After two games during which Ohio State asserted dominance over weaker opponents, the No. 4 Buckeyes will travel to Arlington, Texas, to face the No. 15 Horned Frogs.
Though it is labeled as a neutral-site game, the stadium is a mere 18-mile drive from TCU’s usual location, making this more of a road game for Ohio State, facing the most talented opponent on its schedule up to this point.
Ohio State comes in following two victories by more than 40 points: a 77-31 victory over Oregon State in the opener and a 52-3 win against Rutgers where the Buckeyes allowed 134 total yards while tallying 579 on offense.
The Horned Frogs might be the most daunting challenge Ohio State has faced yet, but acting head coach Ryan Day said he looks at this matchup no different than any other.
“If you don’t think it’s a big game, try losing it,” Day said. “They are all big, and you’ve got to play hard. Every game, you’ve got to be ready. You’ve got to be prepared and do a great job.”
The TCU game will be the last game Day serves as the acting head coach, with head coach Urban Meyer’s three-game suspension lifting against Tulane on Sept. 22. Even with his absence on Saturdays, Meyer has been in control of the team during practices since Sept. 2 following the Oregon State matchup.
“We have been game-planning all together so he’s had a huge amount of input,” Day said. “It’s been a huge learning experience for me just going through it on a day-to-day basis, but one more week here and then kind of back to normal.”
Gary Patterson enters his 18th season as head coach for the Horned Frogs and is the winningest coach in program history. The team is coming off an 11-3 season in 2017, during which it finished as the No. 9 team in the country.
Through two games, TCU ranks No. 14 in the country with 48.5 points per game, and tied for ninth with only 9.5 points allowed per game. The Horned Frogs’ defense also is sixth with 214 yards allowed per game, especially dominating on the passing side, allowing the eighth fewest in the NCAA this season.
TCU opened the season with a pair of wins, handily defeating both Southern 55-7 and SMU 42-12. However, the Horned Frogs started the SMU matchup down 9-0, then proceeded to pour on 42 of the next 45 points in a game featuring heavy rain from start to finish.
Sophomore quarterback Shawn Robinson leads the TCU offense in multiple ways, leading the team in both passing and rushing yards. Completing 62.3 percent of his passes, Robinson has thrown for 336 yards and four touchdowns, while also running for 112 yards and three touchdowns.
“I think he’s a really elusive runner. He has a good arm; he can throw the ball down the field,” sophomore cornerback Jeffrey Okudah said. “Those running quarterbacks, they can get out of the pocket and still be able to deliver a strike down the field, so our job is to stay on our man and not allow those big plays.”
“I have a lot of respect for TCU,” redshirt senior guard Demetrius Knox said. “They’ve got a lot of skilled players on defense, they’re real fast, their interior guys are strong, but I mean, can’t wait for game time.”
On the offensive side, TCU works through Robinson and its two running backs, juniors Darius Anderson and Sewo Olonilua, who each average more than six yards per carry.
In the passing game, Robinson mainly uses two wide receivers, senior KaVontae Turpin and sophomore Jalen Reagor, who led all freshmen wideouts last season with eight touchdown receptions.
Turpin also finds success on returns, scoring a 78-yard touchdown on a punt return against SMU and earning first-team All-Big 12 honors for punt and kick returns in 2017.
“They are a really talented offense,” defensive coordinator Greg Schiano said. “It’s a very fast football team. You look at their receivers, you know, it’s one, it’s two, and these are really athletic kids in the backfield.”
For TCU to pull off the upset against the Buckeyes, who are favored by 14 points according to Bovada, the Horned Frogs will need to win the quarterback battle. Neither Robinson nor redshirt sophomore Dwayne Haskins have started in a game of this size, and while both bringing very different quarterback styles to the table, the one that finds more success could ultimately lead his team to victory.
Robinson’s dual-threat ability is a new test for Ohio State’s defensive line, and it might take more than redshirt junior Nick Bosa and sophomore Chase Young at defensive end breaking through the offensive line to make an impact.
TCU’s defense is the most impressive Ohio State has faced by a wide margin, but Haskins has shown nothing to prove he will crack under the pressure. Sophomore J.K. Dobbins and redshirt junior Mike Weber should find running space, much like SMU did against the Horned Frogs when it held an early lead.
This will be a closer game than many expect. Ohio State’s secondary hasn’t fully proved itself as a force, and Robinson could find some success in the passing game, opening up his running game. But, Haskins and this Ohio State offense have looked completely dominant, showing no signs of faltering to this point.
The defenses are solid on both sides, but look for the key players on Ohio State’s offense to open this game up, and give the Buckeyes their first ranked win of the 2018 season.
Wyatt Crosher: 31-20 Ohio State
Colin Gay: 38-14 Ohio State
Edward Sutelan: 34-17 Ohio State
Rachel Bules: 30-24 Ohio State