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Opinion: 5 questions ahead of Ohio State’s matchup in Minneapolis

Redshirt-freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett carries the ball during a game against Michigan State on Nov. 8 in East Lansing, Mich. OSU won, 49-37. Credit: Mark Batke / Photo editor

Redshirt-freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett carries the ball during a game against Michigan State on Nov. 8 in East Lansing, Mich. OSU won, 49-37.
Credit: Mark Batke / Photo editor

Following arguably the biggest win at Ohio State during the Urban Meyer era, the Buckeyes are preparing for their second-consecutive ranked opponent.

Entering the third week of the College Football Playoff rankings, the Buckeyes jumped up six spots to No. 8 and the Minnesota Golden Gophers appeared for the first time on the list at No. 25.

As the Buckeyes get set to travel to blustery Minneapolis, The Lantern sports editors have come up with a list of five things to look for when OSU takes on the Golden Gophers.

1. Can OSU keep its eye on the prize?

Let’s be honest, last week’s win over Michigan State was probably the biggest win for the Buckeyes since the 2010 Rose Bowl against Oregon.

But was it too much for the Buckeyes to handle?

The mantra around OSU since Meyer arrived in Columbus has been giving players and coaches 24 hours to enjoy a win, but redshirt-sophomore wide receiver Michael Thomas said Monday that the Buckeyes were still enjoying the victory.

With that said, will the Buckeyes overlook a Minnesota team that is coming off of a 51-14 drubbing of Iowa?

Only time will tell.

2. Will the weather affect the Buckeye offense?

While the entire Buckeye starting offensive line is from Ohio, their starting quarterback is from Texas, and probably hasn’t played in a game as cold as he will Saturday.

While the kickoff temperature was 39 degrees last week in East Lansing, Mich., the estimated high temperature in Minneapolis for Saturday, as of Wednesday night, was just 28 degrees with a low of nine.

Barrett, who has ignited the Buckeye offense, averaging 304.22 yards per game by himself has been on the sidelines for games like this (see 2013 games against Indiana and Michigan) but has never had to play in such bitter temps.

Just one current Buckeye offensive player was on the roster the last time OSU played in Minnesota, and that is redshirt-senior Darryl Baldwin, who was still a defensive lineman at the time.

The Buckeyes won 52-10 in the last matchup in 2010, a win that was later vacated because of NCAA violations committed by former coach Jim Tressel, then-quarterback Terrelle Pryor and other players.

3. Can J.T. Barrett make a Heisman push?

If Barrett can have an encore performance from his 386 total yard, five touchdown game against the Spartans, there is a good chance Barrett could enter serious Heisman discussions.

The redshirt-freshman made his first appearance on ESPN’s Heisman Watch this week, and currently ranks second in the FBS in touchdowns responsible for with 34 (26 passing, eight rushing).

In addition, Barrett is just five touchdown passes away from breaking the school record for touchdown passes in a season, set by the 2006 Heisman Trophy winner, Troy Smith.

For Barrett to enter serious consideration, there is no doubt the Buckeyes will have to win their remaining games, plus a Big Ten title.

But if Barrett can look as good as he did against Michigan State the rest of the season, don’t be surprised if you see the Texas native in New York for the Heisman ceremonies.

4. Can Minnesota senior running back David Cobb emulate Michigan State’s Jeremy Langford?

Minnesota senior running back David Cobb (27) runs the ball during a game against Purdue on Oct. 18 in Minneapolis. Minnesota won, 39-38. Credit: Courtesy of TNS

Minnesota senior running back David Cobb (27) runs the ball during a game against Purdue on Oct. 18 in Minneapolis. Minnesota won, 39-38.
Credit: Courtesy of TNS

Sure, OSU ended up beating the Spartans, but the redshirt-senior running back Langford gouged the Buckeyes’ defense for 137 yards and three touchdowns on just 18 carries.

Now that same defense has to find a way to slow down Cobb, who has already racked up 1,205 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground this season. He’s the workhorse of the Minnesota offense — he has 227 carries while the team as a whole has only attempted 165 passes.

Apart from an Oct. 25 misstep against Illinois, the Golden Gophers’ only loss this season accompanied Cobb’s worst game of the year. Minnesota lost to Texas Christian University, 30-7, in September, and Cobb had just 41 yards on 15 carries. Outside of that game, he’s had at least 71 rushing yards per game — including a pair of 200-plus yard outings. 

If the Buckeyes can slow Cobb down, it could be a long day for redshirt-sophomore quarterback Mitch Leidner. But if he gets rolling early, OSU might face a difficult task to keep its seven-game winning streak alive.

5. What role will the OSU H-backs play?

With sophomore H-back Dontre Wilson — the Buckeyes’ typical starter — out with a broken foot, it’ll be up to a few different players to pick up the slack.

The first option is likely to be redshirt-freshman H-back Jalin Marshall, who has already shined multiple times for OSU this season. The former high school quarterback can line up in a variety of positions for the Buckeyes, including at quarterback in the wildcat package.

Leading up to the showdown in Minneapolis, Meyer even hinted that the Buckeyes “have a couple passes” in place for Marshall going forward. He failed to connect on his only passing attempt so far this season, but Meyer and the coaching staff clearly have some faith in his arm.

But even if Marshall doesn’t let it fly, the H-back spot could have a notable impact for the Buckeyes. Meyer mentioned that freshman Noah Brown will be in the mix, and at 240 pounds, he adds a new dimension to the OSU attack.

No matter if Brown is causing mismatch problems with his size or if Marshall is showing off his arm, the Buckeyes will likely try to put as much firepower on the field as they can.

OSU is scheduled to take on the Golden Gophers on Saturday at noon in Minneapolis.

 

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