The #4 Ohio State Buckeyes get a tough road test to start the season against the Minnesota Golden Gophers. This will be the first time the Buckeyes have traveled to Minnesota since 2014.
Thursday night’s Big Ten Conference kickoff is at 8 p.m. EST inside TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, MN. The game will be nationally televised on FOX. According to oddsmakers, Ohio State is a 14-point road favorite, and the total point over/under is at 63.
What to Know – Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio State is again the preseason choice to win the Big Ten title for the fifth year in a row. The 2021 season marks year three under head coach Ryan Day. Day has established the Buckeyes as the premiere team in the Big Ten with a roster stacked with blue-chip talent.
Day announced that redshirt freshman quarterback C.J. Shrout would start under center for the Buckeyes in the opener. Shrout has yet to attempt a pass in college but will have a deep and talented wide receiving corps that includes Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson at his disposal.
Junior running back Master Teague III is expected to handle the rushing duties for the Buckeyes and should be relied upon heavily in the opener while Shrout gets acclimated under center. Teague split time in the backfield last season but still led the Buckeyes with eight rushing touchdowns while averaging 4.9 yards per carry.
The Buckeyes’ defense allowed a Big-Ten worst 304 yards per game through the air last season and will need to shore up the backfield if it wants to make another run at the College Football Playoff. Ohio State returns five starters from that unit and should have some horses on the line that will get to the quarterback and stuff the run.
What to Know- Minnesota Golden Gophers
Minnesota didn’t fare well in the abbreviated Big Ten schedule last season, finishing 3-4 after a historic 11-2 season in 2019. Head coach P.J. Fleck is back in his fourth season as head coach of the Gophers.
Senior quarterback Tanner Morgan was one of the most efficient quarterbacks in 2019, completing 66% of his passes. Morgan took a step back last season, completing only 58% of his throws. The senior has taken almost every snap under center for the Gophers over the last three seasons, so he should be well-prepared for the opener.
Star wide receiver Rashod Bateman graduated to the NFL, but Minnesota returns deep-threat Chris Autman-Ball and budding playmaker Daniel Jackson at wide receiver. Autman-Ball averaged 19.5 yards per catch last season. Senior running back Mohamed Ibrahim carried the ball 201 times for 1,076 yards and 15 touchdowns last season over just seven games and is a likely candidate for All-Big Ten honors.
The defense was the huge liability for Minnesota last season, ranking near the bottom in just about every defensive category. On the positive side, nearly everyone returns from that side of the ball heading into the season.
The Pick is In
There is a significant talent gap between the OSU roster and other teams in the Big Ten. However, starting a new quarterback on the road in the opener at night is never the ideal situation for a coach.
Minnesota has a veteran group of players and is well-coached with a bad taste in their mouth after last year’s season. The Gophers might not win, but they will make this one interesting.
The Pick: Minnesota Golden Gophers +14