The Minnesota Golden Gophers (5-5) stumble into the Horsehoe on Saturday for a matchup against the No. 2-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes (10-0) at 3 p.m.
Can Ohio State score on offense?
I have two predictions for Saturday:
- Ohio State will score touchdowns
- Marvin Harrison Jr. will be responsible for one or more of their touchdowns
Harrison is one of the most electric players in all of college football. He has 59 receptions, 1,063 receiving yards, and 12 receiving touchdowns to his name this season. The Buckeye wide receiver has found the end zone at least once in eight out of 10 games this season and scored twice in each of their last three games. Every opposing defense knows who he is and what he can do, yet few have been able to figure out how to neutralize him.
Outside of Harrison though, this Ohio State offense isn’t quite as explosive as years past. Quarterback Kyle McCord has been a step down from his predecessor C.J. Stroud, but I’m not sure you can be too critical of a 66.3% completion percentage and 20 passing touchdowns to four interceptions. He has certainly benefitted from being able to the throw the ball to Harrison, but he’ll also have tight end Cade Stover and wide receiver Emeka Egbuka (who has been banged up) to help him attack the middle of the field against a porous Minnesota secondary.
Where the Buckeyes have struggled offensively this season is in running the ball. In fact, they rank 88th nationally in rushing offense, averaging 138.6 rushing yards per game. TreVeyon Henderson is a dynamic playmaker in the backfield, but injuries have slowed him and his absence at times has left this offense without one of its key cogs. But he seems to have gotten healthy for the stretch run in November and will likely split carries with Chip Trayanum on Saturday.
Please tell me the Gophers will be able to score
Not since the Jim Tressel era have the Buckeyes been known for their defense, but this year’s Ohio State team has proven to be the exception. They rank 21st nationally in rushing defense (112.4 rushing yards allowed per game), second in passing defense (149.9 passing yards allowed per game), and second in scoring defense (9.9 points allowed per game). The most points Ohio State has allowed this season were the 17 they surrendered to Maryland.
This unit is loaded with future NFL Draft picks, starting with defensive ends J.T. Tuimoloau and Jack Sawyer. Tuimoloau has recorded 5.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, and four quarterback hurries this season. But the most disruptive force on their defensive line might be tackle Tuleik Williams, who has 42 total tackles and leads the team with 9.5 tackles for loss.
Middle linebacker Tommy Eichenberg has a team-leading 73 tackles. The secondary is led by a pair of senior safeties in Lathan Ransom and Josh Proctor, though sophomore cornerback Davison Igbinosun has the most total tackles (45) among defensive backs and redshirt sophomore corner Denzel Burke has a team-high eight pass break-ups.
This is an elite defense with future NFL talent at every level.
But who will score more points on Saturday?
Avert your eyes. Ohio State 48, Minnesota 7.