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2023-24 Ohio State Football Season Preview and Predictions - The First Six Games

Ohio State Quarterback Terrelle Pryor breaks a tackle from defender Nick Polk during the Buckeyes 33-14 win over Indiana at IU Memorial Stadium on October 3, 2009. Photo: Adam P Schweigert/WFIU

Week 1: #3 Ohio State at Indiana

The 2023 season will start on the road this year for the Ohio State Buckeyes as they will take a trip to Bloomington, Indiana to take on the Hoosiers on September 2nd. The game is scheduled to be played at 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS. Ohio State is favored by -28.5 points to win the game.

This is expected to be a pretty one-sided contest despite the fact that the Buckeyes have not yet named their starting quarterback and we are less than two weeks until the first game. However, the Buckeyes have won the last 27 matchups against the Hoosiers and haven't lost since 1988. Ohio State won last year's matchup 56-14 in Columbus.

The Buckeyes won't be the only team on the field trying out new players in week one as Indiana is also searching for their QB1 after their starter from last year, Connor Bazelak, transferred to Bowling Green. There is an ongoing battle between Redshirt-Freshman Brendan Sorsby and Redshirt-Freshman Tayven Jackson who transferred in from Tennessee this offseason. Both quarterbacks bring similar play styles to the table, but sending in a young inexperienced quarterback against a veteran Buckeye defense hasn't typically worked for most teams and Indiana will have to rely on their best players to help out their young QB.

Indiana boasts a talented duo at receiver with Cam Camper and Andison Coby who are both expected to have big years for Indiana who is also trying to find a replacement for their starting running back position. On defense the Hoosiers are pretty thin going into the season and will rely on Aaron Casey, their top linebacker, to keep the team in check this season.

Expectations for this game should be met by the Buckeyes. Despite them having a first-year starter at quarterback they have enough talent to go around to compensate for either Devin Brown or Kyle McCord trying to establish themselves in their first game as the starter. Expect Ohio State to lean on the run game and let that entire room that sits five deep dominate. That should allow whoever the quarterback is to run a balanced offense to keep the defense close to the line of scrimmage and leave the deep part of the field wide open for the speedy wideouts to make some big-time plays through the air. The defense should look spectacular in this game for the Buckeyes. The Hoosiers won't have an answer for the Buckeyes defense if their (4-8) season from a year ago tells us anything.

Prediction: Ohio State defeats Indiana 63-10

2023 Ohio State University

Week 2: #3 Ohio State vs Youngstown State

For just the fourth time in program history, the Buckeyes will take on an FCS program and they will do it against an in-state opponent who shares a common history. The #23 FCS-ranked Youngstown State Penguins who were coached by Jim Tressel prior to his stint at Ohio State will travel to Columbus for the third meeting between the two teams on September 9th for a noon game aired on the Big Ten Network. Jim Tressel was the Buckeyes coach for each of their first two meetings which took place in 2007 and 2008. The Buckeyes dominated in both games, winning 38-6 and 43-0 respectively. That was a different era for both teams and every Buckeye fan knows Tressel would never run up the score on anyone, especially not his old team in the Penguins. However, it is a different era in College Football now and Ryan Day has not shown such mercy to anyone. The spread has not been created yet for this game, but I expect the Buckeyes to be favored by more than 40 points in week two of the season.

Youngstown State just sent College Football's all-time leading rusher in Jaleel McLaughlin to the NFL after a decorated career at YSU and will have to lean on second-year QB Mitch Davidson who took over at quarterback in the back half of last season. The Penguins return four starters on the offensive line and that should give that QB a fighting chance to make a few plays before the defense settles in. Bryce Oliver will be Davidson's top target in the passing game and that duo will have to carry the offensive load as their running game likely won't be able to do much against the Buckeyes defense. The defensive side of the football is led by a duo of linemen in Dylan Wudke and Chris Fitzgerald. If the Penguins have any shot of making this game interesting, it will have to be because of these two guys stopping the run and putting pressure on the Buckeyes young QB.

However, none of that is likely to happen. As I said earlier the Buckeyes will likely be a 5+ touchdown favorite to win this game. In four matchups against FCS opponents Ohio State has outscored their opponent 157-6. YSU will still be looking for someone to fill McLaughlin's shoes early in the season and they likely won't find that someone against the Buckeyes. Ohio State hasn't had a shutout since facing Cincinnati back in 2017, but they might find one here.

