The Ohio State football team has reached the halfway point of the regular season with a perfect 6-0 record. It is hard to believe that an undefeated team with two big wins over ranked opponents would have a ton of worries, but that seems to be the case for this Buckeyes squad. The team will look to clean some things up when they take on Minnesota (3-2) in Columbus tomorrow at noon.
In their last time out, Ohio State played a game against Indiana that was very much a microcosm of the season at large. Dwayne Haskins was once again electric, completing 33 of 43 pass attempts for 455 yards and six touchdowns. However, the run game was nothing to write home about (J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber combining to average just 3.9 yards per carry) and the defense was severely lacking, allowing 26 points and 322 passing yards – a season high for Hoosier QB Peyton Ramsey.
The Buckeyes have been unable to find the explosive plays on the ground like in years past. Haskins, whose 25 passings touchdowns lead the NCAA, has been nothing short of phenomenal. However, without the threat of a QB run like they had with J.T. Barrett, opposing defenses have been able to key in on Dobbins and Weber in obvious running situations. Combined with some poor run blocking from the offensive line, this has led to a bit of a dip in the ground game. That being said, Ohio State still ranks second in FBS in total offense and fifth in points per game.
While Haskins has been able to lead the Buckeyes’ offense to success, he cannot also do so for the defense, which has struggled mightily. OSU has been able to weather the storm of losing Nick Bosa on the defensive line, with guys like Chase Young and Dre’Mont Jones stepping up in a major way. However, the play of the secondary has not been good. Ohio State’s linebackers have struggled all season to contain the run, the corners have struggled with penalties, and the safeties outside of Jordan Fuller have not been able to shut down the big plays. While there is still a ton of time left in the season to improve, there does not seem to be much improvement through the team’s first six games.
Minnesota is coming off a tough loss at the hands of Iowa. In a game they never led, they allowed 314 yards and four touchdown passes to Hawkeye QB Nathan Stanley, falling 48-31 on their own home field. Golden Gopher QB Zach Annexstad did not help measures on his own, as his three touchdown passes also came with three interceptions. The loss was their second in Big Ten play, falling to 0-2 in conference having also lost to Maryland. The 48 points were the most Iowa has scored in a game this season.
Annexstad, a true freshman QB, is one of only two true freshman walk-on quarterbacks ever to start for a D1 team week one (the other being Baker Mayfield), and has had his share of growing pains. On the year he has completed just over 52 percent of his passes for 924 yards with eight touchdowns and five picks. The biggest playmaker on this slowly improving Minnesota offense is wide receiver Tyler Johnson. The 6-foot-2 junior has already hauled in 28 receptions for 402 yards and six touchdowns the season.
Defense has been a bit of an issue for the Golden Gophers, who will be without their best player for the remainder of the season. Sophomore defensive back Antoine Winfield Jr., son of former Ohio State All-American and Minnesota Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield Sr., will be out for the rest of the 2018 season with a foot injury he suffered in the first quarter of the game against Maryland. In his absence, Minnesota allowed their two highest point totals of the season. The run defense, however, actually was able to improve last week, and after allowing 315 yards rushing to the Terrapins held Iowa to 106 yards on 40 attempts.
Ohio State comes into this game as nearly 30-point favorites, and has beaten up on unranked opponents – winning by an average margin of over 40 points. Minnesota is without its best player in the secondary, and while the run defense improved a week ago, the Buckeyes offense is lightyears more efficient than that of Iowa. The Golden Gophers are going to have an extremely tough time keeping Haskins and the OSU offense out of the end zone.
Minnesota will likely put some points on the board, as the Ohio State defense continues to try to figure things out. Also, an already depleted Buckeyes defense may be without defensive end Jonathon Cooper and linebacker Malik Harrison, who are both in the concussion protocol. Even still, OSU has just too much talent to not walk away from this one with another blowout victory.
Final Score: Ohio State 49-17
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