Capital at Otterbein

1:30 P.M., WESTERVILLE

Records: Capital 0-7, 0-6 Ohio Athletic Conference; Otterbein 1-6, 0-6 OAC

Series: Otterbein leads 45-44-3

Last meeting: Capital won 49-42 last season in Bexley.

 

When it comes to rivalry games, they say to forget about the records. That’s fine by Otterbein and Capital; they would prefer you forget their records anyway.

Victories have been elusive this season for Franklin County’s two OAC programs, and for similar reasons: injuries at key positions and inexperience from having to lean on talented but raw underclassmen. Yet both teams see reason for better things and no reason why they couldn’t begin with their game Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

 

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“To be honest, with this game, I don’t care if we're 1-6 and 0-7,” Otterbein coach Tim Doup said. “This game is always a big one for both teams.”

Capital coach Chad Rogosheske agreed that the rivalry game could provide a boost.

“The rivalry gives you something to rally around,” he said. “While things haven’t gone our way this year, we understand how they feel about this game and how they’re going to attack it, and how we’re going to see their best.”

Recent games in the series have added to the appeal, with Otterbein winning by seven points last year and Capital by one point the year before.

But this week’s game will end with just two wins between the two teams.

For Otterbein, the key player injured was senior Payton Vanderkooi, who missed three games and has been a full participant in only two. But he is still the Cardinals’ leading receiver with 306 yards and two touchdowns on 20 catches. His impact has been evident in recent games, with three of the Cardinals’ last four losses coming by 14 points or fewer.

As for inexperience, 13 starters are underclassmen.

“We started off with a tough schedule with some guys who were inexperienced,” Vanderkooi said. “We're moving the ball now on offense, and we need to find a way to put the ball in the end zone.”

Directing the offense has been senior Steven Irwin, who has passed for 712 yards and three touchdowns and is Otterbein's second-leading rusher with 104 yards. The Cardinals have several players contributing on defense, with 11 getting in on at least 20 tackles, led by 62 from junior Ryan Tuchow of Hilliard Davidson.

Capital’s youth is most evident on its offensive line, which features mostly freshmen and sophomores, some playing as injury replacements. It has at times turned the offense into a daredevil passing act, with quarterback Thomas Wibbeler topping 50 attempts in four games. He has completed 58.3 percent of his passes this season for 2,207 yards. But that’s not how the Crusaders want to approach games.

“My offensive philosophy is to establish a run game, and we haven’t been able to do so,” Rogosheske said. “We have been more reliant on some of the veterans, the quarterback and receiver groups. That has led to the high number of pass attempts.”

Rogosheske said the key to the Crusaders improving on defense is for them to perform as well on third down as they have on first and second. Opponents are converting 54 percent of their third-down tries, sometimes leading to big plays.

 

Cincinnati at SMU

3:30 P.M., DALLAS

What do the Bearcats (6-1, 2-1 American Athletic Conference East) do after a loss to Temple knocked them out of the ranks of the unbeaten and out of the top 25? They try to take it out on the Mustangs (3-4, 2-1 AAC West), who are allowing 37.3 points per game, tied for 117th among FBS teams.

 

Baldwin Wallace at Marietta

1:30 P.M., MARIETTA

Undefeated Mount Union casts a large shadow in the OAC, but underneath it stand three teams at 6-1 overall and 5-1 in the league: John Carroll, and these two opponents. BW and Marietta push offensive football, with Marietta averaging 42.9 points and BW 39.3. But the difference is defense, where BW allows 21.0 points and Marietta 31.1.

 

Central Michigan at Akron

NOON, AKRON

Midweek television games in the Mid-American Conference, plus some out-of-conference scheduling, have left this as the only league game on Saturday. But for the Zips (3-3, 1-2 MAC East), who had such promise after an early win over Northwestern, they need to take advantage of games like this one against the Chippewas (1-7, 0-4 MAC West) to try to salvage their season.

bhofmann@dispatch.com

@BrianHofmann