Prediction: Ohio State defeats Youngstown State 72-0

Photo: J. Glover

Week 3: #3 Ohio State vs. Western Kentucky

September 16th will feature the first-ever meeting between the Buckeyes and the Hilltoppers of Western Kentucky. It is also just the second ever time Ohio State will take on a team out of the Conference-USA. The game is scheduled to be played at 4:00 p.m. ET on FOX. Many people will expect the Buckeyes to dominate this matchup but those boys from Kentucky might be able to shock some people in Columbus in week 3.

The Hilltoppers have showcased perhaps the best air raid attack College Football has seen in the last decade over the last two seasons. With two separate quarterbacks each leading the nation in yardage and the two QB's combining for more touchdowns than anyone during that time. Former starter Bailey Zappe and current starter Austin Reed have combined for 10,711 yards and 102 touchdowns through the air. One thing stands in the way of them repeating this performance for a third straight year and that is the fact that they lost two of their top three receivers and their top tight end this past offseason. But this offense has proven itself amongst the very best in the country over the last two years and should offer a first look at what Ohio State should expect from their secondary this season.

Malachi Corley will be a name Buckeye fans will be hearing often in mid-September as he will be the leading wideout for Austin Reed. On defense, the Hilltoppers do have a few holes, especially when it comes to a defensive line, but they boast a great linebacker in Jaques Evans and have two high-caliber defensive backs in Upton Stout and Kaleb Oliver. The Buckeyes will have struggles throwing the football against this defense and I fully expect Ohio State's young quarterback to throw an interception in this game. But the Buckeyes will still make the final score look good as they always do and pull out the win.

Prediction: Ohio State defeats Western Kentucky 49-24

Adam Cairns-USA TODAY Sports

Week 4: #3 Ohio State at #13 Notre Dame

This is the biggest game of Ohio State's non-conference schedule for obvious reasons. After last year's victory for the Buckeyes in Columbus, the Fighting Irish have been itching for a rematch and have gone to work adding pieces for this year's matchup in South Bend. This game is scheduled to be played at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC and the Buckeyes are -8.5 favorites. This is the eighth meeting between the two teams and Ohio State has won each of the last five games with the last Notre Dame victory coming in 1936 under coach Elmer Layden in a game they won 7-2.

When these two meet on the field it has rarely been a high-scoring affair as showcased last season in the 21-10 victory for Ohio State. But Notre Dame brought in one of the most experienced and talented quarterbacks in the country for Marcus Freeman's second year as head coach in Sam Hartman, the former Wake Forest quarterback who captained the only ACC team to challenge Clemson during their long reign as the top dog in the conference. His experience in big-time games and against big-time opponents gives Notre Dame a huge edge over the Buckeyes who will start a quarterback whose only road game will have been against Indiana.

Notre Dame also brings back the No. 2 offensive tackle in the nation in Joe Alt and the No. 3 corner in the nation in Benjamin Morrison to compliment Hartman who was ranked as the No. 6 quarterback in the country going into the season. The Irish also boast a high-level rushing attack based around Audric Estime. JD Bertrand, their leading linebacker is also one of the best in the country at his position. So, it's pretty easy to say that the Irish are in a much better place than they were a year ago and now they have home-field advantage. This is Ohio State's toughest test until their rivalry game in late September and they will be tested in every way imaginable.

Prediction: Ohio State defeats Notre Dame 30-27

Week 5: Bye Week

Luckily for the Buckeyes week 5 of the season is a bye week and they will get time to rest after what is likely to be all-out war against Notre Dame. This week will no doubt give Buckeye fans time to discuss the quarterback situation regardless of the outcome against Notre Dame. As we saw when C.J. Stroud beat McCord for the starting job two years ago, unless you are absolutely perfect to start the season then Buckeye fans will be calling for a change at your position. However, Head Coach Ryan Day is unlikely to change his decision once he makes it known who the starter is.

2023 University of Maryland

Week 6: Ohio State vs Maryland

The Buckeyes will take on the Terrapins in their first October game of the season. The game is scheduled for October 7th and will be aired on NBC's Peacock at 3:30 p.m. ET. This will be the ninth meeting between teams and Ohio State has won every meeting so far with an average margin of victory of 34.75. The Terps have not fared well when they have traveled to Columbus as the average margin of victory is 44.25 when Maryland has traveled. However, Maryland has shown steady improvement since joining the Big Ten back in 2014 and they have found a great duo in the backfield that will keep them competitive yet again this season.

