Ohio State vs. Minnesota Preview

Ohio State Minnesota

Ohio State will go to Minnesota to kick off the season on Thursday night. Provided no games get cancelled, Ohio State will play a full season for the first time in two years.

The Buckeyes will sport a freshman quarterback on their journey to reclaiming a conference championship. After making the National Championship Game in his second year, Ryan Day set a new standard for himself. But before the Buckeyes can go back to the College Football Playoff, they have to go to Minneapolis.

Las Vegas says the Buckeyes will not only make the playoff, but will beat Minnesota by two touchdowns.

Ohio State vs. Minnesota Preview

Since this is the first game of the year, we have to take last year’s teams and estimate what they will look like this year. However, given that last year was a pandemic year and that threw everything out of whack, that may not be as accurate of a strategy. Spring camp was cut short, Fall camp was restricted, and games were cancelled left and right during the season.

But that’s what we have to work with for now, so we can still try to get a feel for this Minnesota squad based off of recent years’ results.

Ohio State’s Offense vs. Minnesota’s Defense

In 2019, Minnesota was one game away from meeting Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game. They had the third-best scoring offense in the conference, featuring Tanner Morgan, Tyler Johnson, Rashod Bateman, and Rodney Smith. Morgan had over 3,000 passing yards, Johnson and Bateman each had 1,200-plus receiving yards and double digit receiving touchdowns, and Smith had over 1,100 rushing yards with eight rushing touchdowns.

In 2021, all that remains of that dynamic group is Morgan. Mohamed Ibrahim took over for Smith at running back, and earned a spot on the All-Conference team. Ibrahim had over 1,000 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns in only seven games last year.

Minnesota Run Game

Ibrahim will be the biggest problem for Ohio State. He is by far their best player on offense, and is playing behind and experienced offensive line. The Gophers are projected to start four redshirt seniors on their offensive line. Daniel Faalele is the most inexperienced player on the offensive line, and he is a true senior.

While Minnesota only had the fourth-best rushing yards-per-game average in the Big Ten, they were the only team that scored more rushing touchdowns per game than Ohio State.

The good news for Ohio State is that this years’ defensive line is as skilled from top to bottom as ever. The Buckeyes will need to rotate their linemen, especially in the red zone.

Minnesota will want to pound the ball with Ibrahim and the offensive line because their passing game will be a question mark. Chris Autman-Bell will have to take up the mantle of leading receiver, after he nearly matched Bateman’s production last year. Apart from Autman-Bell, Minnesota will have to rely on Daniel Jackson (a sophomore with 12 career catches) and Dylan Wright (a sophomore transfer from Texas A&M).

The Gophers were second to last in the Big Ten in passing touchdowns per game last year. So the Buckeyes have to be prepared to stop the run in the red zone.

Ohio State would do well to clamp down on the run. They need to force Morgan to pass the ball around to his largely inexperienced receiving crew. Can Morgan still perform without Bateman? Ohio State will hope to find out by shutting down Ibrahim.

Ohio State’s Offense vs. Minnesota’s Defense

As good as Minnesota’s rushing offense was last season, their rushing defense was disappointing. The Gophers were 10th in rushing yards per game in the Big Ten, while they gave up a conference-leading 6.3 yards per carry.

Overall, their defense was below average in the Big Ten. They were ninth in scoring, tenth in yards per game, and last in yards per play. There’s no reason to think that this should change much, since the Gophers are returning most of their defensive starters. The best thing going for Minnesota this year is that the season hasn’t been preemptively cancelled yet, which actually should help the team get into a rhythm this year.

This will be a good game for C.J. Stroud’s first career start. The running game should run smooth, so he won’t have too much pressure on him. He will face a decent passing defense, but the Gophers were 11th in turnovers last year, so ball security won’t be much of a concern for the redshirt freshman.

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