Ohio State vs. Minnesota betting odds, preview, and pick
The Ohio State Buckeyes and Minnesota Golden Gophers kick off their college football seasons on Thursday night, facing off in a Big Ten conference showdown.
Fri, September 3 2021, 12:00 AM
Stroud looks to pick up where Fields left off
Replacing Justin Fields is no small task, but the Buckeyes have one of the most loaded quarterback rooms in history, based on recruiting rankings. C.J. Stroud beat out all comers for the starting job, and his limited experience last season gives hope that there will not be a massive drop in productivity.
Ryan Day has not lost a conference game in his time at Ohio State, and he is a run-first coach. As such, Stroud will have time to grow into the role as he relies on Master Teague III and Miyan Williams to carry the load early for the offense. He will also be protected by an offensive line that has two players who could be named All-Americans at the end of the year. And he has a trio of weapons at wideout, led by returning star Chris Olave, which he can use to take advantage of loaded fronts.
It's not that Ryan Day is 17-0 vs Big Ten opponents as head coach at Ohio State. It's that 16 of those 17 wins have come by double-digits.— RJ Young (@RJ_Young) August 31, 2021
Defense is where the Buckeyes must answer the most questions. The front seven is among the best in the nation against the run, led by monster defensive tackle Haskell Garrett, and they will get after the quarterback in the passing game. However, their secondary was among the worst in the nation last year, allowing more than 300 yards passing per contest, and that is an issue that simply must be addressed for Ohio State to reach its goal of playing for a national title.
Gophers have loads of experience
Minnesota followed up an 11-2 season in 2019 with a 3-4 mark last year, and they will be looking to prove that was an aberration. The Golden Gophers return 10 of 11 starters on both sides of the ball, and their offensive line will feature five players with four years of experience.
Their primary job will be to open holes for running back Mohamed Ibrahim, whose 153.7 yards rushing per game last season was second-best in the entire nation. He scored 15 touchdowns in just seven contests, as Minnesota averaged more than 190 yards on the ground.
Quarterback Tanner Morgan returns as does WR Chris Autman-Bell and TE Ko Kieft, but Autman-Bell injured his leg during camp and is just probable for the game on Thursday. Morgan suffered serious regression last year, going from a 30-7 touchdown to interception ratio in 2019 to 7-5 last season. However, he was dealing with personal issues as his father was battling cancer and sadly passed away this July. Morgan and the team have dedicated this season to his father’s memory and are motivated to perform.
Minnesota’s defense, while experienced, must make major improvements from last season. They registered just eight sacks in their seven games, with five of those coming from edge rusher Boye Mafe. He will need to command double teams to open things up for the rest of the line, which has a senior at each starting spot. They also must replace star corner Benjamin St-Juste, who left for the NFL and helped limit the damage in the passing attack.
Ohio State vs. Minnesota Injury Report
DE Tyler Friday: Out (knee)
WR Chris Autman-Bell: Probable (leg)
S Jaylen Johnson: Out (knee)
S Marcus Hooker: Out (suspension)
Buckeyes and Gophers Trends
- The Buckeyes are 10-0 in their last 10 games against Minnesota
- The Buckeyes have won their last 21 conference games
- The Over is 5-1 in Ohio State’s last six games
- The Gophers are 4-1 ATS in their last five games
- The Under is 4-1 in their last five games
Ohio State will keep things simple on offense
While I do not expect Minnesota to be as poor as they seemed last season, opening with the Buckeyes might be too much for them to handle. While quite experienced, they simply lack the depth of talent on both sides of the ball that the Buckeyes possess, and the doubts surrounding the health of Autman-Bell will lead to a lack of explosiveness in the passing game. Without that threat, Ibrahim will face multiple eight-man fronts and struggle to find room to run.
Look for Day and the Buckeyes to use their running ability to keep things simple for Stroud and allow him to attack off play-action. I see Ohio State busting some big plays on offense and forcing a few turnovers to set their offense up in short-field situations, and pulling away in the second half to easily cover the spread. However, I recommend paying a bit extra juice and buying the hook to avoid a possible push from garbage-time points.
Score Prediction: Ohio State 37, Minnesota 20