Taulia Tagovailoa is yet again the starter for Maryland after turning down a $1.5 million NIL deal to go join an SEC team this season. He has thrown for 572 yards and four touchdowns on 72% completion in his two starts against Ohio State. While they have lost both games the team has thrived under Taulia's leadership and is a threat once again this year in the Big Ten East. Next to him once more is Roman Hemby who was just 11 yards shy of a thousand-yard season a year ago, thanks in no small part to Ohio State who shut him down last year allowing just 39 yards on 11 carries. The Buckeyes will have to match their defensive effort from last year to keep the Terrapins offense in check once again this year.

Maryland lost their offensive coordinator to Arkansas this past offseason so they should have a slightly different play style than years past. However, offense has not been Maryland's biggest problem when they play Ohio State. It has been defensive struggles every year that have prevented the Terps from pulling the biggest upset the Big Ten East has seen in years. Ohio State has averaged over 55 points per game against Maryland through their eight meetings. That likely won't change this year either and this game will come down to whether or not Tagovailoa and Hemby can keep pace with the Buckeyes.

Prediction: Ohio State defeats Maryland 66-38

Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch

Week 7: Ohio State at Purdue

No Buckeye fan can forget the last time Ohio State traveled into West Lafayette. The Boilermakers routed the Buckeyes by four touchdowns in one of the worst games Ohio State has played in the last decade. This year the game is scheduled for October 14th and is expected to be a Noon kickoff on Fox. Ohio State versus Purdue has been the most back-and-forth matchup over the last twelve years with the Buckeyes winning three out of the five matchups between teams. Purdue's last five wins over the Buckeyes each came when they played at home.

The defending Big Ten West Champs in Purdue bring back standout running back Devin Mockobee who is sure to play a big role in the Boilermakers performance against Ohio State. But by this time everyone should be settled in for both teams and we should see the best each team has to offer. Purdue added former Texas quarterback Hudson Card who has played in 22 games with 17 of those games being as a backup. He has just over 1,500 career passing yards with 11 touchdowns on 65% pass completion. This duo will give the Buckeyes a lot to gameplan for in what is guaranteed to be a loud and hostile environment. West Lafayette has been a difficult place for teams to play over the last few years and this will be another challenging test for the Buckeyes to face.

Defense is a bit of a question mark for Purdue, they are a solid defensive team, but they do lack star power. However, they have made up for that with solid play all around which has led to a lack of consistency from week to week. They will have to hope for a good week in order to give themselves a chance against the Buckeyes.

Prediction: Ohio State defeats Purdue 38-28

First half of the season thoughts:

I have the Buckeyes finishing the first half of the season at (6-0). However, that's not to say the Buckeyes will get to the halfway point of the year without a blemish on their resume. My confidence in them rests on what their quarterback situation looks like through the first three weeks of the season. Second-year starter and Heisman hopeful C.J. Stroud struggled against this unit last year at home and now the Buckeyes must send in an inexperienced rookie into the biggest road environment they will have ever played in. This will be no easy task and once again Ohio State needs their defense to stop Sam Hartman if they are going to have a chance at victory.

Beyond the top-25 matchup for Ohio State, there are several games that could upset the Buckeyes in this early slate of games. Western Kentucky is a legitimate threat if Ohio State has not fixed the massive problems that have plagued their defense for the last three seasons. Purdue is also a very real upset possibility; the Boilermakers are a great home team and the Buckeyes have lost in this stadium three out of the last six times they have played there.

Despite this looking like an easy first six games outside of Notre Dame in week four, this is one of the most challenging starts to a season Ohio State has ever faced under Ryan. Each team brings a unique set of problems that the Buckeyes will have to address if they hope to win. Ryan Day has also not had to go up against such experienced teams before either. Five of the first six quarterbacks they have to play have been around for multiple seasons, whether that was with the team they are at now or they transferred in there is a lot of experience at College Football's most important position. This will be a difficult stretch of games for Ohio State this year and the road won't get any easier as their final six games currently feature three top-25 matchups with two of those games being on the road.

Part two of the season preview will be out later this week (Week of August 20th). Stay tuned to see what the Buckeyes have in store for themselves in the final stretch of the season.



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