Following a 49-26 victory against Indiana, Ohio State has areas in its game to focus on moving forward.
After allowing 300 yards to sophomore quarterback Peyton Ramsey, including multiple throws down the field with little pressure on the defensive front, the defense has things to work on coming into a matchup against Minnesota.
Fortunately for Ohio State, the Golden Gophers’ offense offers an opportunity for the Buckeyes defense to work on these troubling areas.
Minnesota heads to Ohio Stadium with a 3-2 record and a two-game losing streak to Big Ten opponents — a 42-13 beatdown from Maryland and a 48-31 home loss to Iowa.
Minnesota comes in ranked in the bottom 50 in every major offensive category in the NCAA, including the 50th-lowest points per game, 31st-lowest passing yards per game, 35th-worst rushing yards per game, 17th-worst total yards per game and tied for the 21st-most turnovers.
Freshman quarterback Zack Annexstad runs the Golden Gopher offense, completing 52 percent of his passes for 924 pass yds, eight touchdowns and five interceptions.
“Obviously he’s a good player,” sophomore linebacker Tuf Borland said. “It’ll be a good test for us.”
Three wide receivers — junior Tyler Johnson, freshman Rashod Bateman and redshirt freshman Chris Autman-Bell — have accounted for 90 percent of the receptions for the Golden Gophers this season.
Johnson leads the team with 28 catches for 402 yards and six touchdowns. The touchdowns are tied for No. 10 in the nation. Bateman has the only other three receiving touchdowns of the trio, and has 27 receptions for 257 yards. Autman-Bell is up to 14 catches for 220 yards.
In the run game, freshman and redshirt freshman running backs Bryce Williams and Mohamed Ibrahim take most of the carries, combining for 569 yards and one touchdown. The majority of the the rushing touchdowns go to redshirt sophomore wide receiver Seth Green, who has five touchdowns on 28 carries despite averaging only 3.3 yards per rush.
“They run hard, you know they’re physical backs,” Borland said. “That goes for their whole offense, they’re gonna line up, they’re gonna run at you, and they’re going to see how tough you are.”
The real strength for Minnesota is in its defense, where the Golden Gophers allows 324.2 yards per game, No. 21 in the NCAA. Their 23.4 points allowed per game is tied for No. 41.
Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said their defense is “outstanding,” while also calling them a “top-20 defense.”
Minnesota’s defense is solid on both fronts, ranking in the top 40 in both passing and rushing yards allowed in the NCAA.
Junior linebacker Carter Coughlin is the standout for the Golden Gophers, totaling 15 tackles, with 6.5 tackles for loss, including five sacks.
“They’re not a big pressure team, but they’ve got a great pass rusher,” Meyer said. “[Coughlin]: Excellent player.”
Minnesota’s defense has an opportunity to prove how talented it really is, and with Ohio State’s running game struggling as of late, it can look there for some big stops early on.
Annexstad has three major targets to look for through the air to exploit a pass defense that has faltered in its past few games.
But Ohio State is simply the better team on both sides of the ball.
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins has been unstoppable through six games, with his biggest “slip up” coming in a 270-yard, three-touchdown effort on the road against No. 8 Penn State.
The Golden Gophers might have a strong pass defense, but they have not faced a quarterback like Haskins. On the opposite side, redshirt junior defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones and sophomore defensive end Chase Young should exploit this Minnesota offense, and Annexstad doesn’t have an arm strong enough to pick on these defensive backs who have struggles as of late.
Expect Ohio State to win, and to win big, against an outmatched Minnesota team.
Wyatt Crosher: 52-13 Ohio State
Colin Gay: 56-14 Ohio State
Edward Sutelan: 49-17 Ohio State