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Ohio State opens as 27.5-point favorites over Western Kentucky

The Buckeyes host the Hilltoppers in Week 3.

Youngstown State v Ohio State Photo by Lauren Leigh Bacho/Getty Images

After two-straight wins of 20 points or more to open the season, Ohio State will once again be heavy favorites in Week 3 when they host Western Kentucky. Despite coming in as underdogs, the Hilltoppers will provide a unique challenge to the Buckeye defense, as WKU has led all of college football in passing yards each of the last two seasons. It won’t be a cakewalk by any means, but this will be Ohio State’s final chance to get things right before traveling to Notre Dame in Week 4.

All lines courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook.

Spread: Ohio State -27.5

Ohio State’s offense has been subpar to begin the year. The 58 total points scored against Indiana and Youngstown State are the fewest in a two-game stretch to start a season since Ryan Day took over as head coach. Still, the Buckeyes have a ton of talent on that side of the ball, and it appears that Kyle McCord has unofficially won the job as QB1. Of course, that Marvin Harrison Jr. guy is pretty good, and he racked up seven grabs for 160 yards and two TDs against the Penguins. Emeka Egbuka was great as well, tallying five catches for 94 yards and a TD.

Defensively, the Buckeyes have looked strong through two weeks. Ohio State allowed Youngstown State to score on its opening drive but locked in to allow 159 total yards and zero points the rest of the way. The Silver Bullets got their first takeaway of the year on Denzel Burke’s interception in the third quarter and allowed just one play that went for more than 20 yards in the game. The defensive line, while strong against the run, continues to struggle to rush the passer. Starting defensive ends Jack Sawyer and J.T. Tuimoloau have yet to register a sack, or even make much of an impact pressuring the opposing QB.

Western Kentucky, meanwhile, is coming off a 52-22 win over Houston Christian. After throwing for an FBS-high 4,749 yards and 40 TDs in 2022, quarterback Austin Reed is off to another strong start in the high-flying Hilltopper offense. Passing for 336 yards and two TDs in the opener against South Florida, Reed followed it up with 253 yards and four TDs against the Huskies. Malachi Corley is the star of the show in this receiver core, but WKU has a ton of guys that can hurt you through the air. Easton Messer led the way against Houston Christian, hauling in nine passes for 116 yards and a TD.

The Hilltoppers gave up 368 yards to Houston Christian, allowing the Huskies to convert 7-of-11 on third down, but they did also force three turnovers, including a pick-six. JacQues Evans is the man to look out for on this unit. The stud linebacker led Western Kentucky a year ago with 106 tackles to go along with a team-high 13.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. He already has 11 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery TD through two games this season. Defensive back Talique Allen is another player to watch, tying for the team lead with Evans with 11 total tackles with 0.5 TFLs and a forced fumble.

This will be the first real test for Ohio State’s secondary, as this Western Kentucky passing attack is legit. The pass rush will have to do a better job of getting home in Week 3, or else the Buckeye defensive backs could get left on an island. On the other side of the ball, Ryan Day should name Kyle McCord the starter and max out his reps before Ohio State has to travel to Notre Dame. This offense needs to find some sort of consistency this week, and it will be tough to do that if you continue to rotate the QBs. This is Day’s last chance to tune things up, and the opponent is no pushover despite the spread.

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