohio a Strong Opinion at +17 points or more and I’d take the Bobcats in a 1-Star Best Bet at +20 points or more and for 2-Stars at +21.