The Ohio State Football team is currently tied for the third-highest odds (15/2) to win the 2019 National Championship, behind only Alabama (12/5) and Clemson (6/1). The Buckeyes are also one of eight teams in the country favored by ESPN’s FPI to win every game on their schedule.
While a 12-0 regular season is definitely attainable given Ohio State’s stacked roster and Urban Meyer at the helm, it is hard to expect any team to be perfect throughout an entire year. However, a quick glance at the Buckeyes’ 2018 schedule does not exactly strike fear in fans hearts.
Despite going into each week as the likely favorite, there are a few games, other then the annual bout with Michigan at the end of the year, that Ohio State should really keep a close eye on so as to not overlook their opponent and wind up coming out flat.
Sept. 29 – at Penn State
The Buckeyes’ trip to Happy Valley isn’t exactly a textbook “trap” game, as the spread between the two teams will likely be small come game time. However, Ohio State may overlook their clash with the Nittany Lions after their exodus of talent to the NFL Draft.
Penn State lost both running back Saquon Barkley and tight end Mike Gesicki to the pros, two players that combined for over 1,400 yards last season. The duo played a big factor last time the two teams met in Columbus, as Barkley scored two touchdowns while Gesicki caught six balls for 57 yards in a game that took a big OSU comeback for the home team to come away with a 39-38 victory.
While the Nittany Lions may have lost two key contributors on offense, they still have now-senior quarterback Trace McSorley. McSorley will surely be a player who finds himself in the running for the Heisman Trophy. The shifty QB has thrown for over 7,300 yards and 59 touchdowns in three years at Penn State – two as a starter. He has also added another 900 yards on the ground with 18 scores.
If the Buckeyes wish to come away victorious against the Nittany Lions, arguably their toughest game of the year, they will need a solid defensive attack that is able to contain McSorely and force him to be a one-dimensional passing QB.
Oct. 13 – vs. Minnesota
Should Ohio State beat Penn State and then subsequently Indiana, a team that always seems to play them tough, they should not yet exhale before taking on the Golden Gophers. While on paper Minnesota does not seem to pose much of a threat, P. J. Fleck’s squad is going to come in firing.
Fleck was able to secure the Gophers’ first top-40 recruiting class since 2009. They are a team that centered themselves a year ago around a ton of youth, with freshman and sophomores accounting for the top four targeted wide receivers and three of the top four linebacker spots.
With a couple of good recruits coming in, the biggest question for Minnesota will be the quarterback position. Their solid defense and good coaching from Fleck will keep them in games, but if they cannot hang with the Ohio State offense, they will find themselves in a big hole and quickly. If the Buckeyes underestimate the Gophers, however, they could be looking at an upset on their home field.
Oct. 20 – at Purdue
The Purdue game in late October gives similar vibes to last year’s Iowa game. At team with very little to show offensively that can lull you to sleep on defense long enough to take you down. While Ohio State will likely be heavy favorites going into this one, it is a game they should not look at as an easy win.
It’s spot in the schedule is enough cause for concern, right in the middle of a stretch of opponents that should be blowouts before they hit their games against Michigan State and Michigan. Purdue will be coming off a likely easy victory against Illinois, and will be locked in for a two-game stretch against the Buckeyes and MSU.
The Boilermakers were a team that gave both Louisville and Wisconsin a tough time last season. Jeff Brohm has looked like a good hire for Purdue, and they will be ready to give it their all when Ohio State comes to town. If their offense can somehow catch lightning in a bottle, much like the Hawkeyes did a season ago, the Buckeyes could be caught off guard in this one.
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