Prior to each Ohio State game this year, LGHL is going to bring you some “bold predictions”. This will include somewhere around five predictions for the game, whether it be passing yards, points scored, sacks, or a number of other things that we could see happening during the game.
We’d love to hear your bold predictions. Either respond to us on Twitter at @Landgrant33 or leave your bold predictions in the comments.
C.J. Stroud will at least throw as many touchdown passes as Justin Fields did in his first start at Ohio State
When Justin Fields opened up his Ohio State career against Florida Atlantic in 2019, the Georgia transfer threw four touchdown passes against the Owls. Expect Stroud to at least match Fields’ debut total, and maybe even get to five touchdown passes, which is how many Dwayne Haskins threw in the season opener against Bowling Green in 2018.
It certainly makes things easier that Stroud has an insane collection of receivers to work with. Stroud is going to try and spread the football around, which will help to boost his touchdown totals not only tonight, but throughout the season. You have to figure that Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson will each haul in a touchdown pass, and smart money would be on Jeremy Ruckert catching one for a score inside the red zone. That just leaves one more touchdown that Stroud has to throw, and with guys like Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Julian Fleming, and Emeka Egbuka, it shouldn’t be hard to connect with at least one of them for a score.
Jeremy Ruckert will catch at least five passes
This number might sound a little high considering how Ohio State has sparingly used their tight ends over the last few decades, but look into it more and it makes a little more sense. Jeremy Ruckert has had three games over the last two years where he has caught at four passes in a game. One of those games was the 2019 season opener against Florida Atlantic, where two of those receptions were touchdowns.
There’s no doubt that Minnesota is going to be keyed in to trying to slow down the ridiculous collection of talent that Ohio State has at wide receiver. The Golden Gophers can’t cover everyone, which should leave players like Ruckert open. Also, Ruckert should provide a bit of a security blanket for Stroud if things start to breakdown in the pocket. When it doubt throw it to the man who has caught about everything thrown his way during his time in the scarlet and gray.
Ohio State will intercept at least two passes
The pressure that Ohio State will put on Tanner Morgan will force the Minnesota quarterback to make some risky decisions. This will backfire against an opportunistic defense that will be looking to reassert their dominance after some shaky performances in 2020. Even with their struggles last year, the Buckeyes did intercept seven passes in eight games.
It also will help that Ohio State should be up by a couple scores in the second half, which will lead to the Golden Gophers throwing the football a little more than they would like to. As time in the game goes on and the clock dwindles, Minnesota will get more desperate, meaning Morgan will make some more suspect decisions that Ohio State will take advantage of.
Mohamed Ibrahim will record his ninth straight 100-yard rushing game
The Minnesota running back is one of the best backs in the country. Add in an experienced offensive line and it’s easy to see why Minnesota will want to hand the football off to Ibrahim early and often. With his usage rate, it might not seem like cracking triple digits is all that bold of a prediction. The reason that could make this a little spicy is because Ohio State has some of the best athletes in the country and is usually rather stingy against the run.
Ohio State has to replace all their starters at linebackers, which could lead to some miscues early in the season. While the Buckeyes will have an upgrade at one of the linebacker positions since they won’t have Tuf Borland and his snow plow speed at linebacker, there will still be some growing pains amongst the new starters.
A lot of the damage Ibrahim will do on the ground against Ohio State will come earlier in the game. As the game moves along, the Buckeyes will tighten up their run defense as they become more familiar with what Ibrahim and the Golden Gophers will throw at them. Also, Ohio State should extend the lead in the second half, which will make Minnesota rely more on the pass than the run.
Ohio State will score at least 50 points for the third time in four season openers under Ryan Day
I know it’s hard to put a whole lot of stock in 2020, but Minnesota did allow Michigan to score 49 points in their season opener in Minneapolis. Yes, that Michigan team that lost four of their next five games. While the Golden Gophers are definitely more experienced on defense this year, Ohio State has a lot more to offer than anyone Minnesota saw in 2020.
With Oregon on deck for next Saturday in Columbus, Ryan Day is going to want to send a message out west to the Ducks. Don’t expect Ohio State to take their foot of the gas pedal tonight, as with a new quarterback Ohio State is going to want to give C.J. Stroud and the rest of the offense as much confidence as they can going into the home opener against Oregon next week.
Even though this will undoubtedly be the toughest opponent Ryan Day and the Buckeyes have seen in a season opener during his time as a head coach (interim coaching duties from 2018 included), don’t expect the Golden Gophers to be able to keep Ohio State off the scoreboard. If Stroud throws at least four touchdown passes as predicted earlier, it shouldn’t be out of the question for the Buckeyes to find 22 points (assuming all extra points are converted) in other aspects of the game.