In head coach Urban Meyer’s first game back on the sideline, Ohio State returns home for a matchup against the Tulane Green Wave.
The Buckeyes come in after their 40-28 victory over then-No. 15 TCU, led by two defensive touchdowns and a 344-yard effort by redshirt sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins.
The Green Wave holds a 1-2 record in 2018 and is coming off a 31-24 loss to UAB. Tulane’s sole victory comes against FCS opponent Nicholls State, who lost 42-17.
When redshirt senior offensive tackle Malcolm Pridgeon was asked about Tulane, he compared the Green Wave to a certain team the Buckeyes have already faced.
“They’re kind of like Rutgers,” Pridgeon said. “They’re a talented team.”
Tulane enters the matchup with an offense ranked No. 71 and a defense ranked No.109 in the nation in yards per game. In the running game, the Green Wave’s offense ranks No. 52 with 199.3 yards per game, while allowing the 25th-most.
Senior quarterback Jonathan Banks leads the Tulane offense, completing 48.1 percent of his passes for 651 yards and five touchdowns, with one interception. Banks has also run 33 times, but for only 29 yards and a touchdown.
Most of those lost yards are from sacks, with the Green Wave having allowed 12 this season. The four per game is tied for third-worst in the NCAA.
Ohio State junior safety Jordan Fuller said he expects Banks to bring a style of offense similar to TCU sophomore quarterback Shawn Robinson.
“He could do it all,” Fuller said. “He’s definitely a threat with his feet, so, he has a strong arm as well.”
Wide receivers Darnell Mooney and Terren Encalade are two major threats for Banks to use. The two have combined for 29 of Banks’ 37 completions, including all five of his touchdowns. Mooney’s 308 yards are good for No. 19 in the nation.
In the run game, redshirt junior Corey Dauphine and junior Darius Bradwell offer Tulane two strong options at running back. Bradwell has been used more consistently, with 39 carries for 207 yards and a touchdown. But Dauphine has been dominant in 2018, averaging 12.4 yards per carry on 19 rushes, scoring three touchdowns on his own.
Redshirt junior defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones said the focus for Ohio State will remain on slowing down the run.
“No matter the team, the focus never changes,” Jones said. “Our goal is to stop the run, eliminate big plays and create takeaways always.”
The Green Wave has shined in the secondary, tied for No. 7 in the nation with six interceptions this season.
“I feel like they’ve got aggressive defensive backs,” redshirt junior wide receiver K.J. Hill said. “We expect a very aggressive game.”
If Tulane were to pull off the upset of a lifetime — Ohio State is a 37.5-point favorite according to Bovada — it needs Banks to go to Mooney and Encalade early and often to disrupt the Buckeyes’ weakest spot of the team at this point: the secondary.
Dauphine and Bradwell could make a sizable impact and a big run, something Ohio State has struggled with, which could open up the passing game even more.
Haskins has proved he can do anything but crack under the pressure up to this point, but Tulane’s secondary could make plays to get him off his game.
In a perfect world, the Green Wave has a few opportunities to make a dent. But, Ohio State is far too deep and, even without redshirt junior defensive end Nick Bosa, its defensive front should look to dominate Tulane’s lackluster offensive line.
Running backs Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins, respectively, each could have big days against a defense that has failed to cover the run well, and Haskins’ performance against TCU proved his ability to stay composed under pressure.
Tulane offers more weapons and talent than both Oregon State and Rutgers, but Ohio State still dominates the Green Wave on paper, and adding Meyer’s return to the mix, the Buckeyes should easily handle anything Tulane has to offer.
Wyatt Crosher: 56-17 Ohio State
Colin Gay: 63-14 Ohio State
Edward Sutelan: 63-10 Ohio State
Rachel Bules: 55-14 Ohio State
Chase Ray: 63-17 Ohio State