The 10th-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes (2-1) will host the UNLV Rebels (1-1) this Saturday in a matinee matchup at Ohio Stadium. OSU will enter their final non-conference game as over 40-point favorites for the scheduled noon kickoff broadcast by Big Ten Network.
The Buckeyes are coming off a 38-7 win a week ago against the Army Black Knights. The Ohio State defense held Army’s wishbone offense to 259 rushing yards, their lowest total of the season thus far, and just 19 passing yards. OSU quarterback J.T. Barrett would finish 25 of 33 passing for 270 yards and two touchdowns. Running back J.K. Dobbins added another two touchdowns as well while rushing for 172 yards on just 13 carries.
For Ohio State, this game will be mostly about continuing to improve their offensive numbers. While the run game, highlighted by the true freshman Dobbins, has been extremely solid, the passing game still could use some work. Despite having good numbers a week ago, Barrett has been shaky at times, especially when it comes to the deep passing game. He did show improvement last game, however, with his best pass of the game coming late in the third quarter on a 20-yard touchdown pass to Terry McLaurin.
The defense will have to greatly change their focus from a week ago, moving on from an Army team that threw only eight total passes and ranks 90th in yards per game, to a UNLV offense that ranks eighth in the country in yards per game. The Buckeye’s secondary did make some good plays in the passing game last week despite very limited attempts, the highlight of which came on a diving pass break up by senior safety Erick Smith that saved a sure touchdown.
The Rebels offense is lead by a two-headed monster of quarterback Armani Rogers and running back Lexington Thomas. Thomas is averaging nine yards per carry, racking up 341 yards and five touchdowns through two games. Rogers has thrown for 413 yards and two touchdowns thus far, while adding another 168 yards and a touchdown on the ground. A week ago, the two combined for 469 yards and five total touchdowns in a 44-16 stomping of the Idaho Vandals.
UNLV’s defense is headed by junior linebacker Bailey Laolagi. The six-foot-one defender out of Folsom, California has tallied 26 total tackles so far after managing just 12 tackles a year ago. The Rebels’ defense has been extremely inconsistent through their first two games, allowing 43 points in a loss to the FCS Howard Bison before allowing just 16 in the win over Idaho. They will have to find a way to improve their pressure on the QB if they expect to limit the Ohio State offense, as they have only a single sack in two contests.
There is a reason Ohio State is 40.5 point favorites over the Rebels. UNLV allowed 309 yards rushing to an FCS school in their first game of the year and lost. The Buckeyes biggest strength on offense is undoubtably their ability to run the football. Expect OSU to utilize a heavily run-based offense, while also practicing more of the run-pass option they liked from a week ago. Once out to a big enough lead, while also having an established rushing attack, it will also give them a chance to put some work into their deep passing game.
Ohio State should look to rest running back Mike Weber, allowing him to get back to full health before embarking on the Big Ten season. If that is the case, Dobbins will likely see upwards of 15 carries and will finish with over 200 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Barrett will also add a rushing touchdown of his own while throwing for three more. The Buckeyes will also record their first defensive touchdown of the season.
Final Score: 52-7 Ohio State
If you would like to receive an email each time a new Ohio State Football article is published, fill out our email notification form.