The 2020 Ohio State Virtual Season has finally made it to conference championship week, and the Buckeyes are rolling with an undefeated record heading into a matchup with the Big Ten West champion Minnesota Gophers. Be sure to follow LandGrantHolyLand on Twitch in order not to miss any of the action!
Last week, Ohio State looked to be in relative control of The Game versus Michigan before disaster struck moments before halftime. After Blake Haubeil kicked a field goal in the red zone with under a minute to play in the 2nd quarter, Wolverine quarterback Joe Milton uncorked a Hail Mary from just inside midfield to steal the lead heading into the locker room:
WELP.— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) October 10, 2020
Ohio State gets a field goal, but thanks to some poor AI coaching to end the half, the Wolverines hit on a Hail Mary for TD to take a 21-17 lead into the break. https://t.co/ZIA9od2KXb pic.twitter.com/x5U3b0PPqv
Fortunately, even after a slow start to the second half, Justin Fields and Chris Olave came to play. As he has in every installment of The Game he’s played in, Olave left his mark all over Michigan to the tune of eight catches for 138 yards and two touchdown receptions. His second touchdown catch in the fourth quarter gave the Buckeyes a double-digit lead at a crucial stage of the game.
Tell me if you've heard this before: Chris Olave is having a massive game against Michigan. His touchdown makes it 34-24 here in the fourth, but the Wolverines are already driving. https://t.co/ZIA9od2KXb pic.twitter.com/N6g9uFswiH— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) October 10, 2020
Of course, Michigan wouldn’t go away, but just when it looked like Milton would take the Wolverines down the field for a potential upset victory, Shaun Wade came up huge for Ohio State and made a sideline interception to seal the game:
Shaun Wade calls GAME. His interception will put a cap on another Ohio State win over TTUN, and the Buckeyes will head to the Big Ten Championship with an undefeated regular season. https://t.co/ZIA9od2KXb pic.twitter.com/FDJwStvv2v— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) October 10, 2020
Given how lopsided the recent versions of The Game have been, this was arguably the most exciting finish fans on both sides of the rivalry have seen since 2016’s classic that needed settling in overtime.
But on to Big Ten Championship week, and we find Ohio State not only on the verge of yet another conference title, but also a top two seed in the College Football Playoff. Furthermore, Justin Fields has suddenly thrusted himself into the Heisman conversation with two 400+ yard passing performances in the last three weeks after flying under the radar for most of the year. It’s a two-horse race at this point between Fields and Alabama’s Najee Harris.
Here’s what to expect for the Buckeyes’ biggest game of the year so far:
What to Watch: Ohio State Offense vs. Minnesota Defense
Though virtual Ryan Day deserved plenty of heat for his Hail Mary defense last week, the most egregious coaching mistakes came on the offensive side of the football. Trey Sermon—the hottest running back in college football north of the Mason-Dixon line—shamefully only received five carries the entire game against Michigan, and had perhaps his only goal line opportunity vultured away by Master Teague III. Considering Sermon was second in the Heisman Trophy race prior to kickoff against Michigan, that is absolutely unacceptable.
Fortunately, Minnesota’s defense does not present much of a threat to Ohio State’s rushing game on paper. Their strength firmly exists in their secondary, and the Buckeye offensive line should take full advantage of this from early on in the game provided the play-calling balances out relative to what fans witnessed last week.
However, it’s also entirely possible we see Day hand Fields the keys to the offense again as the latter attempts to literally throw himself into the front of the Heisman race. Whatever happens, Ohio State shouldn’t have trouble racking up numbers on the scoreboard. The only question will be if Fields garners enough stats and style-points to take home college football’s most prestigious individual award.
What to Watch: Minnesota Offense vs. Ohio State Defense
Minnesota’s offense has been the strength of its team in this virtual season despite lacking any particularly explosive talent from their skill players. Instead, they lean on solid play from a sturdy all-around offensive line and excellent decision making from their redshirt junior quarterback Tanner Morgan.
Morgan’s play has been mostly good, but the Golden Gophers still found themselves with a 9-3 record at the end of the regular season due to inconsistent production from their offense in big games. Minnesota’s first loss of the season came in a blowout at the hands of the Memphis Tigers on the heels of a 34-10 final score, and their most recent loss came in their rivalry game against Wisconsin that saw them score only seven points. The Badgers have had their own struggles this season, including an absolutely hilarious loss to Rutgers last weekend while the Ohio State/Michigan stream was live!
Minnesota’s offensive line will likely keep Ohio State’s pass rush in check during the early stages of this game—including a recently surging Zach Harrison. That means the Buckeye defense will have to lock in on the ground game and prevent big plays over the top to stop the Golden Gophers. Expect Minnesota to keep things close in the first half before Ohio State steps on the gas late on both sides of the ball.
Follow LandGrantHolyLand on Twitch and Tune in Tomorrow at 3:15 p.m. ET to watch Ohio State vs. Minnesota!
We’ll get the stream going around 3:00 p.m. ET, so be sure to tune in before the game starts! I’ll be using the time before kickoff to provide updates on the Heisman Trophy race, where the College Football Playoff currently stands, and other news from around the virtual college football universe.
Go Bucks! We can’t wait to watch with you!